Posts Tagged ‘Ontario’

We’re on our way!!

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

metrolinx-announcement_2010_05_20

Yesterday, we got positive news.  But first: rewind back to March 2010, when the Province announced in their budget that, due to their major financial pressures, they would need to rejig their transit spending schedule, to focus on getting the most urgent projects built first.  So we sat down with Metrolinx to work through our plans.  We needed to figure out the best schedule that would still benefit the region-wide transit system, but with some pieces coming sooner and others coming later.  It took a lot of hard work, and yesterday, Metrolinx announced the proposed new schedule.

Metrolinx’ board gave its unanimous endorsement to the proposed plan, which means the vivaNext projects can continue to move forward, one in each of Markham, Newmarket, Richmond Hill and Vaughan. This first phase of building will see York Region getting $790 million for rapid transit expansion over the next five years.

The plan also has a second series of rapidways, which will expand the rapid transit foundation established through the first set of routes. This second phase will get $965 million for projects to be constructed between 2016 and 2020.

The bottom line is that between these two phases, the entire vivaNext plan as originally announced in April 2009 will be built. We’ve always believed that the vivaNext plan is one of the keys to getting the GTA moving, and now, after working closely with our partners at Metrolinx, we believe that the revised plan will still help us address the building gridlock that’s such a risk for us all. That’s good news for York Region, and for everyone who lives or works here.

So with this revised schedule now approved, we can really get underway towards building the vivaNext vision of true rapid transit for York Region. We’ve got our design teams, our engineers and our construction crews all revved up to finalize their planning and, as the Metrolinx proposal is confirmed by the province next month, we can keep on going. So keep visiting us at vivaNext.com for updates and news as we, with real excitement, get on our way!

Sand castles and city building

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

sandcastles-and-city-buildng_2010_04_29lRemember when you were a kid in a sandbox, and you could have endless fun with sticks and pebbles, building imaginary cities and towns, with houses, stores, roads and schools. You would make sure your city had everything people would want (including great rapid transit to zip people from the drawbridge to the castle), everything would be perfectly organized, and nothing would be too far away.

Believe it or not, there’s a grown-up version of that same activity, with the not-so-catchy title of Land Use Planning. Although you may never have heard this term, land use planning affects every aspect of life in your community today, and how you will be living your life in the future. And one of the most direct ways land use planning affects you, is through your municipality’s official plan.

Every municipality in Ontario must – by law – have an official plan, which has to correspond to plans already established by more senior levels of government. For example, York Region’s Official Plan has to fit within the overall Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, and York Region’s municipalities’ plans need to fit within the overall Regional plan.

Official plans are updated every few years, based on much discussion and public consultation. Just like the sand-box version, official plans identify which parts of town will be where people will work, which ones will be for housing, and which might accommodate both. Working with provincial rules, such as those set out in the Greenbelt Act and Places to Grow, official plans identify which parts of town will grow and which ones will be protected from growth. They identify the main roads, how much traffic those roads can carry before gridlock brings them to a stop, and where transit services will be needed to move people around.

(Hint – York Region’s current Official Plan, which I want to talk about more in my next blog, calls for a heavy expansion of rapid transit across the Region to help us cope with growth – which is why implementing our vivaNext plan is such a high priority for York Region).

Official plans also reflect the values and priorities shared by the community, such as a concern for the environment, or the need for a range of housing choices. An official plan reflects and shapes its community, and provides a road-map for how the community is going to grow – and respond to growth – into the future.

Of course, planning a real-life community is a huge responsibility that can affect the day-to-day lives of thousands or even millions of people. So getting it right is important, and takes a long time and a great deal of care; after all, unlike the sand version, redoing an official plan takes more than a sweep of a shovel. Hearing from the public is a critical part of developing an official plan – York Region’s current plan has a whopping 1,500 page appendix of submissions from the public!

So next time, let’s look at York Region’s December 2009 Official Plan, which highlights the importance of increased rapid transit for the York Region of the future. In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you: if you could go back to the sandbox, what would be in your perfect sand-city?

