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.

 

The Challenge of Relocating Utilities

July 22nd, 2014

The Challenge of Relocating Utilities

If we were building our vivaNext rapidways across undeveloped fields, widening the roadway to incorporate the median bus lanes would be a straightforward construction project involving excavation, building the road base and drainage system, boulevard and station construction, installing illumination, and paving. But, in all our projects, there are many existing utilities along the roadways that need to be moved first. Believe it or not, this part of the project – relocating existing utilities – can sometimes result in the greatest amount of complexity and schedule coordination. Here’s a primer on why this least-obvious part of the project can be so time-consuming, but is so critical, yet so complicated.

Utilities – which on our projects include a wide number of companies providing electricity, telecommunications, cable and gas – are typically private entities, which in some cases have connections to local municipalities, and in other cases are private for-profit organizations. In all cases, utilities own their own infrastructure and are responsible for designing, installing, paying for, and maintaining it. Utilities have direct relationships with their own customers, and have to plan for, manage and respond to service interruptions.

With so many users relying on the services along the roadway corridors, we need to work together before we can widen the roadway for the vivaNext project. A first step is to identify existing utilities, to confirm what has to be moved out of the way. To complete this first step, we collect all the information we can, including “as-builts,” which are drawings showing the location of existing utilities. Using the as-builts [and sometimes ground penetrating radar], we then carry out physical locates, where we dig small test pits to confirm that utilities are where we think they are, and what condition they’re in.

Once there is agreement on which utilities need to be moved, each company designs a new alignment for their service, or designs a shared structure such as an underground duct bank, with another company. These relocation designs have to work with our project’s requirements and dimensions [and our project’s design has to provide for a reasonable relocation design for the utilities], as well as with the alignments of all the other utilities. Just completing the design coordination and review alone is a complex and iterative process.

With the utility relocation designs complete, municipalities and other approval bodies such as the Ministries of Environment and Natural Resources and local conservation authorities – and railway companies where rail crossings are involved – review, comment on, and hopefully approve the plans. In many cases, private property owners also need to agree to provide access to the utility companies, adding yet another layer of complexity and coordination.

The final stage is the actual construction of the relocated utilities. Because there are strict construction rules about the separation required between crews, we work carefully to sequence the relocation work.

The roadway widening cannot be completed until utility relocations are finished in any given area. And as in any activity where multiple organizations have operations underway, we all need to work together collaboratively, and coordinating our efforts is critical, so we can get the rapidways built and in service for you. Like I said….complicated!

 

celebrate culture with vivaNext

July 17th, 2014

celebrate culture with vivaNext

Experience culture from around the world right here in York Region!

This Sunday, July 20, Newmarket is hosting the fifth annual Around the World Multicultural Event to celebrate diversity in the community. From 12:00 pm to 8:30 pm, watch Newmarket Riverwalk Commons (200 Doug Duncan Drive – map) transform into a vibrant and unique cultural display. Indulge in a blend of delicious food and multicultural stage shows featuring music, dance, and theatre, all while learning about a variety of cultures.

Bring your family and friends to watch live performances on two different world stages, and interact with over 25 exhibitors eager to share food, crafts and information. Admission to the event is free and will take place rain or shine. In the case of inclement weather, all activities will be moved inside the Newmarket Community Centre & Lions Hall. For a full list of performance times and vendor types, see the main event page.

VivaNext is proud to be part of such a diverse community that values the culture, identity and opinions of its residents. We will be taking part in this year’s colourful festivities and we encourage you to join us. In between Zumba classes and First Nations’ teachings, be sure to stop by our booth to receive updates on the rapidway projects underway in your community. You can also try your luck on a scratch ‘n’ win card for the chance at some cool prizes.

Diversity is yet another reason why York Region is a great place to live, work, shop, and play so let’s celebrate!

 

hug a tree

July 15th, 2014

Maybe it’s time to rethink the age-old saying “money doesn’t grow on trees.” According to a new report from TD Economics, Toronto’s dense, urban forests are providing more than $80-million of savings and environmental benefits every year. The report looks at Toronto’s urban forest of 10-million trees from an economic perspective, calculating the value each tree provides by saving energy, keeping rain and snow off the streets, and absorbing pollution. Even with maintenance costs factored in, the city’s trees are returning between $1.35 and $3.20 for every dollar spent.

Although the report focuses specifically on Toronto, the value in planting and maintaining trees can be attributed to any city in which you live. In fact, benefits can have more than just monetary value. Beautification, green space for recreation and importance to the residents are benefits that are difficult to calculate or define, yet still contribute to the landscape of a thriving community. The report also found that a mature tree canopy adds significantly to property values, adding yet another layer of economic benefit.

York Region already has plenty of recreational parks and green spaces that enhance the beauty of its towns and cities. The vivaNext projects will further enrich these communities by ensuring plant installation and growth well into the future. In Richmond Hill and Markham alone, approximately 292 trees and 4,910 perennials and grasses will be planted along the Highway 7 East corridor and boulevards.  Our challenge with new plantings is to get them to thrive in the first 2 years, but luckily all new plants and trees come with just that – a 2 year warranty! Further planting and new greenery will also be installed on BRT corridors in Vaughan, Newmarket, and Richmond Hill, once construction is complete. Details about the different types of trees and the selection process can be found in a previous posting.

Our hope is that the growth and maturity of the greenery reflects the prosperous growth of York Region over time. Especially during these warm summer months, get out and appreciate the beauty and colour that surrounds you. Hug a tree!