New book on ‘complete streets’ highlights the Highway 7 East vivaNext project

May 18th, 2016

New book on ‘complete streets’ highlights the Highway 7 East vivaNext project

The Toronto Centre for Active Transportation [TCAT] has recently published a book on street-transformation projects, called: Complete Street Transformations in the Greater Golden Horseshoe. One of the projects they featured is the vivaNext rapidway on Highway 7 East in Markham and Richmond Hill!

The book includes nine different street-transformation projects from southern Ontario that, according to TCAT, “involved redesigning streets to make more space for one or more of pedestrians, cyclists, or transit riders.”

They also present outputs and outcomes of each project. For the Highway 7 East project, they comment on the safety improvement brought by the transformation, the increase in pedestrians and have included a cyclist and pedestrian count in one segment of the street. And, of course, they also note the improvement in transit travel times, with the BRT shortening the average transit rider’s commute by over 30%.

The most recent edition of Novae Res Urbis (GTA), the urban planning magazine, promoted Complete Street Transformations and said this about the vivaNext project:

“By far the most ambitious project highlighted in the book was the $308-million transformation of Highway 7 East in the City of Markham and Town of Richmond Hill. The former provincial highway was transformed into a multi-modal transportation corridor with bicycle lanes and a dedicated transitway. The result was a dramatic increase in the number of pedestrians, cyclists and transit users in the corridor, as well as a 64 per cent reduction in collisions.”

You can download a copy of the book here. The good stuff about the Highway 7 East project starts on Page 11!

Questions or comments? Comment below or email us at contactus@vivanext.com. To stay up-to-date on construction, sign up for email updates at vivanext.com/subscribe.

 

sowing the seeds on Davis Drive

May 11th, 2016

sowing the seeds on Davis Drive

Trees are coming to Davis Drive! Crews are out making their way along the rapidway medians planting trees, shrubs and perennials to create a more attractive, welcoming streetscape. We hope to see buds and shoots blooming all around us in the coming weeks.

To give them the best chance for survival, we carefully choose the species of trees and plants, and plant them in a special planting mix developed by the Region’s Forestry Department, rooted in special soil cells. Even with this great care, nature is unpredictable and sometimes a few don’t make it through the winter. In this case our contractor replaces them under the two-year warranty we have for all of our trees, shrubs and plants. Trees and other green spaces have been shown in studies to have health benefits, build prosperity and increase safety, so they’re an important addition to streets in York Region.

The vivaNext project delivers more than just great transit. With all the plantings on Davis Drive it also reinforces York Region’s Greening Strategy as part of great community design. The strategy promotes actions that support healthy natural environments, and it plants the seeds of inspiration for cultivating sustainable communities.

#ThanksDavisDr!

Keeping with the green theme, May 7 was the Town of Newmarket’s Community Cleanup & Fun Day, and it was a stellar community event! People from all over Newmarket gathered together to pick up garbage and brighten their community by getting involved and getting their hands dirty [gloves were provided!].

We were there to do our part, participating in the morning cleanup and crushing icy snocones for everyone to enjoy. It was our opportunity to say thank you to the people of Newmarket for all their patience, understanding and feedback during construction.

There’s just a little bit left to do before we can call it done, and have a rapid transit system we can all be proud of. Thanks Davis Drive!

 

connecting Vaughan – east and west

May 4th, 2016

connecting Vaughan – east and west

We’re building rapid transit in York Region – Bus Rapid Transit and subways – to connect York Region residents and commuters from north and south, east and west. Markham and Newmarket both have east-west rapidway connections, and next it’s Vaughan’s turn. From Yonge Street to Helen Street west of Highway 400, the new vivaNext rapidways will connect travellers with fast, convenient Bus Rapid Transit.

Vaughan Metropolitan Centre [VMC] is a hub of activity and the rapidway project is moving ahead quickly to open between Jane Street and Bowes Road by the end of 2016. Along the rapidway, Viva will stop at vivastations at Creditstone Road and Keele Street. Once the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension [TYSSE] opens in December 2017, Viva riders will also be able to connect at a vivastation west of Jane with direct access to the new subway station below, and a YRT bus terminal a short walk away. To see an overview of the project, check out our latest video.