Links –
Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing Citizens’ Guides to Land-use Planning

Ontario Professional Planners Institute

Making room for everyone

Monday, April 19th, 2010

making-room_2010_04_19

There might have been a time when, as it grew, a community could just continue to expand its boundaries farther out into the surrounding countryside, adding new neighbourhoods as more people moved in. But in our increasingly crowded part of the province, we’re long past the time when municipalities can just spread out endlessly – our boundaries are pretty much fixed. So finding room for new people has to happen within our existing space.

With provincial legislation setting out formal growth targets for all Ontario communities, York Region has had to do some careful planning to map out where all those new people are going to live. And we’re not talking small increases – our planners have projected that by 2031, York Region will need to find room for an additional 577,000 residents and 234,000 households. And those new people need places to work, so planners also need to factor in room for an additional 180 million square feet of employment floor space, to accommodate the 318,000 new jobs that will be needed.

York Region is pretty big, so maybe those people can all spread out? No, it’s not that easy. In the first place, although some people prefer to live in more rural settings, the majority of people in York Region want to live close to amenities – near schools, near stores, near entertainment – near all the great things that make city life interesting and convenient. And those things tend to be clustered at the heart of our existing larger communities, like Markham, Newmarket, Richmond Hill and Vaughan.

Secondly, although York Region is quite large geographically, a lot of our lands are actually very fragile environments, and are protected against significant development. In fact, nearly 70% of our total land is protected under either the Green Belt Act, or the Oak Ridges Moraine Act.

To make this a win-win for everyone, the Region has adopted a planning strategy that directs almost half of the expected new growth to existing built-up areas, with the other half going to new development areas. This approach will result in more opportunities for people to live, work and play in the neighbourhoods that they already know and love, while reducing some of the growth pressure on the surrounding countryside.

The Region’s Centres and Corridors – which include the cores of Markham, Newmarket, Richmond Hill and Vaughan – will play an important role in this growth strategy. Most of the growth that will occur within the Region’s existing urban area will take place in the Centres and Corridors. With this concentration of growth, people will find it easier to get around using existing and planned rapid transit services, and to enjoy the exciting mix of living, employment, shopping and entertainment options that are already there, and that will continue to evolve.

Those of us working on vivaNext are excited about this plan, because it will put transit at the centre of the action as York Region grows into the future. I’d love to hear what you think of this vision, and what it will mean for how you live your life in York Region?

Places to Grow: setting the stage for growth

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

For those of us living in York Region and in the Greater Toronto Area, growth is one of those things that we cannot escape. In fact, the entire Province of Ontario is set to expand its population by nearly 30% over the next 30 years. Obviously, no one community is an island; growth in one area affects all of us.

To make sure all this growth has a positive impact on our communities, in 2005 the provincial government passed the Places to Grow Act. This Act set out specific growth targets and densities for the province. It also produced individual growth plans for key regions, including the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe Region. This plan is the basic rule book that is guiding planning for all the regions and municipalities in the region, including York Region and all its towns and cities. It calls for municipalities to look for ways to:

  • Revitalize downtowns to become vibrant and convenient centres;
  • Create complete communities that offer more options for living, working, learning, shopping and playing;
  • Provide housing options to meet the needs of people at any age;
  • Curb sprawl and protect farmland and green spaces; and
  • Reduce traffic gridlock by improving access to a greater range of transportation options.

This plan was welcomed as great news by people who understand the need for sustainable, smart management of growth. In fact, although the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe may sound like a bit of a mouthful, it has many admirers. It has won numerous awards – including from the Ontario Professional Planners Institute, the Canadian Institute of Planners, and the American Planning Association (APA) as the first recipient from outside the United States of the APA’s Daniel Burnham Award. Watch a video that showcases why they received the award. This is the most prestigious planning award in the United States, given to a comprehensive plan that, among other things, best represents the APA’s slogan of “Making Great Communities Happen”.

So we’re pretty fortunate in York Region to have this strong policy framework, and we’ve continued to build on it to shape the York Region of the future. It’s a long-term plan, and as they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day. But bit by bit, this future vision is taking shape, and vivaNext is a key component.

