design it, then build it – simple, right?

November 12th, 2014

design it, then build it - simple, right?

You probably know where we’re going with this. It’s not simple to design and build a major transportation project, but we’re getting better and better at it.

It starts with a consistent vision of a transit system that matches plans for the future by the Province and the Region. A plan for making the vision a reality comes next, as dedicated lanes for Bus Rapid Transit – rapidways – connecting York Region’s key urban centres. It’s more than transit though, with designs including updated infrastructure and pedestrian-friendly, attractive surroundings. The 34 kilometres of rapidway and 37 vivastations are divided into design-build projects, based on funding and logistics. Closing roads entirely isn’t an option, so construction timelines are longer to allow for keeping lanes open as much as possible, and projects are staggered so that there isn’t too much work being done, all at once.

We select a contractor through a competitive bidding process. This is an important point in the project, because what is or isn’t included in the contract can impact the timing or costs of a project at a later point. We have highly-skilled engineering, construction and procurement professionals whose advice ensures we procure the project accurately and fairly. Even so, there are an enormous amount of details to consider, and every aspect needs careful thought. The procurement of each project has been tailored to its particular circumstances, and has improved on the project before it.

For the first rapidway project, Highway 7 East, the utility work and the design-build of the project were each coordinated by a separate contractor at the same time. The intention was for a quick build, but it was a challenge for two separate contractors to schedule intertwined work in the same locations.

For the next two projects, Davis Drive and Highway 7 West [Interchange Way to Bowes Road], the same contractor coordinated the utility work and built the project. This helped the contractor to schedule the work, although there were still unexpected elements underground to deal with, as is the case with most construction projects. The contract for the latter project, Highway 7 West, also included more requirements for utility coordination and recognition of timelines needed for permits and relocating utilities.

We recently procured the contractor for the rapidway on Yonge Street, and even more was done to ensure the project runs smoothly. A Subsurface Utility Engineering [SUE] study was fully completed before we even issued the RFP, and the results of the study gave bidders a better understanding of the existing infrastructure, preparing them for the utility work included in the contract. As with the Highway 7 West contract, timelines allowed for permits and utility relocation, and in this case they were fully scheduled. A requirement was also added for an Independent Quality Certifier [IQC] to make it easier to monitor and audit quality of work – previously this was a combined effort.

So building it isn’t simple, but each project has helped improve the next, and we’ve already built and put into service 11 vivastations and 6 kilometres of rapidway. Each project has unique features and challenges, but the end results are worth it… we hope you have tried the improved service on Highway 7 East, as Viva now travels in its own dedicated lane!


intersections are changing: u-turns and 2-stage crosswalks

November 6th, 2014

intersections are changing: u-turns and 2-stage crosswalks

On Highway 7 West and Davis Drive in Newmarket, important changes are on the way for how drivers and pedestrians use intersections and travel along the road. Each rapidway project is at a different stage, and along the Highway 7 East rapidway in Markham and Richmond Hill, these road and intersection changes have been in effect for about two years.

Aside from rapidways for fast, convenient transit, projects include wider sidewalks and attractive landscaping. Each project helps to connect York Region, and manage future growth for generations to come. Once construction is underway in the centre of the road on Highway 7 West and Davis Drive, here are some of the changes that you need to watch for, and follow the signs:

Dedicated left-turns

  • Dedicated left-turn lanes at rapidway intersections
  • Dedicated left-turn signals – motorists can only turn left when the left-turn arrow is illuminated

Right-turn access, via intersections with u-turn signs

  • To access to mid-block destinations on the opposite side of the road, motorists will make u-turns at intersections.
  • Rapidway intersections with u-turn signs will allow drivers to make a u-turn from the left turn lane, once the left-turn arrow is illuminated.
  • Global studies of traffic control have shown this to be a safer way to turn left on a multi-lane road.

Shared lanes for right-turn and through traffic

  • Curb-side lanes will be shared by right-turning and straight-through traffic.

Two-stage pedestrian crossings

  • Intersections will be wider with the new rapidway lanes.
  • Pedestrians may cross intersections in two stages if unable to cross in the first signal.
  • A waiting area will be in the middle of the crosswalk, where pedestrians can press the “walk” button and wait for the next signal.
  • Pedestrians will need to press the “walk” button for the “walk” signal to be displayed.


planning for a rainy day

October 29th, 2014

planning for a rainy day

If you’ve ever stood at the bottom of a hill in a field or forest at the end of a sudden summer rain shower, you’ll have seen how water naturally runs down to the lowest point, then gradually drains away, soaking into the ground and running into the nearest stream or pond. Obviously, water will always drain in a downward direction, even when a site becomes developed by roads or buildings. Engineers use what are known as “storm water management” techniques to minimize the negative impacts of changes in drainage associated with new development and construction.

