we can hear you, loud and clear

August 15th, 2014

Most PA systems are pretty frustrating in the garbled sound quality they provide. But at vivaNext the engineers have worked hard to design the optimal public address system for your new vivastations.    There’s nothing worse than knowing something important is being said, but not being able to understand it or hear it properly.

To make sure the new PA system is always audible, we started with an acoustic analysis study using special “Enhanced Acoustic Simulator for Engineers” (EASE) software. This study analyzed the two elements most critical to sound: Sound Pressure Level (SPL) and Speech Transmission Index (STI). The SPL, measured in decibels (dB), is concerned with sound magnitude and takes into account ambient noise levels – it is the relative “loudness” of a sound.  STI predicts how the equipment being used and the surrounding environment will affect the quality of the sound, and therefore how intelligible it is for you as you hear it.

First, the acoustic engineers needed to determine what effects our curved canopies and the beams and angles inside the station would have on the way sound is going to move around.  Secondly, the reflection of sound by the concrete wall, floor and glass was modeled. This analysis helped predict how clear the final sound will be on the platform and in the enclosure, and also helped determine the number and placement of speakers that will be most effective in achieving clear sounds.

Following this sophisticated modeling the engineers determined that the optimal number of speakers to achieve these goals would be 12 speakers located outside of the passenger enclosure, and another 3 speakers inside.

The next challenge was to work on the volume of the speakers.  The problem with PA systems in noisy places is that the ambient noise can overwhelm the volume of the PA system, making it impossible to hear what’s being said.  Our solution is to use a speaker volume system that automatically adjusts when its sensors detect that the ambient noise has increased or decreased.

There are two sensors on each new Viva platform to measure noise level. This way, announcements should be audible whether there’s a bus idling in the station and trucks are moving past, or it’s nighttime and quiet. Volume control and environmental sensitivity helps determine the right sound levels without disturbing those who don’t need to hear the message.

The PA system will be used for recorded and live announcements from transit operations, such as emergency information or service changes.  It will not announce bus arrivals at this time, although it does have that capability should we want to turn on that function.

Although we’ve tested the system many times, we continue to monitor the sound levels, so let us know if you can truly hear us, loud and clear.

 

ITS – balancing the needs of all travellers

August 13th, 2014

Gridlock is an increasing problem everywhere across the GTHA and most other large cities.  But what can be done about it?  VivaNext is one part of the solution.  With the new vivaNext system comes improved ITS – which isn’t what you think…

Some people may think ITS is connected to “Information Technology”, but in the vivaNext world ITS stands for “Intelligent Transportation Systems”. ITS is an international transportation-engineering discipline that is trying to improve the efficiency of travel, whether it involves the travelling public, commercial vehicles, or transit.  The basic assumptions behind ITS are that delays cost money, and more efficient travel saves money. This new technology is an absolutely critical component of the vivaNext program, although with low-visibility.

ITS is used to ensure that traffic corridors are designed as one coordinated system – the physical roadway’s design, lane markings and signs, traffic signal design and timing, and the brains that connect all these pieces.  In a transit project, ITS has an additional layer which is concerned with how the transit system is integrated into that larger system.

As high-tech as each of these components are, none can be effective unless it can communicate with the others.  Each one also needs to be connected to the overall transit system which keeps track of the schedule for each bus, and which determines when the traffic signal phasing requires a temporary adjustment to let a delayed bus get back on schedule by holding a light.

The connection is provided through a fibre optics communications network that links all of the intersection and every vivastation to YRT’s transit operations and York Region’s traffic operations.

This system is fully automated, with approaching vehicles alerting intersections that they are arriving, and each intersection sharing that information with the central traffic control system, which in turn compares that information with the transit schedule.  The system is continuously adjusted and fine-tuned to ensure the buses stay on schedule, while keeping the roads and intersections working well for everyone.

To enhance passenger safety, each station is equipped with cameras to monitor the platforms, a public address system to provide announcements and an emergency call box for personal safety.  All of these systems operate reliably and seamlessly over the new fibre optic communications system.

The future Highway 7 will be significantly more urbanized, with more people living and working along the corridor.  That means there will be more transit riders, pedestrians and cyclists whose travel requirements need to be considered, in addition to car and truck traffic.  Helping transit vehicles stay on schedule is also a priority, since rapid transit can’t be rapid if it’s stuck in traffic.

These ITS strategies help balance everyone’s needs, to get everyone there as fast as possible!  It truly is a balancing act!

 

countdown to handover

August 11th, 2014

countdown to handover

Taking advantage of every sunny day to advance the work on the Highway 7 rapidway in Markham, our teams are working hard to finish all sorts of little details. With much of the construction complete, we’re now focused on the final stages of construction and testing, and then getting ready for handover, when the system is officially turned over to York Region and YRT, the system owners and operators.

