Posts Tagged ‘mixed-use development’

enhancing your security and safety

Monday, August 26th, 2013

Taking steps to ensure our passengers feel secure and safe using our stations is a top priority for YRT\Viva.  So every detail of our new passenger stations on the Highway 7 rapidway has been designed with a view to make our riders feel comfortable, well protected from the elements and adjacent traffic, and able to access help in an emergency.

Here’s a rundown of the new features we’ve designed into all our stations, so all users can enjoy a personal sense of safety.

With our median platforms located in the middle of a busy roadway, one of our top priorities has been to make the stations feel like a safe haven.  Stations will provide a secure waiting place for passengers with a concrete barrier wall running all along the traffic side, and a glass guardrail beyond the canopy.

To access the new stations in the median, pedestrians must use the crosswalks and cross with the signal.  When crossing the road to or from the new station, you must remember to push your pedestrian button to get the signal to cross safely.  Also, because this is new for everyone, it is important that pedestrians watch for traffic before stepping out to cross the road.  Whenever there are changes, it is important to be aware of all the users to the roadway to ensure your safety at all times.

Our stations reflect the CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design) principles of transparency and good lighting, enabling people to see and be seen. We’ve paid careful attention to lighting levels, including along the platform and in the glass enclosure, which is fully visible to the platform and has doors at either end.

Each platform is well equipped with electronic security devices, overseen 24/7 by YRT\Viva staff at transit headquarters.  Stations are monitored constantly by three CCTV (Closed Circuit Television) cameras.  In addition to providing good coverage of the platform at all times, transit staff can maneuver the cameras manually as needed.

To add to passenger’s sense of security, a clearly marked Emergency Call Button is located inside the glass enclosure, and its speaker provides immediate two-way contact between the caller and YRT operators.  The audio of the call is recorded and time-stamped, as is the video that is automatically captured by the closest camera when the button is pushed. When the ECB is pushed, blue strobe lights on the VMS and on the ECB will be triggered to indicate to passing emergency services that assistance is needed, and transit staff will dispatch emergency services if required.

Also adding to these new features is the PA system that will be used to provide live and recorded public announcements from transit operations.

These new features are probably things that most people will never need to know about.  All the same, knowing that we’ve gone to great lengths to maximize our passengers’ sense of safety, and that our transit staff are on duty 24/7 behind the cameras, should give all our riders total peace of mind.  Be safe!

crossing in safety

Friday, August 23rd, 2013

Making the new rapidways more welcoming to pedestrians has always been a priority, and that includes ensuring that pedestrians feel safe and secure while crossing Highway 7.  We know from your feedback that you’re already enjoying the protected waiting areas built into the medians, and you’ve become familiar with the two-stage crossing at crosswalks that’s been in place for much of the construction period. But in case you don’t know how it works, here’s a reminder of how to cross the rapidway safely.

With its new wider overall alignment to incorporate the two rapidway lanes and median stations, the crosswalks across Highway 7 are longer than they used to be. To enhance the safety of pedestrians, a two-stage crossing is recommended.  Lights are timed to give enough time for the average pedestrian to cross to or from a median viva station.  For people going all the way across the roadway, the light will allow them to cross to the protected median and wait for the next pedestrian signal.

In addition to watching the lights, pedestrians will hear an audible signal indicating whether they should “walk” or “wait”, and for people with visual impairments, the signals are equipped with a locator sound that will direct people to the push button.  The locator signal has a detection system that enables it to automatically adjust its volume depending on the ambient sound levels, so it’s always audible.

Remember that the pedestrian signal will only be activated once the button is pushed; it will not automatically be activated as part of the through-traffic phase.  Pedestrians cannot proceed to cross until they get the visual and audible signals that it’s safe to go.  It is important that pedestrians check for left turning cars before stepping out onto the roadway.

Pedestrian crosswalks will be wider than usual to provide more space for pedestrians, and will be clearly marked in white.

