Archive for the ‘Live-work-play’ Category

agglomeration – the value transit brings to a city

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

It’s pretty much accepted wisdom these days that transit is something we need more of as a key requirement to healthy cities. We need it to reduce gridlock, get cars off the road, and save on polluting emissions.  But according to an article I read recently in The Atlantic magazine, as important as those benefits are, there is also solid evidence that transit is great for a city’s economy and productivity beyond transportation-related considerations.

The Atlantic article cites a recently published study done by Daniel Chatman – a scholar who specializes in planning at the University of California.  His paper focuses on “agglomeration” and how transit achieves this important planning objective.  Agglomeration is a fancy term for what happens when people are brought together in any significant number, for example in a city.  And according to the article and the research it quotes, agglomeration benefits can be worth a lot of money – enough money to encourage us to think very seriously about why we should be expanding transit, especially rapid transit.

So what are “agglomeration” benefits?  Think of what happens when a new community is built out on vacant lots, similar to the development that is increasingly taking place along the corridors in York Region.  Where there used to be undeveloped property, there are now increasing numbers of new high-rise condominiums and businesses.  Those buildings all have resulted in more people living in one area, which in turn will lead to new businesses and business opportunities.  Those new businesses, whether they’re corner stores or restaurants or bigger operations like grocery stores, home improvement centres and offices, all provide new employment opportunities.  Having more employment clustered in one area means more people are coming together every day, sharing ideas and expertise, developing new ideas and innovations, and creating yet more business opportunities.  Soon, larger businesses will move in to take advantage of the numbers of potential workers wanting to live in the area. Before you know it, those vacant lands have become thriving hubs of people living, spending money, and investing in future growth.  That’s how agglomeration benefits a community.

So what’s the link between transit and agglomeration?  It’s actually a very direct one.  Plenty of research – including the findings of the paper described in The Atlantic, shows that new transit leads to agglomeration.  Simply put, if a transit line is built, especially rapid transit, agglomeration – more population, more employment, and growth in other economic measures – will quite naturally follow along the line and at key nodes.  The paper then goes on to demonstrate how transit-led agglomeration benefits the local economy as well as individuals and households, including leading to higher per capita income levels.

This paper provides a fascinating analysis of the benefits that will come from all the development, including both residential and employment, and we can see this taking place along York Region’s corridors.  What is so exciting is the knowledge that vivaNext benefits York Region in ways that go well beyond providing great rapid transit.

 

managing the vivaNext plan

Thursday, January 2nd, 2014

When I first joined the vivaNext team, it was pretty small since we were still at the early stages of our rapid transit program.  Now, with an overall team of nearly 78 at York Region Rapid Transit Corporation (YRRTC); and many more staff and experts allocated to the projects through the construction contractors, all these people are working on the vivaNext plan which is going flat out, with planning, procurement, design and construction activities underway concurrently.  Here’s the rundown on what we’re doing now, and a preview on some of our other projects you’ll hear more about soon.

The most visible parts of vivaNext – our rapidway construction projects on Highway 7 East and Davis Drive in Newmarket – are definitely a major focus for our team, but they’re only part of what we’ve got going on these days. Moving a major infrastructure project like a rapidway segment forward from the early design stages to the introduction of service requires years of careful planning and oversight, starting with preliminary design and environmental assessments years before construction can start.   The same general work plan is currently being followed for the remainder of the Highway 7 rapidway (opening next year) and along Davis Drive in Newmarket.  Project management for our active construction projects involves a large part of our team, including engineering, property, finance and communications staff.

In addition, we’re in the early stages of pre-construction for the rapidway on either side of the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre (VMC) on Highway 7, with final design work being completed for the VMC station itself, overtop of the TYSSE concourse for the subway.

At an earlier stage, but already demanding dedicated project teams, is the Yonge Street rapidways in Richmond Hill and Newmarket, and the rapidways that will be built along this major commuter line.