Handover means just what it says – it’s the moment in time when the transit system is handed over to the owner for care and custody. From that time forward, the system – which until then has been the responsibility of the Contractor/Design Builder – becomes the private property of the owner.

Because the formal handover is such a significant development, especially on a major infrastructure project like the vivaNext rapidway, it’s important to ensure everything is in perfect working order. The various steps involved in commissioning, which is the testing period that takes place before handover, vary depending on what is being handed over. For example, with the fare equipment, we make sure the ticket vending machine [TVM] prints properly. With the traffic signals, once they’re programmed the permanent signals are turned on and each phase is tested individually, and all the push buttons are tested to make sure they work.

Streetlights are inspected to ensure all the wiring is according to the drawings; that the bases are level, and the power connections are all correct. The teams go out at night to actually turn on the lights, to ensure all the lamps come on and nothing is flickering. Lighting is an important safety feature for both pedestrians and vehicles.

Every single detail is inspected through a visual walk-down. Then a list of the things that still need to be finished or perfected is created with items graded from most serious to least serious. These items will be fixed either prior to the system opening or post opening under the warranty.

Once handover takes place, legal ownership and responsibility is transferred to the owner, and the Contractor/Design Builder’s warranty period begins, just the way it happens when a homebuyer takes possession of a new house.

Handover in this case means some elements of the rapidway, like the rapidway, stations, boulevards and planters, are transferred to the Region. Others, like the sidewalks and streetlights are transferred to the local municipality to maintain.

Ultimately, vivaNext wants to provide a reliable, efficient rapid transit system and beautiful streetscape. Because, at the end of the day, the ultimate owners are the public of York Region and with every new piece of rapidway delivered, it makes it a better system that we all can be proud of.

testing, testing, testing

August 8th, 2014

testing, testing, testing

As you will know from driving along Highway 7 East from Highway 404 to Warden, our rapidway construction is really coming along, and this summer another segment will be going into operation. We still have a bit more work ahead of us before service operation can begin, including some work which will be obvious, such as final paving, striping and landscaping. But in addition to that, we’re just getting underway on a less-obvious but highly important part of the job, which is testing – to ensure that all parts of the rapidway project are ready for active service.

This stage – known in the construction world as commissioning – is critically important and planning for commissioning the new section of Highway 7 East rapidway has already been in progress.

So what does commissioning involve, and how do we do it?

First of all, the technical definition of commissioning is: the process of assuring that all systems and components of a system are designed, installed and tested according to the operational requirements that have been established.

In the case of vivaNext, the most visible components of the project include the new roadways, passenger stations and amenities, and streetscape elements such as lighting, sidewalks and landscaping. Ongoing inspections are being done as construction progresses to ensure that these are being built to certain specifications, before they are handed over for use by Viva. Commissioning is a detailed focus on the key systems and components that together make up the overall network.

These components include the fare collection equipment; the station information systems such as the variable message signs, clocks and Public Address systems; passenger security elements such as closed circuit TV systems and emergency call buttons; and the traffic signals at intersections. It also includes the sophisticated Transit Vehicle Detection system, which will provide information to the traffic signals when rapid transit vehicles are approaching intersections, as well as the overall communications system and fibre optic network that links all of these components.

Testing starts at the factory, where the fabricator verifies that the equipment works as it was intended to, and then each component is tested again once it’s installed. Once all the components are installed and each one is confirmed to be working as designed, a series of additional tests are carried out to confirm that the entire system is integrated properly and working together. Don’t forget we have to connect up to the section already open and make sure everything continues to run smoothly.

The final step involves testing the reliability and function of the extended system, including simulating actual operation using buses and staff acting as passengers. This gives the people who will be involved in the future operation, maintenance and service of the rapidway an opportunity to become familiar with the new section.

So you can see that there’s still a lot of work behind the scenes to get to the day we’re all looking forward to – when the Viva bus extends its journey the length of the new rapidway from Bayview Avenue to South Town Centre Boulevard in late August.

turning on the lights

August 6th, 2014

turning on the lights

Street lights are one of those infrastructure elements that the public may not give a lot of thought to, but in truth their design contributes significantly to the overall streetscape. And because the vivaNext project is being used to transform Highway 7 East from a highway to an urban corridor, all the design components, including the street lights, have been given a lot of thought. But before design considerations can be focused on, safety is the first priority to be achieved with street lighting. VivaNext works with York Region, the local Municipality and the utility companies to develop lighting designs, coordinate and install the lights. Here’s an overview of the role lighting plays in the vivaNext vision, and the street lighting elements you will see installed on all the rapidway corridors.