With new residential and employment development all along the corridor, and more and more people using the new rapid transit system, Highway 7 is going to see an increasing number of pedestrians. As they are only one of the priority user groups of the Highway 7 corridor, pedestrians need to be aware of their busy surroundings and stay safe while they enjoy all the new amenities.  Whether you live, work or play in the area, we hope you check it out soon!


making your trip more comfortable across the YRT\Viva system

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

You already know how excited we are to be introducing you to our new vivaNext rapidway system, with its comfortable and convenient stations and amenities, now open on Highway 7.   But for many transit riders across York Region, you’re YRT riders as well, and your comfort on that part of your commute is just as important to us.

YRT is currently carrying out upgrades to all their curbside stops across the YRT system to add new amenities and freshen up existing ones.  If you’ve been to the YRT stop at 16th Avenue and Warden you’ll already have seen the prototype that’s going to be installed everywhere.

Each YRT stop will get a modern new shelter, which will provide superior protection from the elements.  And for more comfort, each station will have new benches and garbage containers.  More and more people are choosing to commute by bike but if biking part-way then jumping on YRT\Viva suits you better, YRT is installing bike racks at each stop so you can leave your bike with confidence until your return.

YRT is going to be working their way through the entire system across the Region to upgrade all the YRT stops over the summer, with the Highway 7 rapidway sections being the first to change over to the new amenities this summer.  With the rapidways now open and the new YRT local stops being refreshed, Highway 7 has taken on a refurbished look and feel that highlights York Region’s commitment to serving its residents. Check out this video

These upgrades will bring a new level of comfort to YRT riders, and show the commitment YRT\Viva has to providing all its riders with a great customer experience, no matter what route they’re taking.  We encourage you to come visit the area!

getting to where you want to go

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

The installation of the new dedicated rapidway along Highway 7 has resulted in some important changes to the way drivers will get to their destinations, and how the traffic signals work.  Some of these changes have already become familiar to drivers during the construction phase, but it’s worth going over them again now that the Rapidways are open from Bayview Avenue to East Beaver Creek.

  1. Watch for your signal.
  2. 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.

  3. Left turns only during the left turn arrow.
  4. 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.

  5. U-turns are allowed during the left turn arrow.
  6. 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.

  7. Transit green arrows are for buses only.
  8. 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.

  9. Be careful making right turns at red lights, watch for signs.
  10. There are some changes to right turns on Highway 7 from side-streets. At some intersections (East Beaver Creek, Chalmers and Valleymede), right turns on a red lights are no longer allowed. Drivers need to watch carefully for signage indicating that right turns on red, are no longer permitted. These signs are located on the traffic signal pole. 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.

the future of transit has arrived!

Sunday, August 18th, 2013

The launch of the first section of the rapidway along Highway 7 from Bayview Avenue to Highway 404 is this Sunday, August 18.

Riders can now board viva in the centre lane rapidway.  Vivastations are directly accessible from crosswalks at signalled intersections.  Pedestrian signals come with an audible tone and visual countdown.  During the first week of new service the YRT\Viva teams will be on the street to assist customers and answer any questions to help familiarize everyone with the new system.

Not only is this section of Highway 7 now more efficient for pedestrians, cyclists, riders and drivers, but the landscape has been transformed with new trees and other greenery. We welcome the wide pedestrian-friendly, tree-lined boulevards and sleek, modern, vivastations. The new vivastations will be open at Chalmers, Valleymede, West Beaver Creek, Leslie, and East Beaver Creek. Vivastations at Bayview will open in early September. An additional 3.9 kilometres of rapidway along Highway 7 from Highway 404 to Warden Avenue will open in 2014.

New dedicated centre lanes for viva vehicles will allow riders to enjoy faster and more consistent travel times.  Also drivers need to be aware of the changes to the street as they make turns onto Highway 7, red asphalt indicates a bus only lane.  Emergency vehicles are permitted to access the rapidways should they need to, but they will have their flashing lights on for safety.

