Posts Tagged ‘rapid transit’

looking back at a busy year in vaughan

Friday, January 24th, 2014

The transformation along the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre [VMC] corridor has begun. And 2013 was a busy year with vivaNext rapidway construction underway along Highway 7 West. Crews worked to remove signs, test soil and begin utility relocation to prepare for construction. Check out this video to see all the hard work that took place.

Although colder temperatures are here to stay, it doesn’t mean our work is done for the season. Throughout the winter, hydro, gas and telecommunications installations and relocations will continue, and we’ll also be busy with CN Bridge work on Highway 7.

Preliminary construction activity will also continue this winter in the second phase of vivaNext rapidway construction along Highway 7 West. This phase includes approximately 12 kilometres of rapidways on Highway 7 West from Helen Street to Edgeley Boulevard, and from east of Bowes Road to Yonge Street, including parts of Bathurst Street and Centre Street. During the winter months, you can expect to see contractors and surveyors walking along the corridor, reviewing designs, taking photos and gathering data.

The Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension [TYSSE] project also celebrated a major milestone at the end of last year. In November, tunnel boring machines [TBMs] “Yorkie” and “Torkie” finished their tunneling journey north to VMC station. Together, these TBMs tunnelled over 6.4 km of twin tunnels for this project. Way to go! Take an inside look at TBM tunnelling for the project, including new footage of the inside operation of the TBMs and four separate TBM breakthroughs for the tunnelling in York Region.

When complete, this subway line will include six stops, 8.6 kilometres of track. Residents and visitors alike will enjoy the mixed-use, transit-oriented development offered in the VMC area, including convenient passenger pick-up and drop-off, a York Region Transit bus terminal, and connection to the viva rapidway running in dedicated lanes east and west along Highway 7. It will be a great place to work, shop or relax, and getting there will be easy whether you walk or ride transit.

Stay in touch with us over the winter! Coping with construction is a lot easier when you know what to expect, where, and for how long.  For an in-depth look at different elements of vivaNext projects, plans, designs and ongoing activities, visit vivanext.com and subscribe to receive construction notices for work happening in your area.

 

time is money: why gridlock hurts us all

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

harsh winters can be a challenge

Thursday, January 9th, 2014

It takes a special kind of person to work in construction. Not only do they have to keep up with the physical demands of the job, they also have to deal with the elements including our hot humid summers and very cold winters.

Canadian winters can be very ruthless with high wind chills, heavy snowfalls, freezing rain and extremely cold temperatures. We’ve already witnessed all of the above this winter and Jack Frost has shown no signs of letting up as 2013 went out like a lion and 2014 came in much the same. If you ventured outside during the recent deep freeze, you know just how unbearably cold it can get.

Despite the inconvenience of the freezing temperatures, our vivaNext projects continue to move along. Our contractors brave the elements all year long in order to keep construction progressing to achieve the end result, a faster more convenient rapid transit system that will serve the public for generations to come.

For those of us already counting down the days until spring [70 to be exact], remember that in a few short months, the leaves will be unfurling and the tulips will be poking up through the ground. Nothing lasts forever, not even winters in Canada, although some days it feels like spring is an eternity away.

We look forward to warmer weather and sunny skies not only so we can get out and enjoy our short lived Canadian summers but also so the vivaNext construction projects can continue full speed ahead in ideal weather conditions.

 

agglomeration – the value transit brings to a city

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

It’s pretty much accepted wisdom these days that transit is something we need more of as a key requirement to healthy cities. We need it to reduce gridlock, get cars off the road, and save on polluting emissions.  But according to an article I read recently in The Atlantic magazine, as important as those benefits are, there is also solid evidence that transit is great for a city’s economy and productivity beyond transportation-related considerations.

The Atlantic article cites a recently published study done by Daniel Chatman – a scholar who specializes in planning at the University of California.  His paper focuses on “agglomeration” and how transit achieves this important planning objective.  Agglomeration is a fancy term for what happens when people are brought together in any significant number, for example in a city.  And according to the article and the research it quotes, agglomeration benefits can be worth a lot of money – enough money to encourage us to think very seriously about why we should be expanding transit, especially rapid transit.

So what are “agglomeration” benefits?  Think of what happens when a new community is built out on vacant lots, similar to the development that is increasingly taking place along the corridors in York Region.  Where there used to be undeveloped property, there are now increasing numbers of new high-rise condominiums and businesses.  Those buildings all have resulted in more people living in one area, which in turn will lead to new businesses and business opportunities.  Those new businesses, whether they’re corner stores or restaurants or bigger operations like grocery stores, home improvement centres and offices, all provide new employment opportunities.  Having more employment clustered in one area means more people are coming together every day, sharing ideas and expertise, developing new ideas and innovations, and creating yet more business opportunities.  Soon, larger businesses will move in to take advantage of the numbers of potential workers wanting to live in the area. Before you know it, those vacant lands have become thriving hubs of people living, spending money, and investing in future growth.  That’s how agglomeration benefits a community.

