Posts Tagged ‘Congestion’

getting to where you want to go

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

The continuation of dedicated rapidway along Highway 7 East – from Bayview to Town Centre Boulevard – has resulted in some important changes to the way drivers get to their destinations, and how the traffic signals work.  Some of these changes have already become familiar to drivers on the west leg of the rapidway and during the construction phase of the east end, but it’s worth going over them again -

    1.Watch for your signal. 

    There are several different signal phases now operating along Highway 7, and drivers need to be extra alert to pay attention.  The left turn arrow, transit arrow and through traffic signals all work together to keep traffic moving safely.  Pay careful attention to the signal for your lane and the movement you want to make. Watch for pedestrians in the middle if you are making left hand turns or U-turns.

    2. Left turns only during the left turn arrow.

    With the rapidway down the middle of the roadway, drivers cannot make left turns mid-block.  Left turns are only allowed from the left turn lane at intersections, on a dedicated left-turn green arrow.  White lines clearly show the left lane turn.  No left turns are allowed on the through green light phase, or the transit green arrow.  Special detectors in the pavement will help the light know how many cars are waiting to turn left, but depending on the length of the queue you may need to wait more than one cycle to make your turn.  If there are no cars detected at a specific time, there will not be a left-turn arrow in that cycle.

    3. U-turns are allowed during the left turn arrow.

    If you want to get to a destination on the other side of the road, you can make a u-turn at the intersection when the left turn arrow is lit.  It is important to make sure you turn into the main traffic lanes going in the other direction rather than into the rapidway.  To make it obvious, rapidways are tinted red and have special bus-only markings on them.  U-turns, like left-turns, cannot be made on a through green light, or when the transit arrow is green.

    4. Transit green arrows are for buses only.

    The vehicles using the rapidway have their own signal, which is located directly in front of the rapidway.  This signal is only for buses, and depending on the circumstances, it may or may not coincide with the through green light for traffic.   The transit signal has a special hood over it so it can only be seen by transit drivers.  But whether or not a transit vehicle begins to move through an intersection, other drivers must wait for their own green light before proceeding.

    5. Be careful making right turns, watch for signs.

    There some changes to right turns on Highway 7 from side-streets.  At some intersections, right turns are no longer allowed; drivers need to watch carefully for signage on the traffic lights.  Drivers turning right need to be especially alert watching for bikes using the new bike lanes and bike boxes, and when making right turns past YRT buses stopped at curb-side stops.

Highway 7 is a busy street and safety for everyone using it is a top priority.  All these changes work together to get everyone where they want to go safely and in good time.   Stay tuned for the new section opening this August!

signs, signs, everywhere a sign

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014

It seems anywhere and everywhere you go these days there’s a sign of some type that catches your eye. Whether it’s an advertising, traffic or directional sign, it’s meant to grab your attention. The purpose of all the signs out there is for people to watch and read them every day as they pass by, so that you know what is going on in their neighbourhoods.

With the large number of signs out there you may become desensitized, but the signs in construction zones are there for your safety. A busy season of road work is underway on several vivaNext projects, so we hope drivers and pedestrians pay close attention to construction markers and signs as they may change daily depending on the work.

For pedestrians, crossing between intersections is tempting. But during construction, it’s especially important to cross at crosswalks – lane closures can change frequently and although construction areas are well marked, drivers may not see a pedestrian crossing unexpectedly.  When large equipment and trucks are working in an area, it is especially confusing if workers are not expecting people in their work zones, so please make sure you are in a safe area, which will be well marked with a sign, of course.

We understand the frustration of being a driver stuck in traffic too, and we’re using large digital signs on the street, to let you know ahead of time about lane closures and detours, as well as providing current travel times.   We hope these signs help you plan your route accordingly and help you manage your travel times.  To receive regular updates about our construction projects, subscribe to our email notices. And for on-the-go traffic alerts about our construction, follow us on Twitter.