This spring, construction begins on rapidways that will link vibrant communities in the east and west of Vaughan to the transportation options and development in the VMC, and to the rest of York Region.  We know it helps to be aware of what’s happening and when, so we promise to keep you informed and up-to-date along the way. If you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe to email updates for vivaNext projects, and follow us on Twitter.

the murky world of underground infrastructure

April 27th, 2016

the murky world of underground infrastructure

Property ownership and development are generally straightforward concepts: people or businesses own land, including any assets that are built on that land, and only they can decide when and if any improvements are to be made.

But what happens when the property is located underground, and the improvements are being made by someone other than the property owner? Welcome to the murky and confusing world of underground infrastructure, where ownership and decision-making are much more complex than above ground.

Underground infrastructure, which includes gas and power lines, telecommunications, watermains and sewers, is always owned by either a private company or the municipality. But generally utilities are located under roads or sidewalks, or on private property; utility companies typically do not own the land where their utilities are located.

In most cases underground infrastructure is located in the “public right-of-way”, including roads, sidewalks and boulevards. If a utility company wants to make a change to their own infrastructure, such as making a repair or increasing capacity, they need to get municipal approval before any work can be done. This “municipal consent” process is set out in legislation, and ensures municipalities can control and coordinate utility work on public lands or roads. This is critical, especially when utility work requires road closures or detours or will have some other impact on the public.

Municipalities also can set restrictions on when and how utilities can access their own infrastructure, to minimize impacts on the public and protect the municipality’s own infrastructure. For example, a municipality might impose a moratorium on changes to private infrastructure on newly built or repaired streets, so that new asphalt isn’t dug up.

In all cases, our projects spend a lot of time coordinating with utility companies to resolve any conflicts between the rapidway and streetscape elements we’re building, and the multiple utilities using the same space. In many cases, utilities can co-locate, for example telecommunications may share a common duct bank, and be buried next to hydro. Designs for all relocated utilities have to work with our vivaNext design, and in some cases where space is limited, working through the design process to fit in all the elements can be extremely challenging. Municipalities also have views on where they want elements located; the Region avoids locating utilities in their roadway, whereas local municipalities prefer to keep utilities away from the planters.

Once the design is established, a schedule is worked out with the Region or municipalities, specifying how long the utility work will take. Utilities are given a specified amount of time to close lanes as part of the final permit; even if the work is next to the road, lanes often need to be closed to give workers room to work safely. Our design-builders will coordinate construction work with the utility relocations, since only one activity can be carried out at a time in any given place.

The last but very important part of this complicated process is reducing the disruption for nearby residents and businesses. Once the design and municipal consent is complete, the utility and vivaNext community liaison team work with property owners to discuss access to properties while work is underway.

A lot of moving parts need to be coordinated and resolved before any underground infrastructure gets moved, but our teams are committed to coordinating these efforts with everyone’s best interests in mind.

 

 

it’s all about trees >> and numbers >> on Earth Day 2016

April 22nd, 2016

Lad with earth day tree

Today, Earth Day turns 46. What does middle age mean for this global environmental event? An exciting theme and an ambitious goal: the Global 2016 theme is “Trees for the Earth”.

And as Earth Day edges closer to celebrating its half-century anniversary, Earthday.org is asking people around the world to plant trees, with the hope of reaching 7.8 billion trees planted by Earth Day 2020.

That’s one tree for every person on the planet!

In Canada, it’s the celebration of the 25th anniversary of Earth Day Canada, and citizens in this country are invited to participate in the #Rooting4Trees ‘pledge and plant’ campaign. The goal is to help grow a forest of 25,000 trees.

For our part here at vivaNext, we enthusiastically embrace and support the goals of Earth Day. Earth Day serves as our annual springtime reminder that we’re on the right track, as we continue building transit treasuring and protecting the natural environment, promoting smart growth, and building vibrant, livable cities, and healthy communities.

Following the theme of trees, very soon, you’ll see crews planting trees, shrubs and greenery along the Davis Drive rapidway and along Highway 7 West in Vaughan.

