lights, sound… Viva!

October 30th, 2015

lights, sound... Viva!

lights…

Safety has been top priority in designing the rapidway, vivastations, and the surrounding streetscape. Streetlights are one of the most important safety elements, and their design contributes significantly to the overall streetscape. While developing lighting designs, vivaNext works with York Region, the local Municipality and the Utility companies to coordinate, design and install the lights, ensuring they provide both safety and visual appeal.

There are strict national and local standards on how street lighting needs to be designed, including how much lighting is required for different conditions. For example, different criteria are used to determine the necessary lighting levels for roadways, intersections and sidewalks. These include variables such as pole height, spacing and “lux,” which is the amount of light that a fixture provides.

Once the lighting standards are established, lighting design helps achieve the desired streetscape “look.”  In the case of vivaNext, the streetscape design is modern, stylish and uncluttered, helping the corridors feel like urban destinations, distinctive from other roads.

To keep with the uncluttered look on Davis Drive, special hydro poles were installed that don’t require guy wires and can have streetlights installed. The luminaires [light heads/fixtures] on the streetlights have a light sensor to automatically turn on and off, and the bulbs only need to be replaced every 4 years.

 

sound…

Have you ever found yourself straining to hear a quiet, garbled message from a public address system? It’s frustrating, especially when that message is important to your commute. At our vivastations, we want to be sure you won’t face this frustration, so our engineers have worked hard to design the public address [PA] system. Having audio at stations is also part of keeping Viva accessible for all users.

We conducted a sound analysis study, to determine how the shape of our vivastations would affect the way sound moves around inside the stations, and way it would reflect off the concrete wall, floor and glass. As it turned out, 12 speakers outside the passenger enclosure and another three speakers inside does the trick.

The next challenge was to work on the volume of the speakers.  The problem with PA systems in noisy places is that 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 an increase or decrease in ambient noise.

There are two sensors on each new Viva platform. These allow PA announcements to be audible whether there’s a bus idling in the station and trucks are moving past, or it’s nighttime and quiet. This type of speaker volume system ensures that messages can always be heard, but won’t be intrusive.

 

action!

Once the rapidway opens on Davis Drive, you’ll be able to travel faster, and see and hear clearly when the next Viva vehicle is coming. What could be better than that?

 

bringing a rapid transit plan to life

October 23rd, 2015

bringing a rapid transit plan to life

Crews are finishing up paving on Davis Drive, which means we’re getting closer to opening the rapidway. As much as we’re looking forward to celebrating this milestone, it’s important to know that this is only one [very exciting] step in a plan for a connected transit system.

Over the past few years there’s been a lot of media coverage of transit needs across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area [GTHA]. We’re proud that York Region is actively working to meet those needs by bringing 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 the Rapid Transit Plan approved, we got to work. In 2005 the Viva team launched “QuickStart,” the first phase of Viva service, offering enhanced features that made transit more comfortable and convenient, and put the customer first. With this service upgrade, Viva changed the way people in York Region thought of transit. The public appreciated the enhanced features and frequencies, and it wasn’t long before ridership began increasing steadily.

But while “QuickStart” 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 York Region Transportation Master Plan directed that future growth in York Region would be concentrated in new downtown urban centres in Markham, Newmarket, Richmond Hill and Vaughan. By building more intensively in these areas there would be less pressure for growth in other neighbourhoods.

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

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

Our vision for the future is well on its way to becoming reality: a rapidway has been built on Highway 7 East; Davis Drive is opening soon; the first section of rapidway in Vaughan will open on Highway 7 West in 2016; the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension is under construction; utility work is underway for the Yonge Street rapidway north of Highway 7, and design work continues for the planned Yonge Subway Extension.

So when the rapidway on Davis Drive opens for service this winter, we can celebrate the progress of transit infrastructure in York Region, not to mention the end of major construction!

 

signs of progress: staff and operator training has begun

October 22nd, 2015

signs of progress: staff and operator training has begun

We’re really counting down the days to the opening of the vivaNext rapidway service on Davis Drive from Yonge Street to Roxborough, and we bet you are too! You’ll know we’re in the final stages of construction once you see Viva buses out on the new rapidway.

Starting today, we will be doing systems testing on the new Davis Drive rapidway, in the Town of Newmarket, followed by driver training in November.

