Posts Tagged ‘Growth’

designing for the future

Thursday, October 20th, 2016

Who can remember? Not so long ago Highway 7 in Markham and Richmond Hill was a suburban highway: a few isolated developments, lots of parking lots and open fields, but no sidewalks, no plantings, no bike lanes–and certainly no dedicated rapid transit bus lanes. Just look at it now!

In only a few years from start to finish, construction begins and is completed on each of the rapidway projects. In the world of infrastructure renewal, vivaNext construction projects are known to be implemented very efficiently, and we’re doing everything we can to maintain that great reputation.

years of work are behind the design

What’s not so apparent to the public is the lengthy design process that happens long before construction starts. Design of the many engineering and architectural elements must take place stage by stage. Throughout, the designers need to balance staying true to the original vision with making it work in different conditions and geographical areas.

a variety of disciplines at work

VivaNext uses a multi-disciplined design team including: engineers who specialize in civil, traffic, structural, geotechnical, electrical and transit systems; architects; environmental consultants; landscape architects, security experts and more.

many stakeholders weigh in

At each stage, different options and features are reviewed, adjusted and improved with input from municipal staff, utility companies, local conservation authorities, property owners and others. Depending on the location of the project, specific design issues are addressed in conjunction with the owners of adjacent infrastructure including GO Transit, 407 ETR, CN, and the Ontario Ministry of Transportation.

the stages of each project

The process is not a fast one; the Environmental Assessment process, which established the conceptual design for vivaNext, was begun in 2002, and the whole process for any one segment from Preliminary Engineering to service start may take 6 or more years. Here’s an overview of the stages each of our projects go through, before shovels can hit the ground.

•    Environmental Assessment [EA]: The EA examines alternatives and identifies a preferred design. The vivaNext conceptual design shows the approach for individual segments like the number of rapidway and traffic lanes, boulevards and planting zones and the arrangement of stops and stations. The EA then identifies potential design impacts on the natural and built environment, traffic, noise, drainage, property, etc., and proposed strategies to avoid or mitigate and monitor them.

•    Preliminary Design: This stage takes design to approximately 30% completion and establishes the outlines of the project including its alignment and profile, what additional property is needed to build the project, development of major components like bridges or culverts for water crossings, entrances and intersections, utilities, and listing permits and approvals.

•    Detail Design: This stage fleshes out the preliminary design for all elements. For example, preliminary design may identify that a high retaining wall will be needed at a specific location; 60% design will show the kind of foundation needed and the wall’s general construction; 90% design will show the colour and design of the material to be used on the outside of the wall, and 100% will show all details and specifications required to construct the work.

•    Issued-for-Construction Drawings: These are the final design drawings to be used by the contractors, once all approvals are complete.

By the time vivaNext is complete, all our projects will share the original design vision, but their individual design will reflect local requirements and various conditions. Each segment is tailor-made to be functional, convenient and beautiful, with the primary goal of providing a rapid transit system for the future. Which is, and always has been, the ultimate vivaNext design objective.

building in place >> the best of both worlds

Wednesday, May 25th, 2016

building in place >> the best of both worlds

Earlier this month, the Province of Ontario proposed changes to the four provincial plans that shape how land is used in the Greater Golden Horseshoe: Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, the Greenbelt Plan, the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan and the Niagara Escarpment Plan. They’re gathering feedback from the public on all their recommended changes to help protect green spaces and farmland.

One of the key changes proposed is an increase in the minimum Intensification Rate from 40% to 60%, to encourage growth in central areas and reduce suburban sprawl. “Intensification” may sound unfriendly but really it’s just re-using space that we already have. We’ve been building on land in York Region for many decades and our population continues to grow, so when a building comes to the end of its life, there’s a good chance the next building on that land will need to serve more people – whether for housing, business or entertainment.

For example, if a one-level plaza has 10 businesses, when it’s time to rebuild it might be replaced with a five-story building with 15 retail and restaurants on the ground level and 15 apartments above. Because there are more business and residential units than there were before, this contributes to an increased Intensification Rate in the area.

By building in place, adding five business units and 15 residential units to this property instead of building 10-20 detached subdivision houses elsewhere, an acre of green space could be saved. If this new development hosts 80 or more residents and jobs per hectare [2.5 acres], then it also helps support frequent transit service [like a Viva rapidway!].

One proposed change from the Province is to require zoning along transit corridors that supports a higher population and walkable communities. This is important to keep the relationship between people and transit on track. Transit systems need lots of people to jump on board, and people living in downtown areas need the option of transit.

By continuing to build in place, our biggest towns and cities will have everything on their doorstep, and green space nearby. Doesn’t that sound like the best of both worlds?


sowing the seeds on Davis Drive

Wednesday, 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.


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!


farms need cities

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2016

farms need cities

Most people would agree that outside the city limits, there should be rural, green space. It’s important for agriculture, for wildlife, and for us to experience our natural landscape.