And in support of the movement to care for the earth – and to thank the Newmarket community for their patience during construction – watch for vivaNext at the Town of Newmarket’s upcoming Community Cleanup & Fun Day on Saturday, May 7.  We hope you stop in and see the vivaNext team.

Happy Earth Day, everyone!

green space = safe space

April 20th, 2016

green space = safe space

We’ve seen reports that support why having greenery around us can increase prosperity, improve health, and now new research says it makes the surrounding area safer.

It’s not so much the trees and shrubs themselves that keep people safe. Having an attractive space attracts people to spend time in the area – and puts more ‘eyes on the streets.’ And green space that appears cared for lets everyone know that someone owns, uses and maintains it. In the case of streets, it’s a sense of community ownership.

Well-maintained green spaces are thought to give an abstract sense of social order, and according to a community greenery experiment in Youngstown, Ohio, the safety and order extends to the surrounding area. There are all types of crime, and you can’t always predict where it will happen, but the pride of place on display with a nice park or streetscape seems to bring about positive behavior.

It’s exciting to see the trees along the Highway 7 East rapidway growing another season of new leaves, and people out enjoying the spring weather on the new sidewalks. We’re looking forward to planting trees this year on Davis Drive in Newmarket and on Highway 7 West in Vaughan.

So trees aren’t just trees. They, and their team of shrubs and grasses encourage health and wealth, and they fight crime in their spare time.

 

warranty work >> ensuring quality for years to come

April 14th, 2016

warranty work >> ensuring quality for years to come

When you’re building rapidways for generations to enjoy, it’s important to make sure that the end product is what we want.

Everything – from the paving stones on the sidewalk, to the glass in the canopies, to the red asphalt – is tested, inspected and verified by qualified engineers with a keen eye for detail. Anything that doesn’t make the grade is placed on a “deficiencies list” that the builder is responsible to remedy. That’s why you may see occasional construction activity in the first couple of years after infrastructure projects are done.

Project managers of infrastructure projects call this the warranty work phase – an opportunity to catch any issues so that they can be fixed while the infrastructure is still under warranty. It often takes all the seasons in a full year to see how things weather in our climate or perform once in use.

Much like when you buy a new house, it can take one or two years for the foundations to settle, and for you to make note of where the finishes are less than desirable. Then the contractor comes back to fix all the nail pops and cracks in the drywall, fill any gaps in the molding and repaint where necessary. It ensures that you are happy with the work, and you get the most out of your home. Warranty work is the same idea for our facilities, stations and rapidways.

On Davis Drive, we’re starting with the grinding and smoothing out of curbs, fixing paint finishes and filling small cracks, and of course taking note of anything else that needs work.

Whether you’re a regular transit rider, or are considering your first trip on the rapidway, know that we are working hard to provide you with a quality experience and infrastructure that’s built to last.

 

automated vehicles >> will transit drive itself?

April 7th, 2016

automated vehicles >> will transit drive itself?

Lately there’s been a lot of news on the topic of automated vehicles. In February, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the US officially stated that an artificial intelligence system [computer] in an automated vehicle can officially be considered a driver. And in at least five global cities, there are driverless buses already on the streets. In aviation, pilots have been relying on auto-pilot for decades when landing and taking off in low visibility, and many people-mover rail systems [such as airport monorails] are automated.

Studies show that, statistically speaking, computers are safer than humans at driving. However, we know that getting from here to there is about more than arriving safely. Comfort is important of course, along with convenience and efficiency or speed. For some, a travel choice is a personal statement – to cycle or walk, to make use of transit, or to drive a certain style of car. Many vehicles already have “driver assistance systems,” with features that brake when an obstacle is detected, and alert the driver when the car in front has moved forward or when the vehicle has left its traffic lane.

So the technology is there, and it’s already being used. The question isn’t whether it will happen, it’s how it will affect how we travel. It will depend on how they’re used – if every individual uses their own automated vehicle, traffic congestion and parking issues will likely remain the same. But if we share vehicles and take transit…our cities and roads could become safer and more efficient.  Interesting topics for discussion and consideration and we continue to follow them with interest.