Training will be provided not only for Viva bus operators, but also for everyone who will need to be familiar with the rapidways, the stations and the equipment. Viva vehicles will be out on Davis Drive, taking customer service staff and other YRT/Viva staff along the rapidways to test and familiarize them with the new setup. Regular YRT transit service will continue to pick up passengers at curbside stops until testing and training is completed, and paving is fully finished. Signs directing passengers will be posted at the curbside stops.

Operator training will run from 7am to as late as 9pm on some nights, seven days per week.  During this time you can expect to see Viva buses driving up and down the rapidway, stopping at the vivastations. The training will focus on entering and exiting the rapidway, with an emphasis on safely merging back into mixed traffic past Yonge Street and Roxborough.

Operator training will also focus on the new transit signals at intersections, which will display a single green arrow for Viva buses. This signal will be clearly marked as transit only, but Viva operators will be trained to be cautious and on the lookout to make sure members of the driving public are following the signals correctly and not turning into the rapidway lanes.

The trainees are all experienced Viva operators, so they know the route and the vehicle. They’re really excited to get going!

 

Highway 7 East >> how we got here together

October 19th, 2015

Highway 7 East >> how we got here together

Before 2011, rapid transit projects were part a vision for York Region. To help set the stage for future growth, transit infrastructure was planned for York Region’s key towns and cities. Highway 7 East was the first to be built, and since construction began in 2011, has undergone a complete transformation.

At the west end, the rapidway has a remarkable [and accessible] two-story station taking pedestrians from Bayview down to Highway 7. And in the east the rapidway enters Markham Centre – a new development with a mix of commercial and residential development, including a new York U campus and a sports centre home to the Pan Am/Parapan Am Games in Markham.

The transformation may be most dramatic in the east end of Highway 7 near Warden, where originally the road didn’t have any sidewalks or bike lanes, trees were scarce and transit was mixed with other traffic. Now, there are dedicated lanes for Viva, tree-lined sidewalks and defined bike lanes, welcoming transit riders, pedestrians and cyclists to the street. To see the dramatic transformation of Highway 7 at the intersection of Town Centre Boulevard, check out this timelapse video.

In the years to come, Highway 7 will continue to develop with a mix of residential, commercial and office buildings. It will be the place to be for shopping, dining, working and living. The vision of quick, comfortable transit close to where people live work, shop and play is now a reality.

 

bragging rights

October 16th, 2015

bragging rights

Well. We hate to brag, but we think those in the Highway 7 area would like to know – Roads and Bridges magazine has included the Highway 7 East rapidway project as #2 in their “Top 10 Roads” list for 2015.

The Highway 7 East project was recognized as a multi-modal “complete street” throughway, with the trade magazine noting the transit operations technology, the red-pigmented pavement, bike lanes and sidewalk landscaping.

Our office is located along the Highway 7 East rapidway, so we have to agree that the rapidway project has transformed Highway 7. West of Warden, the street has changed from being a highway with gravel shoulders, to being an attractive and safe place to walk, cycle, drive or ride Viva. The project included updated utilities, and has helped set the stage for the new developments along this important road.

Roads and Bridges voted the Highway 7 East rapidway project the second-best project in North America, and although it will always be number one in our books, we’re pleased to see it recognized by others in the industry.

 

sometimes construction is what you don’t see

October 14th, 2015

sometimes construction is what you don't see

In many areas of the vivaNext projects, construction work is definitely visible – especially on Davis Drive and along Highway 7 West. In others areas – such as Yonge Street – it’s not quite so obvious. But work on Yonge Street has been going on this year for months, and it’s also starting up in phase 2 of the Highway 7 West rapidway.

Here’s some of what we’ve been up to – a very important part of construction – utilities!

there’s a lot going on underground

Upgrading the utilities to prepare for the growing population of York Region is a must. Plus, in order to upgrade utilities and widen the road for the rapidway, the existing utilities below the roadside have to be moved.

That’s because locating, upgrading and relocating utilities involves more than just building a road. And each utility has its own requirements.

utilities keep everything working

Utility work along the rapidway includes locating, removing and upgrading water mains and storm sewers, removing old copper cable and installing fiber optic cable for telecommunications, electricity, shutting down old gas mains and installing new ones, and it also includes upgrades and reconstruction to bridges and culverts and moving and upgrading traffic signals and street lights.

but first…

The first thing that happens along any new rapidway project is “utility investigations,” which means identifying where existing utilities are, to confirm what has to be moved. We can’t upgrade them until we find them, and some utilities can be as old as the road – installed before towns began documenting utility locations. So if you see crews digging small test pits along Yonge, you’ll know that’s a utility investigation where crews are making sure the utilities are where we think they are, and checking out what condition they’re in.