The Oak Ridges Moraine Act [2001] and the Greenbelt Act [2005] together protect 69% of York Region’s land. Considering York Region’s fast growth, the remaining 31% needs to be carefully planned, with higher density in the cities.

Farmland has changed in Ontario over the last several decades, with fewer, larger farms and more technology used for efficient production. Wildlife has changed too, with York Regional Forests in place and more awareness of our impact on nature. But one thing that hasn’t, and likely won’t, change is that wildlife and farms need cities to grow in place, without expanding into the countryside.

This is where new urbanism and transit-oriented development come in. They’re about planning the best ways for a city to grow, and ensuring there’s a variety of housing and employment, and transportation options like bus rapid transit and subway. Building where we already have development makes a lot of sense. It keeps urban, urban and protects rural from becoming suburban. It also creates a focused city centre that attracts people to do business or shop, all of which is supported by great transit to get around.

Using the land we already have in York Region’s cities and towns is smart and it’s sustainable. If we stick to this plan we’ll be watching population grow in our vibrant cities, and trees and crops thrive in the country.


from suburban to urban

Friday, August 28th, 2015

suburban to urban

York Region’s urban centres are becoming vibrant locations for residents and visitors, growing with new urban cultural attractions – thanks to the support of a rapid transit system.

Exciting growth and new developments featuring modern architecture are popping up in the areas where rapidways are being built, including Vaughan, Markham, Richmond Hill, and Newmarket. Much of these developments are compact and mixed-use, providing new places to live and work right on peoples’ doorsteps. And the best part is that all these attractions will be conveniently located next to fast, reliable transit – making it easier than ever for people to connect within the Region. When amenities are close by and getting around is easy, a community truly feels connected.

As York Region grows, vivaNext is growing right along with it. Adding a rapid transit system with sleek, modern stations and pedestrian and cyclist-friendly streetscapes, contributes to the feeling of being in the centre of things. It also promotes alternative modes of transportation, helping shift residents away from the car-dependent culture toward a more urban, transit-supportive way of living. It’s wonderful to have transportation choices right on your doorstep. York Region is transforming and the future looks bright! Pictures paint a great picture – check out our video to see the changes unfolding.



how transit and city planning work together

Monday, 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.


bringing the vivaNext long-term plan for the future to life

Monday, 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.

then, now & next: Newmarket’s moments in time

Tuesday, 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!


long, cold winter leading to plant woes

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

long, cold winter leading to plant woes

This past winter’s sub-zero temperatures, heavy snowfalls, driving winds and ice storm will go down as one of the longest and harshest on record. The effects of the ice storm are still being felt here in York Region, as we start to take stock of our plants, trees and shrubbery this spring.

In one of our earlier blogs, we talked about the trees, perennials and grasses that we’ll be installing in the planters in medians and boulevards along the Highway 7 rapidway between East Beaver Creek and South Town Centre Boulevard. Like you, we have noticed that some of the perennials and grasses have not come back this spring.

All the trees, perennials and shrubbery on Highway 7 are under a two year warranty and we are monitoring their growth to see if they need to be replaced or will come back throughout the spring and summer months.

We are hopeful that the chilly winter will result in better soil, leading to healthier gardens. Soil science shows that the cold weather creates pores in the soil, which naturally aerates plants. The colder it gets, the deeper frost penetrates. When the frost melts, it leaves pockets in the soil. Winter damage is always factored into gardening in Canada, as we assess our plants every spring and replace the ones that didn’t survive.

With all this in mind, vivaNext is committed to maintaining our new landscaping which will make Highway 7 much more attractive, pleasant and welcoming for everyone.



building healthier communities

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

building healthier communities

What if I told you that taking public transit can significantly improve your health? The Toronto Star recently reported on health professionals in the Greater Toronto Area [GTA] who agree that when it comes to land-use and transportation planning, more consideration must be given to encouraging residents to walk, cycle and use public transit.

How our communities are designed influences how we choose to get around, so making transit and active transportation integral to city planning can contribute to healthier, more active lifestyles. Instead of driving your car, choosing to bus, bike or walk to work are alternatives that mix pleasure and health benefits. Also, the article mentions that taking public transit can easily add 30 minutes of physical activity into your day because it can include walking to and from bus stops or subways.

One of the benefits of designing a major infrastructure project like vivaNext is the opportunity it provides to enhance our natural environment wherever possible. In addition to the new rapid transit system, the urban transformation that vivaNext is helping to shape will result in more walkable, people-friendly neighbourhoods that encourage pedestrians and cyclists to get out and enjoy their local environments. What’s great is that residents now have safe choices in how they want to travel.

The new communities in the urban centres will be mixed-use, meaning they’ll offer residential, employment and recreational options. With convenient access between these new urban neighbourhoods and an expanding rapid transit network, people can travel across York Region and into the rest of the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area [GTHA] without needing a car, making the centres an attractive option for people who want an urban lifestyle within York Region. These new urban hubs will offer walkable, bike-friendly and people-centred neighbourhoods that will be welcoming to people at all stages of life – from young professionals to empty nesters, making York Region a great place to live.