time for some family fun…

May 22nd, 2015

time for some family fun...

York Region’s Public Works and Emergency Medical Services [EMS] departments are hosting a Family Fun Day this weekend, and we’ll be there too to help recognize the importance of these services, and to have some fun!

We hope you can drop by our booth while you’re there, and be sure you take part in some of the activities, including:

  • Give transit a try and ride Viva through the bus wash facility in Newmarket [we especially recommend this activity!]
  • Tour the facilities at 80 and 90 Bales Drive, and see interesting equipment and vehicles
  • Watch or take part in the bike rodeo and bike helmet demonstrations
  • Food and refreshments at a charity BBQ [11:30 – 2pm]
  • Free garden mulch with a donation, and contests and prizes
  • Meet Pylon Pete, Barkley the Tree and Parry the Paramedic

So let’s enjoy the nice weather, spend quality time with family, and come see some of York Region’s services. We’ll see you there!

For detailed information about York Region’s Family Fun Day, visit York.ca.


greenery all around us

May 13th, 2015

greenery all around us

Most people see the environmental benefits of having greenery around us. Trees and shrubs help to filter the air and water, and provide shade and habitat for animals and birds. But when you look at a tree, shrub or plant, it doesn’t bring to mind the economy. Last year, a report from TD Economics calculated that in Toronto, a single tree returns from $1.35 to $3.20 per every dollar spent on maintaining the “urban forest,” and the returns for Halifax and Vancouver were even higher. It also noted the higher value of real estate in neighbourhoods with mature tree canopies.

There are environmental benefits and economic value, and then there’s the intangible – the way we feel when we’re on a tree-lined street and the satisfaction we get from watching the seasons change. We may not look forward to snow, but you can’t deny it looks nice on tree branches.

If you’ve ever planted a garden, you know that every plant isn’t always successful, especially after a harsh winter. Along the new Highway 7 East rapidway in Markham and Richmond Hill, we’ve planted almost 300 trees and thousands of perennials and grasses. We use soil cell technology to ensure trees have the best chance at survival, and the types of trees and shrubs are selected carefully. Even so, sometimes a few don’t make it through the winter, in which case we replace them under the two-year warranty we have for all of our trees, shrubs and plants.

In the next couple of weeks, our landscaping crews will be out on Highway 7 to help the new greenery on Highway 7 East thrive for many years to come. Whether you’re walking through a forest or travelling Highway 7 East, we hope you connect with nature now that spring is finally, [finally!] here.


bringing rapid transit to your doorstep… a behind the scenes look at building a vivastation

May 5th, 2015

Bringing rapid transit to your doorstep… a behind the scenes look at building a vivastation

Throughout the fall and winter, crews have endured every kind of weather Mother Nature has thrown their way, while installing the vivastation at Longford/Parkside and Davis. There are many detailed steps to constructing a vivastation, and as we shared with you last year, it takes careful planning and precision throughout those stages of the construction.

We’ve captured components of the delivery, installation and construction for the west and eastbound platforms at Longford and Davis on video to provide you with a behind-the-scenes look and better understanding of what it takes to build a vivastation. All of the vivastations that are built as part of the vivaNext bus rapidway project are an important component of the top-notch transit system in York Region. When the Davis rapidway is in service this December 2015, transit users will enjoy the convenience of the new-technology and innovative features that each Viva vehicle and vivastation offers.

As you can see in the video, the vivastation was constructed piece-by-piece, like a puzzle, and crews will continue braving the elements to add the finishing touches to the west and eastbound platforms at Longford/Davis throughout the year. The vivastations at Main and Southlake Regional Health Centre are also progressing right on schedule and will give transit riders all the same conveniences.

By the end of the year, Viva will be running on Davis Drive from Yonge Street to Highway 404 and residents and visitors to the area will begin to experience the benefits of having rapid transit at their doorsteps. We know living through construction hasn’t been easy and we’re grateful for everyone’s patience as we work as quickly as possible to complete this large undertaking.


how transit and city planning work together

May 4th, 2015

how transit and city planning work together

An exciting new urban planning report — Make Way for Mid-Rise: How to build more homes in walkable, transit-connected neighbourhoods proposes actions that would help increase density along transit lines in the Greater Toronto Area. The report was released by the Pembina Institute and the Ontario Home Builders’ Association on Monday, May 4.

The nugget of this report is that the range of affordable housing choices for families would increase by building mid-rise, mixed-use buildings along transit lines. The report argues that mid-rise development supports “healthy lifestyles and local economies, since it can help increase walkability and put more people close to transit, while also supporting local business.”

So, should our communities “make way for mid-rise”? If we want our cities to have a better chance of developing the type of population density that supports a healthy neighbourhood with street life, walkability, and good transit, then, yes!

As the populations of York Region and the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area increase, it’s the job of government, urban planners, and developers to ensure that the community infrastructure is properly accommodated, and resources like farmland and clean water are protected.

The Make Way for Mid-Rise report presents five ways to support increased density:

  1. Require minimum densities along rapid transit lines
  2. Eliminate minimum parking requirements
  3. Pre-approve mid-rise development along avenues and transit corridors
  4. Require retail planning before mid-rise is built
  5. Make parkland dedication rules more equitable

When transit planning and urban planning work together, the result can be what vivaNext is all about: great cities and great transit, hand in hand.

Take a few moments to check out the report, Make Way for Mid-Rise, and read more about the proposals in the Toronto Star.


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


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 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.