connecting the dots

May 1st, 2015

connecting the dots

If you’ve seen the video we posted yesterday, you’ve seen how excited some people can get over great transit. Ok, so it’s a little over the top. It has been exciting though, to see our vision, planning and designs turn into rapidway reality on Highway 7 East in Markham.

Next, rapidways will open on Davis Drive in Newmarket and Highway 7 West in Vaughan, and a rapidway along Yonge Street will help connect the dots [see our project map]. Each project is at a different stage, and together they’ll provide more travel choices and help support our growing population.

If you haven’t been to our website lately, check out the new photo album showing the progress of the Highway 7 East project from beginning to end. And be sure to sign up for updates about our construction projects. They’re great sources of construction information, and you’ll also receive important project announcements, newsletters and open house invitations.

 

Earth Day and every day

April 22nd, 2015

Earth Day and every day

This April 22 marks the 45th Earth Day – the 1970 event that served as a catalyst to the global environmental movement. This year, according to Earthday.org, it’s expected that a billion people will be participating in Earth Day activities, which makes it not just the largest environmental event in the world, but the largest “civic observance”.

The very idea of all those people celebrating with activities and activism warms our collective hearts here at vivaNext. According to Earthday.ca, in Canada alone, more than six million people will be participating in an Earth Day activity in their community.

If you’re also a tree-lover, plant-lover, cyclist, or transit geek, you probably feel as strongly about Earth Day as we do – Earth Day shares so many of the vivaNext goals. And every year, the arrival of Earth Day serves as a springtime reminder that we’re on the right track, as we continue building transit and reducing the need for car traffic, protecting or enhancing the natural environment, promoting smart growth, and building vibrant, livable cities, and healthy communities.

On Earth Day and every day, we continue to do our best to create rapid transit that provides our communities and citizens with a green travel option that’s convenient, and that helps to improve how residents get around York Region.

Interested in greening up your commute even more than you are currently? Earth Day Canada is presenting their annual Clean Commute challenge. The Clean Commute toolkit provides 25 ways to reduce your carbon footprint, plus you’ll find out the carbon reductions that can be achieved. Every effort is a step in the right direction.  Join us in making a difference.

Happy Earth Day, everyone!

 

numbers, numbers… how we report progress

April 17th, 2015

numbers, numbers… how we report progress

We recently updated the percentages on our website that show how far along each of our rapidway projects are: Highway 7 East is 95%, Highway 7 West [phase one] is 30%, Davis Drive is 70% and Yonge Street is 8%. It might make you scratch your head, since some of these projects appear to be more, or less, advanced than these percentages reflect. And in some cases, progress doesn’t show up in the percentages.

The percentages are updated quarterly, and are based on each project’s budget and how much has been billed. To stay open and transparent about our budgets and project progress, we report these percentages and information about construction milestones to our Board of Directors. Once our quarterly reports are presented to the Board, to Metrolinx, and to York Region Council they’re available to the public [posted here on our website]. There are variations from time to time – for instance, in our most recent report, we reported on the third and fourth quarter of 2014 together because there was no Board meeting in the fall.

As for the progress of each project:

  • The Highway 7 East rapidway is fully in service, and now that the snow is gone crews are completing some top-layer paving and sidewalk/landscaping work near Warden Avenue, taking care of the last 5%.
  • The percentages for the Davis Drive and Highway 7 West rapidway projects didn’t change between the third and fourth quarters of 2014, but as anyone knows who spends time on these roads, crews have been working through the winter and progress has been made [just not reflected in the budget or billing yet].
  • At just 8%, the Yonge Street rapidway is just getting started and for the next several months much of the progress will be with relocating and updating utilities in preparation for road widening.

When working along streets that are heavily travelled, in ever-changing weather, digging into underground infrastructure, there’s always a chance of delays along the way. But by keeping track, and reporting our progress, we can make sure everyone knows how it’s going.

 

No April Fool’s joke!

April 2nd, 2015

rapidway

April 1 is traditionally a day when the news outlets publish funny stories that no one is meant to take seriously. But this story in the Globe and Mail was apparently true: “the authorities in Paris imposed 24-hour emergency measures Monday to limit traffic after record-levels of pollution”. And what was the Parisian approach to reducing traffic? “They banned cars with even-numbered plates from operating in the French capital”.