Whether you’re biking, walking or driving this summer, we hope you’re enjoying the weather, staying alert and following the signs that keep you safe.

join the discussions in vaughan?

Friday, February 7th, 2014

Congestion in the GTHA is at an all-time high, with an additional 2.5 million people and one million more cars expected in the next 20 years, the problems will only get worse. We can no longer postpone building the kind of transit network that offers residents and commuters better transportation choices, eases congestion, connects them with jobs and travelling efficiently in all directions.

New transit lines connect most neighbourhoods and business districts, putting commuters within a short walk of rapid transit.  The vivaNext project is a part of this overreaching transit network that will connect not only local but regional service once completed.

York Region Transit [YRT] conventional routes cater to local communities in all York Region municipalities and also include GO Shuttles and Express services.  These routes stop frequently at the curbside of the road. Viva connects Markham, Richmond Hill, Vaughan, Aurora and Newmarket and also links York Region with Toronto and its subway system, GO Transit and the Region of Peel. It operates along major corridors much like an above-ground subway, for faster service.  Once Viva service is running in its own rapidway, service will be even faster.

Transit planning takes time and includes: consultation with the users, route planning, bus scheduling and stop identification.

This year, YRT is holding stakeholder engagement meetings to discuss transit routes and overall service to prepare for the opening of the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension [TYSSE] in the City of Vaughan. The Subway is scheduled to open in 2016 and we want to be ready.

YRT\Viva is looking for your input at their public information meetings.   We encourage you to come out to these events and learn how transit development will affect you in your daily commute and provide your input in what service and routes you want.

The vivaNext team will be there also, so join us for an in-depth look at different elements of vivaNext projects, plans, designs and ongoing activities or visit

time is money: why gridlock hurts us all

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

How to reduce the gridlock in the Greater Toronto Area is a topic that is getting a lot of air-time from commentators of all descriptions.  And for good reason – gridlock has been described by the Toronto Board of Trade as costing the GTA’s economy more than $6 Billion a year.

How those numbers are calculated, and what lies behind them, isn’t always so clear.  One of the best breakdowns that I have read is the paper developed by the Toronto Board of Trade last year urging governments to invest more in transit. The paper, called Let’s Break the Gridlock provides this description of how gridlock costs us all time – and how that time costs money.

The biggest concern about gridlock in Toronto from an economic perspective is that the increasingly clogged roads slow down business, and therefore undermine profits.  These so-called “congestion costs” affect different industries in different ways, each with their own price tag.  For example, in an economy that is increasingly based on “just in time” strategies, businesses order extra stock or supplies or equipment as it is needed instead of warehousing it. But if the delivery is unreliable, businesses will need to order earlier, tying up money in extra goods and paying for warehousing.  That costs extra money, and those increased prices will be passed on to the customer.

Another huge price tag associated with gridlock is how long it takes businesses to actually move their goods around.  The congestion costs hurt businesses in many ways such as increased shipping and fuel costs, higher labour costs per shipment due to less productive drivers, and reduced travel speeds.  Big shippers who need to deliver their products to small businesses throughout the GTA, for example soft-drink bottlers who need to make deliveries to many small convenience stores and restaurants across the region, face significantly higher costs due to congestion, and the snarled roads their drivers travel.  They can make fewer deliveries per day, and each delivery costs more.

And for employers, employee recruitment is negatively impacted by the difficult commutes faced by so many in the GTA.  As the Board of Trade paper notes, the lack of transit is a serious barrier for employers in hiring skilled young professionals.  And nowhere is this problem more severe than in the 905 areas, where employers have realized that the lack of rapid transit actually adds to the cost of doing business in the suburbs.  In fact, employers are increasingly seeing the benefits of having nearby transit, so that they can attract the best employees.

With this last reason in mind, we’re fortunate that York Region is planning for the future with vivaNext.  We’re going to have great rapid transit when the construction is complete, so that people can move around our region and make convenient connections across the GTA.  And with every full viva vehicle, we can get 70 cars off the road, which will reduce congestion for everyone.