Growth: making the most of our community

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

Growth

We all know that York Region is growing. In some parts of the Region, this growth is happening so quickly that some people might worry their neighbourhoods could change in ways they won’t like. Truth is, growth throughout the Greater Toronto Area is going to continue and bring about change – it’s inevitable.

That’s why York Region has been so enthusiastic about bringing the vivaNext rapid transit expansion. But what does rapid transit have to do with managing growth, and why should you care? Let’s talk about this.

With growth, many more people will come to York Region, all wanting homes, jobs, and pleasant places to shop and relax. That means more new business and residential development, and more people needing to move around. Saying no to growth isn’t an option, but there are choices in what new development gets built, and where it happens. This is where growth can be good – or result in change that isn’t so good.

In the past, there was lots of room for new development, and it could spread out. Because it was spread out, people often drove everywhere – to go shopping, to get to work, to do the things that mattered. That was fine when our roads weren’t so crowded, and you could get around easily.

Over the years, two things have happened that changed the way we plan for new developments. One thing is an understanding that available land is limited. Limits have been placed on developments in the fragile greenbelt around the GTA that also surrounds York Region, protecting those lands for future generations. The second thing is that getting around the spread-out developments of the past is taking much longer, now that there are so many more cars on the road.

Part of the answer lies in careful planning for new growth. York Region’s Official Plan sets out clear rules for where new growth will go, and what will be allowed. Our existing neighbourhoods will stay much the way they are, but new developments will be more compact and pedestrian-friendly – especially along the main corridors. The other part of the answer lies in making sure that all new development can be easily reached by rapid transit, so people won’t need to rely on cars to get where they want to go.

With this plan, you’ll get to enjoy all the things you love about living here, plus you’ll have even more places to go and things to do…all connected by a leading-edge rapid transit system that will make getting around easier than ever before.

That’s the plan, and vivaNext is a key part of it.  So – tell us – what are the things YOU want to keep the same – and what new things do you wish were here?

Have a ball learning what’s en route with vivaNext at this weekend’s Winterfests!

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

winterfest

You don’t have to be into winter sports to get out and have fun with family and friends in the middle of winter. This coming weekend, February 6 and 7, Winterfests are taking place throughout York Region featuring all kinds of fun-filled activities including pancake breakfasts, dog sled rides, horse drawn wagon rides, snow bowling, live entertainers, and of course, amusing games like our vivaNext ball toss.

We don’t want to reveal too much, but you could receive an exciting prize after you have a ball learning what’s en route with vivaNext – from the rapidways and subway extensions to great shopping and comfort zones.

For your chance to play and learn more about vivaNext, simply look for our vivaNext team and booth outdoors on Saturday at the Newmarket Winterfest and outdoors at the Vaughan Winterfest on Sunday. We look forward to seeing you there!

Winterfests Schedule


Newmarket Winterfest 2010
Saturday, February 6

Indoor at the Newmarket Community Centre
200 Doug Duncan Drive, Newmarket
8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Outdoor at Fairy Lake Park
Water Street, Newmarket
10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Sunday, February 7

Indoor at Ray Twinney Complex
100 Eagle Street West, Newmarket
Noon to 4 p.m.

Vaughan Winterfest 2010
Sunday, February 7

Vellore Village Community Centre
1 Villa Royale Avenue, Woodbridge
10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Independent report identifies Richmond Hill as one of Canada’s greatest cities!

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010
Richmond Hill Main Street

Richmond Hill Main Street

As Richmond Hill’s 162,704 residents already know, they live in a great city. This was recently confirmed in an independent 120-page report, entitled City Magnets, released by the Conference Board of Canada.

The report, which analyzed what attracts skilled workers and mobile populations to Canadian cities, ranked 41 different societal indicators including health, economy, environment, education, innovation and housing.

Richmond Hill was statistically identified as a great place to live, work and play because of its solid economic performance, diverse and well-educated workforce, low crime rates and attractive quality of life.