Next time you’re playing the game of Monopoly and you land on “Utilities,” feel lucky. “Utilities” are what keeps everything working at “Boardwalk,” “Park Place” and VivaNext!

For emailed updates about the progress of the various vivaNext projects: click here to subscribe.

 

paving in stages to get it done right

October 9th, 2015

paving in stages to get it done right

As much as it has a huge impact on our day-to-day quality of life, it’s probably safe to say that roadway design is not very top-of-mind for most of us.  This is probably true, even for the part of the road that we all directly interact with every time we get in a vehicle: the asphalt paving that covers the surface.

Yet for anyone impatient for the last stages to be finished along the newly widened Davis Drive in Newmarket, it’s helpful to understand the paving process overall, and why this final stage of each rapidway project seems to take such a long time to complete.

Most roads in Canada are paved with the familiar black asphalt, which is a mix of a binding ingredient and gravel.  Asphalt is popular because it’s relatively inexpensive to install compared to concrete, wears well, and can be restored many times before the road needs to be completely rebuilt.  Given the cost and disruption involved with repairing or rebuilding a road, it’s critically important that you get the asphalt “mix” right, and put the asphalt down properly in the first place.

The first fact to understand is that not all asphalt paving is the same.  The wear and tear on a road will depend on the volume of traffic it gets, including how many vehicles are trucks or cars, and how fast they’re going.  Whether the traffic is generally driving straight, or is turning, or stopping and starting as is the case at a busy intersection, will affect the wear.  So asphalt mixes vary, depending on how durable it needs to be to stand up to the traffic it will carry. Different mixes have different installation requirements, including how long they take to cure before they can take heavy traffic.

The other important consideration with asphalt is that proper installation makes all the difference to how well it will wear.  There are a number of steps that have to be taken to ensure the durability of the asphalt, in addition to getting the mix right:

  • First, the gravel base that the top layers go over has to be in excellent condition. It needs to be perfectly smooth, level and compact, or else the top asphalt can crack and pothole more quickly.
  • The air temperature needs to be within a certain range: too hot or too cold, and the asphalt won’t last as long.
  • It needs to be installed in wide swathes extending across lanes, to avoid having too many joints.
  • It needs to be carefully tied in at side streets, to make sure the entire roadway is smooth and level.
  • The asphalt at intersections, which get extra heavy wear from vehicles braking, accelerating and turning, needs to be especially carefully installed.

The distinctive red asphalt on our vivaNext rapidways and intersections has its own requirements, and has to be laid down last, in a single layer, once the blacktop is completely set.

Working out a construction schedule that allows us to meet all these requirements before the weather gets too cold, requires that access to the roadway is completely restricted for short periods, within small segments.  Our team is working closely with the community to minimize the disruption as much as possible, although we know this stage is going to be challenging for everyone.

Getting the final stages done right has a direct impact on the long term performance of the road and the new rapid transit system.  As much as we want to be finished as soon as possible, speeding up the process simply is not an option. By building to the highest standards now, we’ll have a high quality road that will perform well for years to come.

 

final paving on Davis Drive is underway!

October 6th, 2015

final paving on Davis Drive is underway!

Final paving is here! This week you’ll start to see the distinctive red asphalt on the rapidway and intersections along the Davis Drive corridor in Newmarket. It’s exciting because final paving means that underground utilities and infrastructure work is complete, the road has been widened to accommodate the centre lane rapidway and the medians and curbs are in place. All these elements help define a new urban destination for Newmarket. This is a significant milestone in the transformation of Davis Drive.

If you travel along Davis on a regular basis, you’re already aware of the fundamental changes that have been made to the way people drive, walk and ride on the corridor. New intersections allow for protected left-turns and u-turns, and feature optional two-stage pedestrian crossings, and accessibility features like audible chirps to aid people who are visually impaired. For the eco-conscious, the greenery planned for Davis Drive and the connections to paths like the Tom Taylor Trail will make the sidewalks and boulevards inviting spaces for all.

It’s not just Davis that’s getting a shiny new coat, the side streets that connect to Davis will be paved at the intersections so that they tie-in nicely with the new road.