Now that may be acceptable in Paris, but we think that with vivaNext, York Region is onto a much better idea with our approach to reducing the numbers of cars on the road.

For sure, building our rapidways takes more effort and planning than simply banning cars based on their license plates. But as our system expands, it’s offering more and more people a great alternative to driving. And our positive ridership numbers already show that our investment in reliable, comfortable, convenient rapid transit is paying off.

As more people choose to leave the keys at home, that means fewer trips will be taken by car. Whether you’re one of the ones on transit, or you need to drive, having a great transit system which includes fast, reliable rapidways – means everyone will benefit. And that’s no joke!

We wish you all a safe and happy long weekend.

streetscape – where form meets function

April 1st, 2015

streetscape

Streetscape is the visual design of a street and involves making a street attractive, but it also includes functional elements, and the design is intended to remain in place for generations. Streetscaping is an important part of road and transit projects.

According to various studies, an attractive, functional streetscape can make a difference to economic development in the surrounding area. In a 2014 report ranking the walkability of the largest 30 US cities, Foot Traffic Ahead , cities with more walkable spaces were more likely to have economic prosperity. A key element of the highest ranked cities was transit improvement projects which include streetscaping – such as vivaNext.

Streetscape includes long-term elements like wider sidewalks, tree-lined streets, and transit and bike lanes. It’s visually consistent, with features like the patterned pavers used in the sidewalks of rapidways in York Region. Consistency is not only pleasing to the eye – it’s also helpful for finding our way around and creating a distinct character of place.

Some streetscapes, like the Champs-Elysées in Paris and Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, are so attractive that they are a destination in themselves. Rapidway projects are being built to suit both form and function in Markham, Newmarket, Vaughan and Richmond Hill. In these key cities and towns, development is already on the way, and having attractive streets with transit stations within walking distance will benefit everyone.

earth hour – make it count

March 27th, 2015

earth hour 2015

It’s that time of year again, when we turn off the lights and other electronics for an hour on Saturday, March 28 at 8:30pm. To raise awareness about climate change, this hour reminds us that with only a small amount of effort we can use less energy. In York Region and Simcoe County last year, Powerstream recorded 48 megawatts in savings – enough to power 1,480 homes for 24 hours.

Aside from Earth Hour, you can be planet-friendly by doing things like using energy-efficient light bulbs, mowing your lawn less, walking or biking and sharing your ride or by taking transit. Viva may be blue, but it is a great green alternative! Every little thing counts, and it all adds up to a healthier environment.

So, York Region… enjoy your candle-lit dinners, your early-spring walks, some quiet time or take a ride on transit. If you’re looking for Earth Hour activities Saturday, check out some of the events happening around the Region, at community centres and local businesses: Powerstream blog about events in Markham and Vaughan, Facebook community page for Earth Hour in Newmarket, Earth Hour 2015 official video.

why stop here?

March 20th, 2015

why stop here?

Some of the most successful investors will tell you that thinking long-term is the best way to make decisions. That’s also the route transit planners take, and a long-term increase in passengers is the goal for the investment.

Rapid transit routes are also planned with potential growth opportunities in mind. By looking at municipal zoning and ‘big picture’ plans, higher levels of government and planners can see where higher-density residential and commercial development will be located in the future. They look at the area around each proposed station to see if it seems likely to redevelop into higher-density residential and commercial destinations. Key pointers tend to be municipal zoning that allows for multi-story buildings, large lot sizes, and older buildings that are more likely to need rebuilding or refurbishing. Stations are especially considered at junctions where current or future transit lines intersect. The area may already have urban amenities and high population, or in some areas, empty land is zoned for a planned high-density community. It’s not necessarily about what’s there now, it’s about what could be there.

By studying the facts, transit planners can be confident about where transit stops should be placed, and know that as the community evolves in future years, new developments will naturally make it more compact, transit-oriented and pedestrian-friendly.