The drainage needs of the widened road network that are being built for vivaNext are no different from those in a new housing development or a natural forest: at the bottom of every hill, water will collect and need to be drained away somewhere. So, storm water management has one overarching goal: to mimic as much as possible the natural, pre-developed conditions of a site in terms of both how water drains, and the quality of the water that is being drained.

There are a number of tools that are used in storm water management, depending on the situation. On the vivaNext rapidway project, the primary tool is the storm sewer system. Storm sewers run under the roadway, collecting water that runs off the road through storm sewer inlets. These inlets are either set horizontally into the road beside the curb, or vertically into the curb itself.

The more an area is developed or paved the less permeable ground there is to absorb run-off, resulting in more water needing to be drained through the storm water system. Specialists do hydraulic calculations to determine how much water will collect on the roadways during a typical storm, and ensure that the storm sewer system can drain it away promptly. Storm sewers drain into the naturally occurring creeks and streams that exist throughout our urban areas, although many have been buried so you won’t be aware of them. In some areas, these pipes may be aging and ready to be replaced to accommodate the increased volumes of run-off.

In addition to preventing flooding, the other critical component of storm water management is to mimic the natural conditions where rainwater is filtered through the ground, leaving the eventual run-off as clean as possible.

To replicate this natural filtering mechanism on roadways, water collected in the storm sewers runs through a special filter called an Oil Grit Separator [OGS] before it is released into a creek or stream. OGS are designed to capture substances like grit, oil and sand that collect on a roadway and get washed away during a rainstorm.

Another tool to improve the quality of run-off is the use of storm water management ponds, which contain and filter the outflow from storm sewers in a more natural way, trapping the grit and oil in their muddy bottoms, producing cleaner water that flows into watercourses or pipes.

Storm water management is an important issue that is overseen by a variety of approving bodies, including federal and provincial ministries, and in the case of our vivaNext projects, two conservation authorities.

How we plan drainage for water is one of those important components of any project that will be unseen to most. But whether or not you can see it, respecting the natural environment is important to everyone, and in the last few years the storms and crazy weather we have experienced have truly made that more apparent!


bright-coloured leaves bring early eves

October 23rd, 2014

bright-coloured leaves bring early eves

This time of year brings bright-coloured leaves, pumpkins and Halloween fun, but the early evenings take a little getting used to. The days are getting shorter, especially once Daylight Savings time ends on Sunday, November 2.

We thank everyone for paying attention near construction zones, following directional signs and watching out for construction crews. And we hope that as it gets dark earlier, drivers and pedestrians will each be especially careful. Following the rules of the road and doing what is expected – drivers signaling, pedestrians crossing at the lights – goes a long way toward keeping everyone safe. Visibility helps too. Drivers can use full headlights at dusk and in bad weather, and pedestrians and cyclists can take a cue from construction workers and wear bright or reflective colours.

As the leaves fall from the trees, vivaNext construction crews are working hard to finish the warm-weather work before the snow flies. Crews will continue some work through the winter though, because we know how important it is to complete construction, making way for the final results: convenient rapid transit surrounded by attractive, walkable streetscape that sets the stage for future growth.



next is now >> highway 7 in markham

October 15th, 2014

next is now >> highway 7 in markham

We’re growing right along with you as we enjoy the next section of the rapidway, now open along Highway 7 from Highway 404 to Town Centre Boulevard.

Riders can now board Viva in the centre-lane rapidway, and vivastations are directly accessible from crosswalks at traffic lights. Not only is this section of Highway 7 now more efficient for pedestrians, cyclists, riders and drivers, but the landscape is being transformed with new trees and other greenery. Vivastations are in service at Allstate Parkway, Woodbine Avenue, Montgomery Court, and Town Centre Boulevard. New dedicated centre lanes for Viva allow riders to enjoy faster and more consistent travel times through this congested area. Our customers are telling us “@YRTViva Love how fast the bus is on the new extended rapidway. Got to the mall really quick!”