Defeating gridlock is going to take time, and vision, and money.  But given the huge price congestion is already costing, there’s really no alternative.


happy national housing day

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

Having a home is probably one of the most important and basic needs people have, and National Housing Day was introduced to remind us we should never take this fundamental need for granted.  This year National Housing Day is Friday November 22, and it’s being marked by special initiatives all across the country including here in York Region, where the Region is hosting a special social media and web-based campaign to raise awareness about the importance of affordable housing.

One of the biggest challenges facing our Region is that people have limited choice when it comes to affordable housing.  Traditionally a suburban region, many York Region residents have chosen to live in low-density single-family homes. As wonderful as that choice is for many, many families, there are some people who want – or need – other options.  And until recently, people who wanted to live in other forms of housing had very limited choices within the Region.

York has the lowest percentage of rental accommodation in the entire GTA. In some cases, that has meant people who want to live in York Region to stay near their families, or their jobs, have had to move away.  Whether it’s a young professional in their first job who has had to leave York Region to find affordable housing, or an older person who can’t manage a larger home on their own any more, too many people have found it hard to stay here at home.

Fortunately that’s changing, and VivaNext is a key driver that’s helping to expand the housing choices available here in York Region.

All along the viva routes, we’re seeing more and more housing being developed or proposed, including higher density developments near our new urban centres. Taking the direction from Regional Council, 35% of new housing in the centres and key development areas along the corridors have to meet affordability criteria, which is going to meet a key need here in York Region.

Building residential units along transit can help to reduce housing costs, since developments don’t have to include as much underground parking spaces.  This can reduce costs per unit significantly.  Another benefit of building near transit means people can get around without needing a car.  Whether you’re a young person moving out for the first time, or an older person who is happy to give up the keys to the car, that’s a significant advantage.

The best thing is that people who want to stay in York Region are now more able to, because rapid transit and long-term planning together are resulting in more choices, and more affordability.

So on November 22, give a thought to how much it would mean to you to be able to stay in the community you love, and to have a variety of affordable options to choose from.  We’re really pleased to be helping make that more possible, and wish you a Happy National Housing Day.


chickens and eggs

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

Does great planning start with transit?  Or does transit start with great planning?  I was prompted to think about this the other day after reading an interesting newspaper article, Why we’re better off living in hyperdense cities built around mass transit.

The point of the article is that in many ways, we’re better off living in high density cities, as long as they have great transit so that people can live without cars. In particular, this article says the most productive and prosperous cities are those that are planned to have enough density to support a subway system.

Now it’s hard to imagine a time when everyone in York Region would choose to live without a car.  Many of the people in this region have chosen to live here expressly because they love having more room around them, and to have the countryside so nearby.  Cars will always be useful and practical in that kind of setting.

But there are many people – including an increasing number of young people – who like the idea of living and working in a walkable community, where they don’t need to have a car to carry out their daily routines.

The point of good planning is to ensure our communities provide appealing and functional options for both kinds of people.  It ensures that people who want to live in spacious suburban communities have that option without facing gridlock every time they get in their car, while meeting the aspirations of people who want to live in dynamic, urban settings with adjacent, convenient rapid transit.

Planning to make these options possible requires a long-term vision, and a commitment to invest in the infrastructure needed in the future, long before growth happens.  It also requires great transit.  But building a rapid transit system before the density is in place can only be done if there’s a strategic plan that directs densities to transit corridors, so that it all works together.  Rapid transit systems, including BRT like we’re building in York Region, require high volumes of riders to be sustainable.

Which brings me to my original question: what comes first, planning or transit?  The reality in York Region is that they’re intricately linked and interdependent.  Our planners identified many years ago that the future York Region would be bigger and more crowded, and would require more options to house people.  They also identified that those options would only be built and appeal to people if there was great transit nearby.