And because a rapid transit network needs more than new lanes, stations and streetscaping, we’ve also got a number of dedicated facilities to plan and build, which will provide the future vivaNext system with more capacity for passengers, bus maintenance, and commuter parking.  All of those components are currently under active development, requiring the involvement of project teams with property, design, engineering and financial expertise.  Our currently funded projects add up to a total program value of $3.2 billion, which will see us build 37 km of bus rapidways with 38 stations, an 8.6 km subway extension with six stations, an operations facilities, two bus terminals and multiple park ‘n ride facilities over the next five years in York Region.

Last but definitely not least, lots of activity is underway to secure funding for future segments starting with the extension to the Yonge Subway, which is the missing link needed to fully connect the vivaNext system to the broader GTHA transit network.

Everyone at YRRTC works on multiple projects, which allows us to share our knowledge across the program, identify what’s worked well in the past, and ensure that we build on success.   Collectively we’ve already amassed a lot of expertise, making design and construction refinements to future projects that reflect what we’ve learned so far.

We all work hard, but the enthusiasm we pick up from the community is so motivating, it’s hard to imagine doing anything more satisfying.  We know that with just a few kilometers of rapidway open along the Highway 7 East rapidway, transit travel times have already been reduced and traffic flows improved.  So we’re all looking forward to the major improvements that we’ll all get to enjoy, when the whole system is open in a few years from now.

Stay tuned for regular updates throughout 2014, it promises to be a significant year for transit.

 

spending quality time with your loved ones

Tuesday, December 24th, 2013

This holiday season we hope you have the opportunity to gather together, to share, reflect and renew the love and laughter that makes quality time with family and friends precious and meaningful.  York Region has a lot of great sites and events that you can explore on YRT\Viva transit lines over the holidays, from skating at the Markham Civic Centre outdoor rink, First Night Celebration in the Town of Richmond Hill, to the Winter Wonderland at the Riverwalk Commons in Newmarket.

Here at vivaNext, we are also taking this time to rest, relax and rejuvenate so come January we will be ready to jump into work.  The New Year will bring with it the continuation of construction on Davis Drive in Newmarket with road widening, utility relocation and paving.  The Highway 7 transformation in the City of Markham is continuing with utility relocation, boulevard streetscaping and paving. Work will also ramp up on the west side of Highway 7 into The City of Vaughan with retaining wall construction and utility relocations. And on Yonge Street in Richmond Hill and Newmarket, preparation for construction will start to take place.

Until then, please enjoy the season with those near and dear.  See you in the New Year.

ol’ man winter is here… are you ready?

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

Yes, it’s that time of year again, winter arrives officially this weekend.  The weather reports are full of white stuff, and the frosty temperatures are here.  Now is the time to ensure you are extra vigilant and aware of your surroundings at intersections, crosswalks and in construction areas as you travel the roads in York Region.

Snow and ice wreak havoc on the traveling public, but disasters are largely preventable.  If poor weather is forecast, plan ahead and leave plenty of time to get to your destination.  Better yet, postpone unnecessary trips until the weather has improved. As always we encourage you to try transit in bad weather days, but if you are driving, keep your vehicle tuned up and be especially aware of your tire condition.  Snow tires are the best bet in the winter months, but regardless of tire type, be sure to check pressures and tread wear regularly.

The bottom line is that winter is a Canadian fact and we can’t change the weather.  All we can do is prepare for it and understand the inherent hazards.

Here are some safety tips to help navigate construction zones in the winter safely:

  • Obey the speed limit – You should be careful to obey the speed limit in construction zones, as many will be lower than normal.
  • Keep on the lookout for construction workers – One of the main reasons that construction zones can be so dangerous is that there are often people working on the side of the road. You will want to be very careful when you drive and try to be aware of any workers.
  • Watch for lane changes – Often in construction zones, the lanes move differently than normal. Especially at night, in bad weather, or when it is difficult to see, pay attention to where your lane goes.
  • Be especially careful if there is no shoulder – A lot of times, construction forces the closure of the shoulder.

Remember to always be aware of road conditions and those who are working in these zones. As you pass through the vivaNext projects, we know that our construction disrupts the life of pedestrians, transit riders and drivers, and we do everything we can to keep that to a minimum.