At vivaNext we’re for mobility – whether this means subway, bus rapid transit, or automated transit in the future, we’re thinking about how York Region’s roads can be prepared and always looking for new and innovative ideas to make improvements.

 

what’s happening in that lane closure?

March 30th, 2016

what happens in a lane closure

Have you ever driven along the construction areas along Highway 7 and wondered why there’s a lane closure beside you? Especially when it looks like there’s not much obvious construction?

Here are some of the reasons a seemingly quiet lane may be closed – and what might be happening nearby.

Work is happening

Widening the road and building the new rapidways can only be done when traffic is moved away, which is why the number one reason for any lane closure is that work is happening within it. Our project is complicated because we are building in the middle of live traffic lanes, so extra precautions are necessary and legislated. Lane closures are required only when there are no other reasonable options.

Space = safety

Typically, we need to close a lane to add a safety buffer around a work area in order to keep crews safe, and to make space for pedestrian detours around the work zone. Construction in a busy thoroughfare means that we need to ensure the safety and convenience of everyone, which means drivers, pedestrians, businesses along the corridor and work crews.

Big machines

For certain types of work, sometimes very large machines are required.  For example, a crane might need extra space around it so crews can access it safely. In some cases, the machine itself needs to be transported on an even larger vehicle, such as a crane being moved on a flatbed. When such a “wide load” is being transported, or positioned for a long period of time, we’d require an additional lane.

Setting up for an operation

To prepare for larger construction operations like paving an intersection, we would need to reduce lanes in advance of the actual paving so crews can set up the work area safely. This can mean reducing the number of lanes gradually in advance of the upcoming work area. This means lots of pillions!

Consistency helps with safety

If a large number of trucks need to drive back and forth along a lane closure [perhaps to take away excavated materials] over several weeks or months, a lane may be closed for the duration so the number of traffic lanes don’t need to fluctuate back and forth between 3 lanes, 2 lanes, 1 lane as frequently, which can be confusing to drivers. Having consistency is safer.

General reasons for lane closures

In general, there are three reasons lane closures during construction:

  1. To provide room for trucks.
  2. To give space for unloading and loading.
  3. To give work crews a safely buffer from traffic.

Do you have any questions or comments about what’s happening in lane closures? Comment below or email us at contactus@vivanext.com. To stay up-to-date on construction, sign up for email updates at vivanext.com/subscribe.

 

rapidways >> who goes there?

March 23rd, 2016

rapidways >> who goes there?

We have rapidways open on Highway 7 East, and on Davis Drive, and most people who live and work near these new rapid transit routes know who has access to the rapidways – buses! In fact, the rapidways are paved in red and painted with “bus only” to prevent others from accidentally entering the lanes.

There are a few others who are allowed to drive in the rapidway lanes. Ambulances, fire engines and police cruisers are permitted in an emergency to get past traffic quickly and safely. This is an added benefit that the rapidways bring to each community – saving valuable time when it’s truly needed.

Vehicles such as snow plows and street cleaners maintain the rapidways as needed. Maintenance and security staff from YRT/Viva operations and their contractor, TOK Transit, also access the rapidway stations and their marked vehicles may be seen at the far end of a station platform. This part of the platform is ramped on one side for their use – but this ramp should never be used by regular traffic to cross the rapidway.

Pedestrians and cyclists have access to any vivastation via the traffic signals and crosswalk, but should never jaywalk or cycle across or along rapidway lanes. To do this is risky because it’s unexpected and distracting to both Viva operators and drivers in regular traffic. And although we fully support active and alternative modes of travel, you also can’t travel the rapidway lanes in a scooter or wheelchair, skateboard, motorcycle, hoverboard, segway, golf cart, unicycle… or any other interesting mode of transportation we haven’t thought of yet!

You may wonder why Viva buses use the rapidways, but YRT buses don’t. The reason is that YRT buses either need to turn on and off the road frequently to gather customers, or their purpose is different – e.g., more stops, turning into shopping plazas, etc. Viva and YRT routes are evaluated by YRT/Viva’s Service Planning branch on a regular basis, and service changes are made to routes and schedules as needed.

A street that includes a rapidway is a complete street, with space for doing everything in a safe and efficient way.  Hope you get out and enjoy our streets this spring!