So the moral of the story is planning and transit need each other, and one can’t happen without the other.  Fortunately, we have both here in York Region – which means we will be able to offer more options for people, no matter what kind of community they want to live in.

hard truths about transit

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

Transit is a top story in the news these days, in Toronto, across the GTHA, in fact all across the country.  And with good reason: the links between the availability of well-planned transit and our ability to sustain our quality of life are well documented.   But the discussion about transit is still confusing for many people, with so many different positions being put forward on how transit should be planned, the merits of different forms of transit, and how to pay for it all.   Meanwhile, gridlock across the GTHA is getting worse.  To ensure we don’t fall farther behind, important decisions have to be made soon about the future transit network in the GTHA.

Fortunately, a significant amount of new transit is already being built across the GTHA including our vivaNext BRT routes and the extension of the Spadina subway up to Highway 7.  But there are a large number of important transit projects, including parts of the vivaNext system such as the extension of the Yonge Subway, which remain unfunded.  Building a connected network across the GTHA, and completing the vivaNext parts of the system in York Region, needs to be a top priority for us all.

To help bring some clarity to the discussion, a newly-established advisory panel in Ontario has been set up to look at the future of transit in the GTHA.  The panel’s mandate is to help Ontario make the right decisions about what transit projects get funded in the GTHA, and how to pay for them.

Getting input from the community is a priority for the panel, and they will be providing a series of discussion papers to help people become better informed.  These papers will be well worth reading for anyone who has an interest in the future of transit across the GTHA.

Here’s a link to the new advisory panel’s site, which includes the first of several discussion papers.  Over the next few weeks, the panel is also going to be collecting input from the public, business and key stakeholders.  There are a number of ways that you can provide input to the panel.  You can mail, email, and provide input online or by attending one of the public meetings.  Four meetings will be held across the GTHA, including one in Vaughan.

The more people who participate in this discussion, the better: it affects us all, whether we live in suburban areas or downtown, and whether we’re transit users or drivers.  The decisions that need to be made soon about what transit will be built, and how it will be paid for, will shape the quality of life across the GTHA for generations.

VivaNext is proud of what we’re building in York Region, but ultimately the strength of our system depends on being part of a great regional network.  So please check out the panel’s website, read their papers, and have your say.


a trend away from cars

Friday, October 11th, 2013

A recent article in the New York Times described a curious trend that’s showing up in countries as varied as Germany, Norway, Canada and Japan – a trend that shows fewer young people are driving cars compared to their parents.

The findings show that Millennials – people currently in their twenties – are less likely to get their driver’s licence now than in previous generations. Young people are more likely to take transit or cycle, and overall, the number of car trips taken on a per capita basis has been declining for the last several years.  In the US, people in their twenties drive about 20% less than their parents did when they were in their twenties.

There are quite a number of studies that together confirm this trend, although there’s no agreement on what is causing it. Increasing gas prices and weak economic climates in some countries may have contributed to this trend, researchers feel that other longer-term dynamics are the real reason young people are increasingly turning away from the car and finding other ways to get around.

One key theory is that increasing urbanization is a critical factor. In this theory, when people live within walking distance (defined as roughly 500 metres) from transit, it’s easier to leave the keys at home and let transit do the driving.

Whatever the reason, other recent studies carried out show that while baby boomers are ageing beyond the years when they drive the most miles, Millennials aren’t picking up the slack.  The result is that total miles driven is steadily decreasing, and is projected to continue to do so over time.

This change is bound to require a shift in long-term transportation policies developed by governments, including an increased investment in transit.

York Region residents do a lot of driving covering a large geographic area, and even with the launch of vivaNext along its major corridors, there’s no doubt this pattern isn’t going to change overnight.  But as it does, we’re going to be in good shape, thanks to our vivaNext plans for region-wide rapid transit giving residents more options.  We are already seeing the trend here with transit ridership increasing every year.


the communications brain behind our rapid transit system

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

In other posts I’ve talked about the various ITS components behind our Bus Rapid Transit along Highway 7. But none of these pieces would be able to do its job without being connected to the others through a sophisticated fibre optics communications system.  Although it’s hiding underground, this communications system is really the unsung hero that’s going to put the rapid in our rapid transit system.   Here’s how it’s going to work.