We hope that as you pass by our construction areas you’ll keep safety in mind!  Travel safe!

bringing vaughan metropolitan centre to life

Thursday, November 7th, 2013

We recently posted a great blog on planning that talked about the link between transit and new urban communities. Given that tomorrow (November 8), urban planners from towns and cities in over 30 countries worldwide will celebrate World Town Planning Day, we thought we would take a moment to highlight another one of York Region’s amazing communities, and see how vivaNext transit projects fit into York Region’s planning vision.

In the Region’s Centres and Corridors strategy, selected areas in Newmarket, Richmond Hill, Markham and Vaughan are targeted to have new, urban “downtowns.” They will be vibrant, higher density, attractive destinations with a full range of amenities so that people can live, work, shop and play in the same community. These “centres” will be connected by transportation “corridors” that will make it easier for people to get around the region. That’s where we come in. Our vivaNext rapidways will run along the corridors, connecting the centres through transit and safe and efficient travel options for pedestrians, motorists and cyclists alike.

You can see the vision for one of these centres coming to life in the City of Vaughan’s new video about the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre [VMC] . Located in the heart of Vaughan, centered on Highway 7, between Highway 400 and Creditstone Road, VMC will be one of the largest and most ambitious development projects in the area’s history, and is a superb location for Vaughan’s new downtown.

In the VMC, mixed-use transit-oriented development is proposed along a tree-lined main street, including businesses, residences, entertainment and cultural facilities, as well as pedestrian shopping areas. The VMC area will act as a transportation hub, including convenient passenger pick-up and drop-off, a York Region Transit bus terminal, and viva rapidways running in dedicated lanes along Highway 7.

VMC will also be home to the northernmost subway station, as part of the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension [TYSSE], an 8.6 km subway extension from Downsview Station, northwest through York University and north to the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre. An entrance to VMC Station will be built on Millway Avenue, between Edgeley Boulevard and Jane Street to provide easy and efficient connections to other transit services.

With approximately 442 acres of development opportunities, VMC also includes:

  • Projected office development: 1.5 million SF
  • Projected retail development: 750,000 SF
  • Minimum of 12,000 residential units
  • Population potential: 25,000 new residents
  • Employment potential: 11,000 jobs of which 5,000 will be office jobs

It’s exciting to visualize how Vaughan will evolve in the years to come. To find out more about other vivaNext projects, visit our projects page.

 

a trend away from cars

Friday, October 11th, 2013

A recent article in the New York Times described a curious trend that’s showing up in countries as varied as Germany, Norway, Canada and Japan – a trend that shows fewer young people are driving cars compared to their parents.

The findings show that Millennials – people currently in their twenties – are less likely to get their driver’s licence now than in previous generations. Young people are more likely to take transit or cycle, and overall, the number of car trips taken on a per capita basis has been declining for the last several years.  In the US, people in their twenties drive about 20% less than their parents did when they were in their twenties.

There are quite a number of studies that together confirm this trend, although there’s no agreement on what is causing it. Increasing gas prices and weak economic climates in some countries may have contributed to this trend, researchers feel that other longer-term dynamics are the real reason young people are increasingly turning away from the car and finding other ways to get around.

One key theory is that increasing urbanization is a critical factor. In this theory, when people live within walking distance (defined as roughly 500 metres) from transit, it’s easier to leave the keys at home and let transit do the driving.

Whatever the reason, other recent studies carried out show that while baby boomers are ageing beyond the years when they drive the most miles, Millennials aren’t picking up the slack.  The result is that total miles driven is steadily decreasing, and is projected to continue to do so over time.

This change is bound to require a shift in long-term transportation policies developed by governments, including an increased investment in transit.

York Region residents do a lot of driving covering a large geographic area, and even with the launch of vivaNext along its major corridors, there’s no doubt this pattern isn’t going to change overnight.  But as it does, we’re going to be in good shape, thanks to our vivaNext plans for region-wide rapid transit giving residents more options.  We are already seeing the trend here with transit ridership increasing every year.