In York Region, the location of rapid transit routes is studied carefully to ensure that as our population continues to grow in the long-term, we’ve invested in a great transit system to support it. The Viva routes were planned with that in mind and now with ridership increasing steadily, rapid transit is moving to one dedicated lane in the centre of the road. With this comes a balanced community that provides vibrant urban centres, faster travel choices, and routes that have more connection points and better serve customers

 

transit benefits times three…

March 13th, 2015

transit benefits times three

It’s true that we’re building a key component of the transit infrastructure connecting the GTA, but beyond this we’re also creating measurable benefits. We support the “triple bottom line” business principle, which holds that business activities should result in financial, social and environmental benefits. Part of our vision is to have development and public transit planned together to shape communities, support a sustainable future and promote energy conservation.

More than 1,100 residential units were added during 2014 along the Highway 7 East rapidway. New zoning and municipal plans are ensuring that development is mixed-use – including places to live, work, shop, and green space to hang out. Mixed-use is a more sustainable, environmentally-responsible way of growing for the future. Once transit is in place and urban neighbourhoods are established, residential and commercial developers are attracted, as are new employers who want to be located near transit and a well-educated workforce.

More compact, transit-oriented and walkable areas mean less dependency on cars, and this is good for the health of transit users, bicyclers and walkers. Socio-economic benefits are there for those who find they can get around more affordably, and our carbon footprint is reduced, since each bus can replace up to 70 cars.

Each new rapidway includes tree-lined streets to help maintain our connection to nature and improve air quality. There is also documented evidence that green space results in higher property values, increased business outcomes and reduced energy costs.

As each rapidway project connects York Region, the benefits are three-fold for the environment, our quality of life, and our local economy.

 

our buses are blue but we think green

March 6th, 2015

our buses are blue but we think green

In York Region, we’re lucky to have nature around us. From the Oak Ridges Moraine to our woodlands, waterways and wildlife, life is better when we’re surrounded by it.

Rapidway projects are designed with future growth in mind – including supporting population growth and supporting a large variety of new trees and shrubs. Along with dedicated lanes for rapid transit, each project brings urban renewal with wider sidewalks, updated utilities and plenty of trees, shrubs and plants. Since these are construction projects that include widening the road, some of the existing roadside and median trees need to be removed.

We’re currently removing trees located in York Region’s right-of-way for the Yonge Street rapidway project in Richmond Hill and Newmarket. All trees marked for removal were carefully evaluated first, to see if any could be transplanted. Due to the health of the trees and the potential conflicts with overhead and underground utilities, relocation was not possible. Crews will remove the majority of the trees before bird nesting season begins in mid-April. Any trees that still need to be removed after that will first be assessed by a Certified Arborist. Remaining trees around the construction area will be fenced and protected.

Once complete, each rapidway will be a tree-lined street, with attractive landscaping and trees and shrubs chosen for hardiness, appearance and height [to fit under hydro lines once mature]. An urban setting can be tough on a tree, so we use soil cell technology – a rigid framework under the sidewalks in rapidway areas that holds much more planting soil – to protect roots and ensure soil and water stay in place [e.g., see the soil cells we used on Highway 7 East]. New plantings have a guarantee, so if we have especially harsh weather, any that don’t make it will be replaced.

It takes a lot of effort, patience and planning, and the construction itself isn’t pretty. But our communities are growing and the rapidways let us connect faster using transit while keeping our connection to nature and greening our corridors. After this long cold winter, we will all be happy to see a few buds on the trees this spring!

 

as days get longer…

February 25th, 2015

as days get longer

Days are getting longer, but for the next month or so we’re still travelling to and fro close to dawn and dusk, and right now there are snowbanks at every turn. So visibility isn’t great, but spring is on the way! Things are looking up, and it’s important that both drivers and pedestrians look up to see who’s on the other side of that snowbank, and to see that it’s safe to move forward. Let’s stay in step with those around us by keeping an eye out for one other and being as visible as possible.

On Highway 7 East in Markham and Richmond Hill, commuters might have more of a spring in their step, and it’s not just because they’re looking forward to better weather. Now that the rapidway is open, Highway 7 has many years of fast, convenient transit ahead, not to mention bike lanes and nice wide sidewalks. In some sections of Highway 7 it was truly a highway before construction with only traffic lanes and no sidewalks or bike lanes. Now, everyone has a choice in how they connect from A to B, and that’s something to look forward to.

To better weather, to more choices, and to safe travels throughout York Region!

For some tips on getting around on Viva, check out YRT/Viva’s video about dressing with safety in mind.