Designing street lighting, like all the major elements in the vivaNext project, focuses on achieving a combination of practical and design objectives. Lighting is first and foremost a public safety consideration. There are strict national and local standards on how street lighting is designed, including how much lighting is required for different conditions. For example, different measures are used to determine the lighting levels for roadways compared to intersections and sidewalks. Once the levels are known, lighting designers develop a design, which includes variables such as pole height, spacing and “lux,” which is the amount of light to be provided by the fixture.

Once the lighting design is done, streetscape design objectives can come into play in order to marry the technical requirements with the architectural priorities needed to achieve the desired streetscape “look.” In the case of vivaNext, the streetscape objectives are for a modern, stylish and uncluttered look that will contribute to the corridors feeling like urban destinations, and make them distinctive from other Regional roadways.

To achieve all these safety requirements and design objectives, we have selected a special street light pole and luminaire [the light head or fixture], and arm that holds the luminaire, to be used along the Highway 7 rapidway segments. The poles will be a little higher than the ones they’ve replaced [9.9 metres high versus 8.0 metres], and they’re made of metal with a dark grey powder-coat finish for long-wear and less maintenance. Unlike most poles which are octagonal shaped and tapered to the top, these are round and cylindrical for a sleeker, more modern look. And the lighting head or luminaire on top was chosen to complement the sleek, modern look of our canopies.

The street lights also have a photo sensor to automatically turn on and off when it’s dark. And the bulbs – which are little larger than the light bulbs you have in your home – only need to be replaced every 4 years.

So next time you’re sitting at a stop light or at a bus stop and you’re looking at the beautiful new streetscape, you’ll know more about all the decisions that were needed to turn on the lights! Enjoy!!

bringing the vivaNext long-term plan for the future to life

August 4th, 2014

video - Highway 7 East: summer update 2014

With crews working on the finishing touches on the eastern half of the Highway 7 rapidway, we’re getting closer to the completion of this rapid transit corridor. 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.

There’s a lot of media coverage these days, of transit needs all across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area [GTHA], and we’re proud that York Region is 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 and in 2005 the Viva team launched “QuickStart,” the first phase of Viva service. Viva offered enhanced features that made transit more comfortable and convenient, and put the customer first. With ridership levels increasing steadily, Viva changed the way people in York Region thought of transit and there was appreciation for the higher level of services with enhanced features and frequencies.

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 the Region’s long-term vision. Ontario municipalities are mandated to plan sustainable, more intensive land-use as part of the provincial government policy, and rapid transit is a key component in achieving that goal. Anticipating this, the 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.

These urban centres would be connected by transportation “corridors,” making it easier for people to get around the region and providing transportation options, such as regular transit service. The vivaNext rapidways are being built along the corridors, providing these connections across York Region and into the rest of the GTHA.

Much of the new development being built around vivastations is compact and mixed-use, providing housing, employment, retail, dining, services and recreation, all within walking distance of transit. Developments include more welcoming public spaces, attractive landscaping, and other amenities that contribute to the centres becoming more dynamic destinations.

The 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 designs 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 next segment of rapidway on Highway 7 East starts service this summer, we can all celebrate the implementation of the first phase of our transportation and growth management blueprint, not to mention the end of construction! Check out the new video highlighting the Highway 7 East segment.

check out the Keith Bridge progress

August 3rd, 2014

video - Davis Drive: Keith Bridge progress

It’s an exciting time for Newmarket as significant components of the Davis Drive rapidway project are beginning to take shape. Along with road widening and paving, construction of the first vivastation is underway at Parkside/Longford and Davis. As part of the vivaNext rapidway project on Davis Drive, the Keith Bridge is being completely reconstructed. Construction of the north side of the bridge is coming along and recently, the new bridge deck was poured with concrete. We’re excited to have captured part of the transformation!

The deck pour was originally scheduled to be a lengthy 16 hour operation, but to speed up the process our diligent crews brought in additional machines and completed the job in 8 hours – half the time. The pour was completed overnight, with crews working quickly and efficiently to minimize disruption to residents. Over 70 truckloads of concrete were pumped steadily into the form work of the bridge [similar to a mold]. Using what’s called a screed machine, the concrete was leveled out and smoothed to create a flat surface. Because the screed machine didn’t reach the outer edges of the bridge, workers expertly finished off the edges with hand trowels. Finally burlap and tarps were used to cover the poured concrete as part of the curing process. They were removed once the concrete set.

The bridge is on track to be completed by late 2014, and when finished it will include architectural features such as replica period light fixtures and poles, and decorative concrete railings that reflect Newmarket’s heritage. Check out the bridge pour video for yourself – after all, it’s not every day over 70 truckloads of concrete are poured in one continuous operation. Watch for more big moves as the transformation continues to unfold on Davis Drive!