 

vivaNext – more to come

Tuesday, October 8th, 2013

When it comes to the future of transit in York Region, you don’t have to look far. The first rapidway along Highway 7 east corridor is now up and running smoothly. With it came wide pedestrian-friendly boulevards, lined with trees and other greenery. The transformation taking place along the Viva routes will change how pedestrians, cyclists and motorists not only view the area in general, but get from A to B more easily, more safely and more efficiently.  Check out this 3600 virtual tour for a peak.

This is just the beginning of many miles of rapidway that are under construction or coming soon.  Here is an update of what’s happening.

Construction on Highway 7 East continues and crews are working hard from Highway 404 to Warden Avenue to widen the road, build pedestrian boulevards, plant trees and shrubs as well as installing utilities. This next segment of rapidway is expected to be completed in 2014.

Moving along Highway 7 west to Vaughan, you will see the vivaNext rapidway construction starting to take shape between Edgeley Boulevard and Bowes Road.  Over the last few months, crews have been working to remove signs, test soil and begin utility relocation to prepare for heavier construction.  Throughout the fall and winter, hydro, gas and telecommunications installations and relocations will continue in Vaughan.

Preliminary construction activity will also continue in other parts of Vaughan as vivaNext rapidway construction continues along Highway 7 West.   The Vaughan Metropolitan Centre [VMC] station will be completed in time with the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension [TYSSE].  Vaughan’s VMC station will be the northernmost subway station, connecting to Viva and a variety of other transit services, for a convenient and seamless experience.

In Newmarket, as you drive or walk along Davis Drive, you’ll see that construction is in full swing and the transformation is starting to take shape. The relocation and replacement of underground infrastructure in some segments on the south side of Davis Drive is complete. In those sections, road widening and preliminary paving has started preparing the roadway for future rapidways.

Also in Newmarket, crews are working to re-locate the Historic Union Hotel and its adjoining building to their final foundations this fall. Extensive culvert work at eastern and western creek is underway.  Work continues on the north side of the Keith Bridge.  Once completed all this work will help make your travel along Davis Drive smoother and more efficient, especially if you are on transit!

Over the next few years, future rapidways will be added to the Viva routes to better service customers and make travel times shorter by up to 25%.  We know construction is messy, but the end results are marvelous!

using colour and shape to create welcoming pedestrian spaces

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

If you’ve walked along the new rapidway on Highway 7, you’ll have seen the vivaNext pavers we’ve installed on the boulevards.  We know from the feedback we’ve gotten that people love the new look.

Most sidewalks in York Region, like pretty much everywhere else, are made of concrete, and the most important consideration is functionality: they need to be safe, accessible, durable and easy to maintain.  But beyond those goals, we also want our new boulevards – which are wider than the Region’s regular sidewalks – to reinforce the complete street concept, the guiding philosophy for our vivaNext streetscape design.  With all the development coming to the Region’s centres and corridors, in the future there will be more pedestrians, whether they live, work, or commute along our rapidway routes.  So we’ve made sure that our boulevard design is going to be visually appealing as well as functional.

The boulevard is made up of the pedestrian zone and the furnishing zone. The pedestrian zone is typically a 2.0m wide sidewalk which is fully paved with light-toned coloured pavers near intersections, and paved with concrete in the mid-block areas. The sidewalk is a continuous system even across driveways to alert motorists that pedestrians have priority.

The furnishing zone is located next to the pedestrian zone. The furnishing zone is an area where pedestrian amenities, furniture and planters are located. It is paved in light coloured unit pavers which reinforce the identity of the vivaNext system.

We’re using a combination of coloured pavers which not only look great but also add to wayfinding for pedestrians.  The main field pavers are light-coloured cool gray with contrasting coloured accent bands which will increase in frequency as pedestrians approach the main intersections. The east-west accent bands are a red; the north-south accent bands are a dark charcoal gray.

Immediately adjacent to the roadway and running along beside the pedestrian zone is a 610mm wide “transition zone”, which will provide an important comfort buffer against bicycle and vehicular traffic. In the winter months, it also provides an area for snow storage and protects the adjacent plantings from salt spray. This zone will be paved in special “eco-pavers”, which allow water to seep through to the storm sewer system.

A charcoal gray coloured textured warning strip will alert visually impaired pedestrians that they are approaching an intersection or driveway. At midblock where the pedestrian zone in paved in concrete, the warning strip will be grooved concrete. Both approaches will provide a tactile clue for visually impaired pedestrians of potential conflicts.