The stations include arched glass canopies inspired by transportation architecture from historic and modern European examples. The 27-metre glass canopy offers protection from the elements, including a nine-metre enclosed and heated waiting area. The stations include all the existing viva technologies we love, including off-board fare collection, GPS navigation, real-time information, Presto, new card readers and traffic signal priority. Safety and accessibility features include textured surfaces near platform edges, level boarding from the platform to the bus, a public address system for updating riders and an emergency call button.

The York Viva BRT project received $1.4 billion from the province, and is an example of The Big Move in action – Metrolinx’s 25-year plan to implement a common vision for transportation in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.

The transformation of this urban corridor will help support growth, and reduce congestion to help make York Region a more inviting place to live, work, shop and play.

Come take a ride on the new rapidway and check it out! Tweet and let us know what you think!


planting for beauty and longevity

Friday, August 16th, 2013

One of the wonderful new elements of the vivaNext streetscape is the number and variety of new plants that are being added, from the planters on the stations and in the median, to the trees and shrubs being planted along the boulevards and intersections.  The Landscape Architects, in conjunction with York Region’s Forestry Department, have worked long and hard on which plants will be included at each location.  Here’s what you’re going to be seeing planted along the rapidway corridor, and how they made their choices.

All the plant selections have been made with maximum survivability and sustainability in mind.  That means plants have to survive the urban conditions they’ll be surrounded by – with the main threat being the de-icing salt that needs to be used on the roads in winter.  Salt is toxic to many plants, so finding plants that can cope with having salt spray on their leaves and stems over the winter is a key consideration.  Plants also have to survive the wind and drought conditions that are part of being next to a roadway.  Another consideration for species selection concerns trees for planters under hydro lines.  In these locations, we need to find species with a maximum size and shape that will allow them to grow to their full potential, without needing to be pruned away from the lines.

Fortunately, York Region’s Forestry Department has had a lot of experience with the plants that thrive in the Region so coming up with lists of viable plants was straightforward.

Other considerations were related to the basic elements of design: shape, scale and colour.  We had clear overall design objectives to work with, consistent with the larger vivaNext aesthetic: the look was to be urban, stylized, and modular, similar to the look of our pavers.

Here are some images of our plants, including deciduous shrubs, evergreen shrubs for winter interest, hardy roses, ornamental grasses and perennials.

And to give them the best chance for survival, they will be planted in a special planting mix developed by the Region’s Forestry Department that will provide the optimum growing conditions.  Each tree will have a full 16 cubic metres of soil – that’s about the same amount as two dump truck-loads!

We’re looking forward to having people see the new landscaping, and we know it’s going to make a huge contribution to our goal of creating a more attractive, welcoming streetscape.  With the waving grasses and flowering plants, and shapely trees and shrubs, these public spaces will be more beautiful for years to come.


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!

ITS – balancing the needs of all travellers

Monday, August 12th, 2013

It’s stating the obvious to say that our roadways are getting slower because they’re carrying too much traffic – that’s the basic definition of gridlock, and it’s an increasing problem everywhere across the GTA.  But what can be done about it?  VivaNext is one part of the solution – if people have the choice of taking a reliable and convenient rapid transit system, there will be fewer cars on the road, and everyone will be able to get around more quickly.

But even with vivaNext, there’s still going to be a lot of traffic out there, and York Region doesn’t have room for more or bigger roads.  So what else can be done to help traffic move better?  This is where ITS comes in.

Although some people may think ITS is connected to “Information Technology”, in the vivaNext world ITS stands for “Intelligent Transportation Systems”. ITS is an international transportation-engineering discipline that is concerned with trying to improve the efficiency of travel, whether it involves the travelling public, commercial vehicles, or transit.  The basic assumptions behind ITS are that delays cost money, and more efficient travel saves money. This new technology is an absolutely critical, although low-visibility, component of the vivaNext program.