Even after years of planning, design and construction, the rapidway just feels more tangible and real when we apply our distinct red asphalt to the road. There’s something special about knowing that you’re contributing to the future growth and prosperity of entire neighbourhoods, towns and regions by connecting people to the places they work, shop and play.

We are already seeing the benefits of improved traffic flow and travel times along Highway 7 in Richmond Hill and Markham, and the YRT/Viva network continues to grow.

To get there is a messy process, there’s no doubt. But we are asking you to hang in there with us over the next month or so, and we hope that you’ll share our enthusiasm for the finished product.

 

one with nature

October 2nd, 2015

see video: one with nature

As York Region transforms our key development areas from suburban locations to more urban one it’s important that we create attractive and welcoming public spaces. This means designing buildings with aesthetics in mind, considering the accessibility of civic spaces, public transit and incorporating the natural environment into the urban landscape.

It’s important to create urban settings that integrate natural elements for a number of reasons. It beautifies public spaces, and also provides health and economic benefits to the community. One way to ensure that York Region’s urban centres are one with nature is to invest in green infrastructure. This includes trees, shrubs, grasses, and other plants that will become a part of our urban forest.

Mature trees absorb large quantities of carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide, ozone and particulates, cleaning polluted urban air. In addition, research suggests that investing in green infrastructure will result in improved health for residents; People living on Toronto blocks with 10 or more trees are less likely than other residents to report conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure or obesity. There is also documented evidence that investing in green infrastructure will result in increased property values, better business outcomes, and reduced energy costs [read our previous blog on the topic].

On top of our commitment to green infrastructure, vivaNext is committed to respecting the natural environment that already exists in York Region. Our work to extend bridges and culverts along the Region’s corridors includes natural restoration plans, which will create better conditions for wildlife and aquatic species. Intensification of the urban centres and corridors means that municipalities will be building up instead of out. With population densities increasing in these areas there will be less pressure for sprawl to reach farmlands and green spaces. Greenery of the future York Region will be a harmonious mix of urban forest and open green space – providing something for everyone!

Along the Highway 7 East rapidway, vivaNext has already planted 1,250 new trees and 10,000 new shrubs. To watch how this investment, and future investments, will benefit York Region check out our video.

 

rolling out a new phase of rapid transit in Vaughan

September 30th, 2015

rolling out a new phase of rapid transit in Vaughan

The next phase of Viva is extending both east and west in Vaughan and Richmond Hill. We were excited to announce this week that EDCO has been awarded the $333.2 million contract to design, build and finance the second phase of the Highway 7 West rapidway.

The first phase of rapidway is well underway in the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre [VMC], with the vivaNext rapidway between Jane Street and Bowes Road scheduled to open in Fall 2016, and the section west of Jane being coordinated with the opening of the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension [TYSSE].

phase two

Phase two of the Highway 7 West rapidway will emerge from both sides of the current construction. It will extend west from the VMC, over Highway 400 all the way out to Helen Street, and it will expand east to Yonge Street along the existing Centre Street and Bathurst Street Viva route.

making connections

Extending the rapidway will connect riders from Woodbridge, Concord and Thornhill to the Spadina/University Subway line at the new VMC subway station, and will also connect riders to the rest of York Region via the Richmond Hill Terminal at Yonge Street.

The project involves widening Highway 7, Bathurst Street and Centre Street to add 12 kilometres of dedicated rapidway lanes for Viva rapid transit vehicles PLUS 10 new vivastations, PLUS new bike lanes PLUS pedestrian walkways and sidewalks.

partnering with contractors

As with our previous rapidway projects, this is a public-private partnership. One key difference is that along with the design and build requirements, the contractor is required to finance this project. YRRTC will be the project manager, controlling and approving the design and construction, financial management, and community relations. Metrolinx will own the assets of the rapidway infrastructure, and YRT/Viva will operate transit on the rapidways, and maintain the stations. On regional roads like Highway 7, Centre Street and Bathurst Street, York Region will maintain the road and rapidway.

more than a third of York Region’s rapidways

This project represents more than a third of the total 34 kilometres of rapidways being built, and with this contract awarded, all of our rapidway projects are on the way, except Highway 7 East, which is done!

To learn more about the Highway 7 West, phase two rapidway project, and to sign up for updates, visit vivanext.com/subscribe.