Markham is one of the fastest growing municipalities in Ontario, home to over 332,000 people, covering 212 square kilometres of land. More than 400 companies are headquartered in Markham due to a well-defined transportation and communication network, high quality facilities, a diverse and highly educated labour force and pro-business environment. The vivaNext transformation of this urban corridor will help support growth, and reduce congestion to help make Markham, and the rest of York Region, a more inviting place to live, commute, shop and play.

For Highway 7 East, the future of rapid transit is here – next is now. Students are settled into school already, so here’s a [fun] lesson on history – watch our then, now & next transformation video of Markham and be sure to get out and experience the new rapidways this fall!


taking time for thanks

October 10th, 2014

taking time for thanks

It’s a beautiful time of year and of course, a time to be thankful. We thank everyone for their patience during the messy stages of construction. Great things are on the way – vibrant urban places, new infrastructure and rapid transit choices will support future generations of our growing population.

This weekend we’ll be gathering with the community in Vaughan at the 2014 Woodbridge Fall Fair, so be sure to drop by our booth in the vendors’ tent to chat and find out more about vivaNext projects:

Woodbridge Fall Fair


Saturday, October 11, 10am to 6pm
Sunday, October 12, 10am to 6pm
Monday, October 13, 10am to 5pm

Where: Woodbridge Fairgrounds, 100 Porter Ave., Vaughan (Kipling, north of Hwy 7)

Description: live music, giant vegetables, horse shows, midway rides, a dog performance team, petting zoo and children’s entertainers.


working together on transportation improvements in newmarket

October 8th, 2014

working together on transportation improvements in newmarket

To help alleviate traffic congestion and provide convenient transit alternatives in Newmarket, vivaNext, York Region and the Town of Newmarket are investing in infrastructure and improving public transit in Newmarket.

While it may appear construction is taking place everywhere in Newmarket, a comprehensive coordination strategy was developed by York Region, vivaNext and the Town of Newmarket to better balance the need for necessary infrastructure improvements with the needs of our residents, visitors and commuters and to help manage travel demand in Newmarket, while minimizing the disruption to the community.

To support future growth and travel demand and to help reduce traffic congestion in Newmarket, road improvements are necessary and long overdue. A number of construction projects performed by York Region, Town of Newmarket and vivaNext are underway that will reshape and re-vitalize Newmarket. These road construction projects are a sound investment in Newmarket’s future.

To maximize as much work as possible during a short construction season, the majority of construction projects are done in the warmer months. Construction can be frustrating and we thank you for your patience as we work together to improve our roads and transit system so that Newmarket continues to be one the best place to live in Canada.

Information on the construction projects taking place within Newmarket are available at,,


who, what, where, why, when and how …..the 6ws of davis construction

October 1st, 2014

click here for the video Davis Drive: building more than transit

With Davis Drive rapidway construction well underway, signs of the transformation can be seen along Davis from Yonge Street to Roxborough Road. It takes a lot to build a centre-lane bus rapidway and completely rebuild Davis from the ground up. This challenging project has layers upon layers of complexity and a lot of work underground had to take place first. Check out our latest video about how all these layers add up to a project that’s building more than transit.

A lot of questions can come from a project of this nature, and here at vivaNext we’re always happy to answer them. We thought it might be helpful to break down this complicated project into smaller pieces [like a story with chapters, if you will] to provide a clearer view of how we’re transforming Davis.

Over the coming weeks, we’ll be using Twitter and Facebook to provide a unique behind-the-scenes perspective of the magnitude of work that’s been done under and above ground, the progress we’ve made, what’s to come and of course the end result! We will even toss in a few intriguing facts about Davis Drive and the Town of Newmarket that you may not have known.

What’s a story without pictures? As part of the story, we’ll provide visuals and use pictures to help showcase what’s going on in particular photos. We hope you agree with the adage “a picture is worth a thousand words.”

If you have a question you would like answered as part of our photo series, please contact us through, send us a tweet or a Facebook message.

We hope you enjoy the story and that at the end of the last chapter, you see that the investment in modernizing our corridor, adding a rapid transit service and revitalizing the infrastructure, will go a long way to making sure Davis is built on a solid foundation that will serve the growing needs of Newmarket for many years to come


yonge street rapidway – a key connection

September 24th, 2014

video: Yonge St rapidway is on the way

Check out the newest vivaNext video featuring the Yonge Street rapidway project! This rapidway is a key part of York Region’s transit network, and will connect with the Richmond Hill Centre/Langstaff Urban Gateway at Highway 7 – a key Regional Centre with a variety of transit services and transportation options.

