Posts Tagged ‘mixed-use development’

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.

introducing the Bayview Towers

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

The Bayview Towers opened on September 1 for service, just in time for back to school. If you’re in the area near Highway 7 between Bayview and Chalmers/South Park you’ll have noticed two attractive buildings, sporting vivaNext symbols, built right next to the Bayview Bridge.   Here’s a description of the Bayview Towers, and how they’re going to make life more convenient and comfortable for York Region transit users.

The two handsome glass and concrete buildings, one on each of the north and south sides of Highway 7, are there to provide convenient access for people on Bayview Avenue wanting to connect to the viva system, and vice versa.  These buildings replace the stairs that used to be the only way people could make that connection.

Providing elevator access was always seen to be the ideal solution to ensure everyone would be able to move easily from Bayview down to Highway 7, but because elevators need to be located in spaces with constant temperatures and protected from the elements, we needed to create actual buildings around them.

That’s why we have built the Bayview Towers.  The buildings are not bus stations – there are curb-side vivastations on both the north and south sides of Highway 7.  The buildings are both fully accessible, and each has an elevator that will whisk people up to the level of the Bayview Bridge, as well as an interior stairwell.

Inside, the Towers are airy and well-lit, with glass walls making the interiors clearly visible to Highway 7.  With full security coverage including cameras that can monitor the entire building and emergency call buttons on all levels that connect directly to YRT dispatch, people will feel safe using the towers at all times.

At the top level, people will access the Towers via pedestrian bridges that enter onto the sidewalks on the Bayview.  Changes to YRT and Viva routes will go into effect now that the Towers are open, so check out the schedules before you head out.

All in all, we’re proud of these great new additions to our rapidway system, which are going to improve connectivity for everyone using Viva and YRT.

 

welcoming all cyclists

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

We’ve been focusing recently on all the features of the new rapidways, which together are going to make transit truly rapid along Highway 7.   But it’s important to remember that many of the design features were developed to ensure that all users of the Highway 7 corridor feel welcome and secure.  This includes transit users, pedestrians, cyclists and drivers – the “complete street” design concept which you can read more about here.  One of the features that have been installed on the rapidways are new dedicated bike lanes and bike boxes, which are painted green.

To provide safety and convenience the new bike lanes will extend 5 kilometres, from Chalmers to South Town Centre Boulevard with lanes on both the north and south sides of Highway 7.  Unlike in many urban settings, York Region cyclists will have these lanes to themselves –our new bike lanes are dedicated, meaning they’re not shared at any point with vehicles.

We’re following the established safety standards, making the lanes 1.4 metres wide, with an additional half metre for a buffer zone between the bike and traffic lanes. Also to give maximum visibility for the bike lanes, they’ll be painted a high-contrast green in the areas around intersections, with special bike-lane markings to clearly identify them in the mid-block.

With the high volume of traffic, the bike lanes will provide a much more comfortable and secure environment for cyclists riding along Highway 7.  But eventually most cyclists will want to turn off of Highway 7, with some needing to make left turns.  Waiting in the left turn lane with vehicles to cross multiple lanes of traffic and the rapidways wouldn’t be safe on a bike, so we’re adding another feature to make the experience better for cyclists.  They’re called bike boxes, and they will make the corridor more welcoming to cyclists.

Here’s how they work.  Cyclists wanting to turn left off Highway 7 will proceed through the signalized east/west intersection in the bike lane into the far side  then stop in a protected area, reserved for cyclists, tucked into the boulevard on the far side of the intersection.  This area, known as a bike box, will offer cyclists a waiting zone while they wait for the light to change.  Once the light changes, they will then cross Highway 7 along with other north/south traffic.

The bike boxes will be clearly marked with green paint like the bike lanes and other markings, so drivers and pedestrians will know they are for cyclists only.  Permanent bike boxes will be put in place this fall and replace the painted ones on the street, so by next spring cyclist will have a great new pathway to follow, with the latest of features.

We’re excited to be providing these new features for York Region cyclists, and know that they’re going to help make this corridor much more welcoming to all travellers, no matter how they choose to get around.

 

using colour and shape to create welcoming pedestrian spaces

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

If you’ve walked along the new rapidway on Highway 7, you’ll have seen the vivaNext pavers we’ve installed on the boulevards.  We know from the feedback we’ve gotten that people love the new look.

Most sidewalks in York Region, like pretty much everywhere else, are made of concrete, and the most important consideration is functionality: they need to be safe, accessible, durable and easy to maintain.  But beyond those goals, we also want our new boulevards – which are wider than the Region’s regular sidewalks – to reinforce the complete street concept, the guiding philosophy for our vivaNext streetscape design.  With all the development coming to the Region’s centres and corridors, in the future there will be more pedestrians, whether they live, work, or commute along our rapidway routes.  So we’ve made sure that our boulevard design is going to be visually appealing as well as functional.

The boulevard is made up of the pedestrian zone and the furnishing zone. The pedestrian zone is typically a 2.0m wide sidewalk which is fully paved with light-toned coloured pavers near intersections, and paved with concrete in the mid-block areas. The sidewalk is a continuous system even across driveways to alert motorists that pedestrians have priority.

The furnishing zone is located next to the pedestrian zone. The furnishing zone is an area where pedestrian amenities, furniture and planters are located. It is paved in light coloured unit pavers which reinforce the identity of the vivaNext system.

We’re using a combination of coloured pavers which not only look great but also add to wayfinding for pedestrians.  The main field pavers are light-coloured cool gray with contrasting coloured accent bands which will increase in frequency as pedestrians approach the main intersections. The east-west accent bands are a red; the north-south accent bands are a dark charcoal gray.

Immediately adjacent to the roadway and running along beside the pedestrian zone is a 610mm wide “transition zone”, which will provide an important comfort buffer against bicycle and vehicular traffic. In the winter months, it also provides an area for snow storage and protects the adjacent plantings from salt spray. This zone will be paved in special “eco-pavers”, which allow water to seep through to the storm sewer system.

A charcoal gray coloured textured warning strip will alert visually impaired pedestrians that they are approaching an intersection or driveway. At midblock where the pedestrian zone in paved in concrete, the warning strip will be grooved concrete. Both approaches will provide a tactile clue for visually impaired pedestrians of potential conflicts.

We’ve given special attention to the boulevards near intersections to ensure they reinforce pedestrian priority and add to placemaking. These areas have been designed to function as urban plazas with unit paving and accent pavers. Soft landscaping will define the corners of the intersections and function as gateways to the adjacent areas.

By making the boulevards along the rapidways welcoming and attractive, we’re contributing to the development of York Region’s new urban centres, and adding more walkable places for us all to use.

 

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.