As I’ve described before, there are several transit priority measures that will help viva vehicles on the new Highway 7 rapidways run smoothly and quickly through congestion.  These include on-board components on each vehicle including a GPS system and transmitters.  There are also the components at each intersection that help each traffic signal respond to changing traffic requirements including radio and infrared receivers that pick up signals from approaching buses and emergency vehicles, and loop detectors in the roadway that detect cars waiting at the intersection.  Lastly, there are the variable message signs (VMS) located at each platform that provide next-bus arrival information to customers.

As high-tech as each of these components is, none can be effective unless it can communicate with the others.  Each one also needs to be connected to the overall transit system which keeps track of the schedule for each bus, and which determines when the traffic signal phasing requires a temporary adjustment to let a delayed bus get back on schedule.

The connection is provided through a fibre optics communications network that links all of the intersection and every vivastation to YRT’s transit operations and York Region’s traffic operations.

This system is fully automated, with approaching vehicles alerting intersections that they are arriving, and each intersection sharing that information with the central traffic control system, which in turn compares that information with the transit schedule.  The system will continuously adjust and fine-tune to ensure the buses stay on schedule, while keeping the roads and intersections working well for everyone.

To enhance passenger safety, each station is equipped with cameras to monitor the platforms, a public address system to provide announcements and an emergency call box for personal safety.  All of these systems operate reliably and seamlessly over the fibre optic communications system.

By using fibre optics technology running the entire length of the corridor, we’ll be able to collect all this information and transmit it quickly so that the transit system can respond immediately.  The communication system will also provide the real-time bus arrival information displayed on station VMS.

With this high-tech communications system providing the brains to the transit system, viva will make it easier, faster and more reliable to travel across York Region.  Check out this video on how this system works.

putting the rapid in rapid transit

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

We’re excited about the transformation of York Region’s major corridors from busy highways to complete streets designed to be shared by transit-users, pedestrians, cyclists and drivers.  But first and foremost, vivaNext is about building a true rapid transit system.  Because they’re not going through mixed traffic, these dedicated rapidways will help viva vehicles move past congested stretches of Highway.  But the bus rapid transit system will also use a number of other technologies or “transit priority measures” to put the rapid into the system.  Here’s the rundown on how we’re going to help keep viva buses reliably rapid.

The first main component is that all buses will have GPS systems installed, which will constantly calculate the vehicle’s speed, heading, latitude and longitude.  That way, the transit system will know exactly where each vehicle is, relative to where the schedule says it should be.

The next main component is the traffic signal control system that governs all the intersections along the rapidway route.  The system relies on the findings of sophisticated traffic analysis that has worked out the optimal timing for each intersection to ensure the most efficient use of the corridor.  This analysis takes into account long-term traffic data reflecting all the users of each intersection, including east/west traffic, north/south traffic, pedestrians and cars making left turns.

Using this analysis, each traffic signal is pre-programmed for the optimal phasing, including how long a green light should last going in each direction.

With real-time information available about where each vehicle is, the transit system will constantly calculate whether a viva vehicle approaching an intersection is on time, or delayed.  If the vehicle is behind schedule, a signal sent from the bus to the traffic signal at that intersection will temporarily adjust the phasing so that the vehicle doesn’t have to stop.

The last major component of this complex system is the one that tells our customers when the next bus will arrive at the station. The variable message signs (VMS) installed at each station display real-time arrival information showing the arrival times for all buses expected within the next while, based on the information sent by the vehicle’s on-board GPS system.  These message boards are a feature of the viva system that customers really appreciate.

Using this multi-layered approach, we’ll be able to help each viva bus move along quickly, and you’ll be able to know how soon it will arrive.  All of which adds up to rapid transit!