With crews working on the finishing touches on the western half of the Highway 7 rapidway, we’re getting closer to the day rapid transit finally becomes a reality for York Region. As much as we’re looking forward to celebrating this milestone, it’s only one (very exciting) step in a long path that started years ago, and is going to take time to complete.
There’s a lot of media coverage these days on the general need for better transit all across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA). We’re proud that York Region has been actively working to bring rapid transit to our region. In 2002 the Region produced the York Region Transportation Master Plan and the follow-up Rapid Transit Plan, committing the Region to a blueprint of multiple transportation initiatives to be built over the next 30 years.
With approval to the Rapid Transit Plan, we got to work quickly. In 2005 the viva team – our formal name is York Region Rapid Transit Corporation – first launched “QuickStart”, the first phase of viva service. Viva offered enhanced features that made transit more comfortable and convenient, and put the customer first in a way that was new for a transit service in the GTHA. With ridership levels that have increased steadily, viva changed the way people in York Region viewed transit.
But while our new viva service was a major success and an important first step in encouraging people to try transit, designing the vivaNext rapid transit system was our longer-term priority. Since 2005, Provincial government policy has required that Ontario municipalities plan for sustainable, more intensive land use, and rapid transit is a key component to achieve that goal. Anticipating this, the 2002 Transportation Master Plan directed that future growth in York Region would be concentrated in new downtowns in Markham, Newmarket, Richmond Hill and Vaughan. By building more intensively in these areas, there would be less pressure for growth in existing neighbourhoods and a reduction in traffic congestion.
These urban centres would be connected by transportation “corridors”, making it easier for people to get around the region. The vivaNext rapidways will be built along the corridors, providing connections across York Region and into the rest of the GTHA.
Much of the new development built around vivastations will be compact and mixed-use, providing housing, employment, retail, dining, services and recreation, all within walking distance of transit. Developments will also include more welcoming public spaces, attractive landscaping, and other amenities that will contribute to the centres becoming more dynamic destinations.
Our plan is well and truly underway, and rapidways are being built on Highway 7 in both the east and west, as well as in Newmarket. The Toronto-York Spadina subway extension is under construction, and the design for rapidways on Yonge Street are being finalized. Great new developments are popping up all over the new urban centres across the Region.
So when the first rapidway on Highway 7 starts service this year, we’re going to be celebrating the implementation of the first phase of our transportation and growth management blueprint.
We have many more phases to deliver, but with such a clear plan to follow, people in York Region can be assured it’s going to come true. Check out our construction progress so far.