We’ve given special attention to the boulevards near intersections to ensure they reinforce pedestrian priority and add to placemaking. These areas have been designed to function as urban plazas with unit paving and accent pavers. Soft landscaping will define the corners of the intersections and function as gateways to the adjacent areas.

By making the boulevards along the rapidways welcoming and attractive, we’re contributing to the development of York Region’s new urban centres, and adding more walkable places for us all to use.

 

making your trip more comfortable across the YRT\Viva system

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

You already know how excited we are to be introducing you to our new vivaNext rapidway system, with its comfortable and convenient stations and amenities, now open on Highway 7.   But for many transit riders across York Region, you’re YRT riders as well, and your comfort on that part of your commute is just as important to us.

YRT is currently carrying out upgrades to all their curbside stops across the YRT system to add new amenities and freshen up existing ones.  If you’ve been to the YRT stop at 16th Avenue and Warden you’ll already have seen the prototype that’s going to be installed everywhere.

Each YRT stop will get a modern new shelter, which will provide superior protection from the elements.  And for more comfort, each station will have new benches and garbage containers.  More and more people are choosing to commute by bike but if biking part-way then jumping on YRT\Viva suits you better, YRT is installing bike racks at each stop so you can leave your bike with confidence until your return.

YRT is going to be working their way through the entire system across the Region to upgrade all the YRT stops over the summer, with the Highway 7 rapidway sections being the first to change over to the new amenities this summer.  With the rapidways now open and the new YRT local stops being refreshed, Highway 7 has taken on a refurbished look and feel that highlights York Region’s commitment to serving its residents. Check out this video

These upgrades will bring a new level of comfort to YRT riders, and show the commitment YRT\Viva has to providing all its riders with a great customer experience, no matter what route they’re taking.  We encourage you to come visit the area!

need some retail therapy? ….your neighbourhood shops are open

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

We’ve all heard the term “retail therapy.” For some, shopping can be a remedy to cheer us up and for other’s it’s a way to relieve stress. Perhaps as you read this, you can relate to doing some of your own retail therapy at one time or another.  Whether we’re shopping for a pick-me-up, or need a few items from the store, I’m sure we can all agree there is nothing better than stopping at a good restaurant or finding a little boutique around the corner.

The businesses along the vivaNext rapidway corridors are a great example of the variety of unique restaurants, professional offices, and boutique shops available within your local community. No matter what the stage of transformation– in the heart of construction on Davis Drive, just starting construction on Highway 7 West, getting ready for construction on Yonge Street and completing the transformation of Highway 7 East, there is no change to how any of these businesses serve you.

As you drive or walk along Davis Drive and Highway 7 East you’ll notice the Shop Davis and Shop 7 billboards. These road signs are just one component of a broader advertising campaign in support of your local businesses. During construction along Highway 7 West and Yonge Street you’ll also see Shop billboards along these corridors, to help remind you to support your local retailers.

Perhaps you’ve even seen vivaNext staff out and about in your neighbourhood promoting your local businesses. As part of the shop local campaigns, you may have received a reusable shopping bag to use when you visit stores in your community. If you see a vivaNext staff member, come by, say hello and pick up your reusable shopping bags [while quantities last]. Your local businesses and vivaNext have you covered the next time you are out shopping in the neighbourhood.

To get to your favourite stores on Highway 7, why not take a ride on the new rapidway. The dedicated centre lanes for viva vehicles are now open on Highway 7, from Bayview to Highway 404 and will provide riders with faster, more consistent travel times, getting you to your destination faster so you can shop till you drop!  The new urban landscape and lovely boulevards are a great incentive to visit these revitalized areas in Markham and Richmond Hill. Stop by for some shopping or just stroll around, because these are great places to visit.

Whether you’re shopping for back to school, meeting friends for dinner, or buying a gift for that special someone, your local retailers and restaurants are open for regular business throughout vivaNext construction. To see a sample of the business offerings provided by your local retailers check out the business profiles section of the vivaNext website at vivanext.com