ITS is used to ensure that all parts of a traffic corridor’s infrastructure – the physical roadway’s design, lane markings and signs, traffic signal design and timing, and the brains that connect all these pieces – are designed as one coordinated system.  In a transit project ITS has an additional layer which is concerned with how the transit system is integrated into that larger system.

ITS is also about giving people accurate information so they can make better choices about travel, whether that means building roadside signage to alert drivers to upcoming congestion and suggest alternative routes, or giving transit riders real-time information about next bus arrivals.

Overall, ITS is about finding the perfect balance so that all the users of a roadway find it works better; making a roadway faster for one group of users cannot come at the expense of all the other users.  ITS starts with an understanding of who is using the roadway now and who will be using it in the future, and then develops strategies to make it more efficient for everyone.

Along Highway 7, we know that drivers and transit are the main users currently, but that’s going to change as development intensifies. The future Highway 7 will be significantly more urbanized, with more people living and working along the corridor.  That means there will be more pedestrians and cyclists whose travel needs need to be considered, in addition to car and truck traffic.  Helping transit vehicles stay on schedule is also a priority, since rapid transit can’t be rapid if it’s stuck in traffic.

These ITS strategies will balance everyone’s needs, to help everyone get to where they’re going as fast as possible!


driver training in progress

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

We’re really counting down the days to the start of vivaNext rapidway service, and we know you are too: being able to get on board a viva bus and zip past congestion is going to be a wonderful advantage for York Region transit users.  So you’ll know we’re really in the final stretches once you see viva buses out on the rapidway starting this week, which is when York Region Transit (YRT) starts the training process for operators and other staff.

YRT is doing training in two stages, with the first stage during the week of July 29 and the second stage over two weeks starting August 5.

In the first stage, training will be provided for everyone who will need to be familiar with the rapidways, the stations and equipment.  We will have vehicles out on the rapidway, taking customer service staff and other YRT staff along the rapidways and spending time at the new stations.  This will give staff a chance to really interact with all the new features so they’ll be ready to provide support to the public once the system is open.

During this time YRT will also be working with emergency services (police, fire, ambulance) to help them become familiar with the rapidway and safety features at the stations including the emergency call button.  Emergency services personnel will be familiarized with access points where they can enter and exit the rapidway, and in the future emergency services vehicles will have the option of using the rapidway when responding to calls.

The actual operator training begins the week of August 5 and will go on for 2 weeks, running from 8:00 AM to as late as 9 PM some nights, seven days a week.  During this time you can expect to see quite a lot of viva buses running up and down the rapidway, stopping at stations.  They will be clearly marked as YRT Training Vehicles to avoid confusion.  The training will focus on entering and exiting the rapidways, especially entering back into mixed traffic at the east end, and exiting the rapidway at the west end and crossing to the curb to service the Bayview Towers station.

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 operators will be trained to be cautious and on the lookout to make sure members of the driving public are obeying the signals correctly.

As part of their training, operators will spend time at the Chalmers station learning about the station’s layout and features, including the parking pad which will be used by support and maintenance staff for future station and rapidway maintenance and snow clearing.  Operators will also get training on the new fare equipment that passengers will be using once service starts.

Trainees will be taken out in groups of six or less, with one trainer to every three trainees.  They’re all experienced viva operators, so they know the route and the vehicle.   They’re really excited to get going, knowing that in just a few more weeks the rapidway will be open for service.  We hope you follow along with us through this blog series to get all the details as we count down the days!


turning on the Lights

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

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 our project is being used to transform Highway 7 East from a highway to an urban corridor, all the vivaNext 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 by street lighting. 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, is used to achieve a combination of practical and design objectives.  Lighting is first and foremost a public safety consideration. There are strict national and local standards against which 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 will 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 feeling of the corridors as being 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 all the rapidway segments.  The poles will be a little higher than the ones they’ve replaced (9.9 m high versus 8.0 m), and they’re made of metal with a dark grey powder-coat finish for long-wearing good looks (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.

Under its good looks, the street lights 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!