Now that the contract has been awarded to RapidLINK, our next step will be to work closely with the contractor to finalize the design of the rapidway on Yonge Street and develop a construction schedule. Over the summer and through the fall and winter months, crews continue working along the Yonge Street corridor to prepare for construction.

During this pre-construction phase, these teams will more accurately document existing conditions above and below the ground. This work is mainly conducted during off-peak driving hours and sometimes requires lane closures.

Building a roadway is a process that follows clearly defined steps and uses modern technology, equipment and materials. Although we have access to some of the best, most experienced construction contractors, building the rapidway down the middle of some of the Region’s busiest roads is a complicated undertaking. That said, we have an experienced team of dedicated staff and constructors who are on board and up for the challenge.

During construction, we realize that it’s important to minimize the impact on businesses and people using the road by keeping travel lanes open whenever possible and safe to do so. For more information on the project and construction information, visit


take a tour of the new rapidway on highway 7

September 15th, 2014

video: Highway 7 East rapidway - Now Open - 2014

This morning, The Honourable Steven Del Duca, Ontario Minister of Transportation, announced the opening of the section of rapidway from Highway 404 to South Town Centre on Highway 7 East. He was joined by: The Honourable Michael Chan, MPP, Markham; Bill Fisch, Chairman and CEO, The Regional Municipality of York; Bruce McCuaig, President and CEO of Metrolinx; Frank Scarpitti, Mayor of the City of Markham.

Travelling along Highway 7, it’s hard to miss the beautiful and functional vivastations in the centre median. These stations are making a huge contribution to the transformation of our community in Richmond Hill and Markham, so let us take you on the same guided tour as our dignitaries took this morning for an inside look at the benefits and attributes of these stations.

The first thing you’ll notice as you cross to a station is how big and airy the canopy is at 28m [92’] long and 5m [16’] high. The curved glass above the platform provides both weather protection and a sense of space at the same time and satisfies long-term needs as platforms accommodate two Viva vehicles at once and in future will be able to accommodate Light Rail Transit [LRT]. The platform is approached by a gently sloped ramp with handrails on both sides, making it fully accessible to all, whether they’re walking, pushing a stroller, or in a wheelchair or scooter. Passing by the familiar Viva fin and planter boxes with greenery, you’ll next come to an illuminated wall map of the YRT\Viva system.

Next on the tour is a bank of fare equipment, including a Ticket Vending Machine [TVM], a Ticket Validator [TV], and two PRESTO machines. Once you’ve paid your fare, you’ll move to the Fare Paid Zone [FPZ], which is clearly shown by being paved with a different coloured tile on the ground, as well as by a curved sign above. This area needs to show as distinct, because YRT fare rules require passengers to have paid their fare before moving into the FPZ.

Once you’ve paid your fare, you’re free to make yourself comfortable on the platform until the next bus arrives. We’re making it easy for you to know how long you’ve got to wait, with a large Variable Message Sign [VMS] projected from the canopy. The VMS scrolls through the upcoming Viva arrivals, telling you exactly when the next bus will arrive. Because the VMS system is connected to the GPS technology in our Viva vehicles as well as to the central transit scheduling software, it’s constantly updated to provide accurate and real-time information.

If you decide to sit on a bench or get comfy out of the elements, the shelters have been designed with passenger comfort as a priority. The heated glass enclosure is well lit, and accessed by two push-button automatic doors. The heaters – which will be appreciated later this year – automatically turn on if someone enters the enclosure, and if the temperature in the enclosure feels lower than 10 degrees Celsius. Recycling and garbage disposal units on the platforms make it easy to keep these lovely stations clean.

The entire platform will be well lit, with lighting inside the canopy as well as on the platform.  And to enhance your feelings of comfort and security, the back of the platform is protected from Highway 7 traffic by a barrier wall topped with a guardrail, and there are multiple security features including cameras and an emergency call button.

Last but not least, to help you stay oriented, wayfinding signage will show you where the buses will stop, and other features including the way to the crosswalk.

It’s hard to do the stations, and the rapidway justice with written descriptions, so here’s a video showing you some of the action involved in completing this section of the rapidway. One of the regular passengers tweeted that “it has cut my travel time in half, way to go!”