 

come say hello at the Newmarket Jazz Festival

July 31st, 2014

come say hello at the Newmarket Jazz Festival

Another long weekend is upon us and there’s no better way to spend it than with family and friends. If you’re still looking for last minute weekend plans, look no further than the 2014 Newmarket Jazz Festival!

From Friday, August 1st to Monday, August 4th enjoy the sweet sounds of jazz at Riverwalk Commons, Newmarket’s Heritage Main Street & Fairy Lake [Map]. The Newmarket Jazz Festival proudly supports Herbert Carnegie’s Future Aces Organization – opening doors for creative youth in our Region.

For $5 per day [kids under 12 are free], experience live musical entertainment, various art performers, fabulous foods, shopping, vendor exhibits, a creative kids zone and much more. With free shuttle buses running Saturday through Monday every 20 minutes from 404/Leslie and the Upper Canada Mall, getting to and from the event will be hassle free. For ticket information, daily schedules and details on featured entertainers, visit the festival’s main website.

On August 2, 3 and 4 the vivaNext team will be on site at the festival to provide you with updates on all of our rapidway projects. The summer is our busiest season so we have lots to talk about. Stop by our booth to say hello, ask questions and try your luck on a summer scratch n’ win card – we’ve already had one winner so you could be next! Check out our summer contest page to find out about other ways to win.

On behalf of the vivaNext team we wish you all a happy and safe long weekend!

 

then, now & next: Newmarket’s moments in time

July 29th, 2014

then, now & next: Newmarket’s moments in time

Take a moment to travel back in time with vivaNext as we explore the past, present and future of the rapidway corridors. Over the next month, we’ll be digging into photo archives to explore each community’s unique heritage and showing you how the vivaNext projects will be part of this history.

First up is the charming Town of Newmarket! It became an official town in 1880 with a population of 2,000. Today, the town has 84,000 residents and continues to grow. It boasts small town charm, but has all the conveniences of a big city. Several historical pieces of architecture still remain in Newmarket today, and as part of the Davis Drive rapidway project, we are preserving these important pieces of culture that contribute to the Town’s character.

The Union Hotel was built on the northeast corner of Davis Drive and Main Street. The two-storey brick structure was designed by local architect John Ough and still has many of its original features. Past owners include James Burke, a soda water manufacturer, and Patrick Hodgins Sr. whose family used it as a store and residence. To allow for the widening necessary to accommodate the vivaNext rapidway, the Union Hotel and neighbouring two-storey concrete block building are being set back on the same property, to preserve them as a gateway to historical Main Street.

The Keith Bridge is also being reconstructed as part of the vivaNext rapidway project. Newmarket’s rich architectural and transportation heritage was the inspiration for the design of the new Keith Bridge. When finished in 2014, the reconstructed Keith Bridge will feature several historic design elements including replica period light fixtures and poles, and decorative concrete railings. Heritage lighting will accent the bridge and architectural detailing will retain a historical flavour.

Once complete, the Davis Drive rapidway will help to support successful urban revitalization by encouraging the development of attractive and pedestrian-friendly places for people to live, work, shop and play. Watch Newmarket’s then, now & next story and stay tuned to our YouTube channel for more videos on Richmond Hill, Vaughan, and Markham!

 

signs of progress

July 24th, 2014

signs of progress

We’re really counting down the days to the next section of the vivaNext rapidway service opening on Highway 7 East from East Beaver Creek Road to South Town Centre Boulevard, and we know you are too! You’ll know we’re really in the final stretches of construction once you see Viva buses out on the new section of rapidway starting next week.

YRT\Viva will be doing driver training and testing on the Highway 7 East new section in the City of Markham, starting July 28 for a few weeks.

Training will be provided for everyone who will need to be familiar with the rapidways, the stations and equipment. There will be vehicles out on the rapidway, taking customer service staff and other YRT\Viva staff along the rapidways to test and familiarize themselves with the new section. Regular transit service will continue to pick-up passengers at the curbside stops, while we do the testing and finish paving the new section. Signs directing passengers will be posted at the stops.

The actual operator training will run from 7am to as late as 9pm some nights, seven days a week. During this time you can expect to see Viva buses running up and down the rapidway, and stopping at stations. The training will focus on entering and exiting the rapidway, and especially entering back into mixed traffic under Highway 404 and past South Town Centre Boulevard.

Training will also focus on the new transit signals at intersections, which will provide a single green arrow for transit operations. This signal will be clearly marked as being for transit only, but YRT\Viva operators will be trained to be cautious and on the lookout to make sure members of the driving public are obeying the signals correctly and not turning into the red rapidway lanes.

The trainees are all experienced Viva operators, so they know the route and the vehicle and have been enjoying the first phase of the rapidway that opened last year on Highway 7; this is just another segment of the system now running in its own dedicated lanes. They’re really excited to get going, knowing that there are just few more weeks of construction ahead of them.