When completed, vivaNextYork Region’s plan for the next generation of rapid transit – will make Richmond Hill an even better place to live. In addition to making it faster and easier to travel to, from and within the Region, vivaNext will inspire urban transformation as new residents come to live, work, shop and play in close proximity to great transit service.

In total, only six Canadian cities received a grade ‘A’ in the report. Along with Richmond Hill, they include Ottawa, Waterloo, Calgary, St. John’s and Vancouver.

Richmond Hill, congratulations!

VivaNext staffers support relief efforts for Haiti.

Monday, January 18th, 2010
Aid workers provide medical attention in Haiti. Photo courtesy of IFRC/Eric Quintero.

Aid workers provide medical attention in Haiti. Photo courtesy of IFRC/Eric Quintero.

Here at vivaNext, we often talk about how our rapid transit projects will help to ensure that York Region residents continue to enjoy the quality of life that attracted them here in the first place. As we watch the devastating news about the recent earthquake in Haiti, we are reminded of just how fortunate we are to call York Region home.

Like so many other Canadians, those of us who work in the vivaNext offices have set a donation goal to help charities aiding relief efforts in Haiti. We were especially encouraged to learn that the federal government of Canada has pledged to match all Canadians’ donations up to $50 million. Although the past year has been a financially challenging one for many, we encourage all York Region residents to do whatever they can to help as well, if in a position to do so.

Did you know that Canada’s current Governor General, Michaelle Jean, is originally from Haiti?

If you are a Canadian with family in Haiti, the following contact information may be helpful to you:

Foreign Affairs Emergency Operations Centre
Ottawa, ON
1-800-387-3124 or 613-943-1055
sos@international.gc.ca

Key international publication identifies GTA’s transportation challenges

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is one of the world’s largest and most reliable sources of comparable statistical, economic and social data. In a publication launched in November 2009 entitled “OECD Territorial Reviews: Toronto, Canada”, several of the GTA’s transportation challenges are collectively identified as a key policy issue. They include traffic congestion problems (70% of commuters use cars), poorly integrated regional transit services, and relatively underdeveloped public transport infrastructure.

To address this key policy issue, one of the publication’s key recommendations is to “tackle transportation challenges by creating incentives for reducing car use, access to additional revenue sources, [and] longer term funding commitments by federal government for investment”.

Here in York Region, we are doing our part to tackle these transportation challenges with such vivaNext initiatives as the rapidways, subways and proposed LRTs. In addition to making it faster and easier to get in and out of the GTA, they will make it up to 40% faster to travel along our Region’s busiest corridors. We believe that such incentives will significantly reduce car use, lead to economic revitalization, help the environment, and maintain the quality of life our residents have come to enjoy.

Reflecting back on a year of many milestones!

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

With a new year just around the corner, we wanted to celebrate by reflecting back on some significant milestones for vivaNext in 2009.

In early spring, the Province of Ontario committed $1.4 billion for the construction of dedicated rapidways along Davis Drive, Highway 7 and Yonge Street for Viva vehicles.

The following month, the Ministry of the Environment unconditionally approved the Environmental Project Report for the proposed Yonge subway extension.

Around this time, our new website was also launched along with this blog and other social media initiatives to help keep you informed of all the latest vivaNext developments.

By the fall, preliminary rapidway construction activities were underway in Newmarket and Markham, and a contract for conceptual design work regarding the Yonge subway extension was awarded. In addition, preliminary station designs were also unveiled for several of the Spadina subway extension stations at a series of public open houses, and the project took an important step forward with a groundbreaking ceremony at the Wilson Subway Yard.

Then, just before the holiday season, a ceremony was held on the site of the planned rapidway alongside Enterprise Drive in Markham (which is part of the Highway 7 rapidway project) to commemorate the start of construction of the first 37 km of rapidways.

From every side of York Region, this past year has been filled with milestones for the vivaNext projects. We look forward to bringing you many more in 2010.

Happy New Year from vivaNext!

Reminder: All YRT\Viva rides are free on New Year’s Eve after 7 p.m.