So what’s the link between transit and agglomeration?  It’s actually a very direct one.  Plenty of research – including the findings of the paper described in The Atlantic, shows that new transit leads to agglomeration.  Simply put, if a transit line is built, especially rapid transit, agglomeration – more population, more employment, and growth in other economic measures – will quite naturally follow along the line and at key nodes.  The paper then goes on to demonstrate how transit-led agglomeration benefits the local economy as well as individuals and households, including leading to higher per capita income levels.

This paper provides a fascinating analysis of the benefits that will come from all the development, including both residential and employment, and we can see this taking place along York Region’s corridors.  What is so exciting is the knowledge that vivaNext benefits York Region in ways that go well beyond providing great rapid transit.

 

managing the vivaNext plan

Thursday, January 2nd, 2014

When I first joined the vivaNext team, it was pretty small since we were still at the early stages of our rapid transit program.  Now, with an overall team of nearly 78 at York Region Rapid Transit Corporation (YRRTC); and many more staff and experts allocated to the projects through the construction contractors, all these people are working on the vivaNext plan which is going flat out, with planning, procurement, design and construction activities underway concurrently.  Here’s the rundown on what we’re doing now, and a preview on some of our other projects you’ll hear more about soon.

The most visible parts of vivaNext – our rapidway construction projects on Highway 7 East and Davis Drive in Newmarket – are definitely a major focus for our team, but they’re only part of what we’ve got going on these days. Moving a major infrastructure project like a rapidway segment forward from the early design stages to the introduction of service requires years of careful planning and oversight, starting with preliminary design and environmental assessments years before construction can start.   The same general work plan is currently being followed for the remainder of the Highway 7 rapidway (opening next year) and along Davis Drive in Newmarket.  Project management for our active construction projects involves a large part of our team, including engineering, property, finance and communications staff.

In addition, we’re in the early stages of pre-construction for the rapidway on either side of the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre (VMC) on Highway 7, with final design work being completed for the VMC station itself, overtop of the TYSSE concourse for the subway.

At an earlier stage, but already demanding dedicated project teams, is the Yonge Street rapidways in Richmond Hill and Newmarket, and the rapidways that will be built along this major commuter line.

And because a rapid transit network needs more than new lanes, stations and streetscaping, we’ve also got a number of dedicated facilities to plan and build, which will provide the future vivaNext system with more capacity for passengers, bus maintenance, and commuter parking.  All of those components are currently under active development, requiring the involvement of project teams with property, design, engineering and financial expertise.  Our currently funded projects add up to a total program value of $3.2 billion, which will see us build 37 km of bus rapidways with 38 stations, an 8.6 km subway extension with six stations, an operations facilities, two bus terminals and multiple park ‘n ride facilities over the next five years in York Region.

Last but definitely not least, lots of activity is underway to secure funding for future segments starting with the extension to the Yonge Subway, which is the missing link needed to fully connect the vivaNext system to the broader GTHA transit network.

Everyone at YRRTC works on multiple projects, which allows us to share our knowledge across the program, identify what’s worked well in the past, and ensure that we build on success.   Collectively we’ve already amassed a lot of expertise, making design and construction refinements to future projects that reflect what we’ve learned so far.

We all work hard, but the enthusiasm we pick up from the community is so motivating, it’s hard to imagine doing anything more satisfying.  We know that with just a few kilometers of rapidway open along the Highway 7 East rapidway, transit travel times have already been reduced and traffic flows improved.  So we’re all looking forward to the major improvements that we’ll all get to enjoy, when the whole system is open in a few years from now.

Stay tuned for regular updates throughout 2014, it promises to be a significant year for transit.

 

as the cold wind blows…

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

Seems like just yesterday vivaNext was ramping up construction activities at the first sign of warmer temperatures and while the warmer weather was here this year, a lot of progress was made along the vivaNext corridors. We captured our developments and put together a short video to share the progress of the transformation for each corridor.

Building on our successes, we will keep the progress moving even as we wind down for the return of Old Man Winter. Although the weather specialists forecast a cold winter season, our vivaNext construction projects will continue as the snow flies and the cold wind blows.  Here’s a snapshot of what we’re going to be working on this winter along the vivaNext corridors and how we’ll manage to keep construction moving along even when the temperatures plunge.

In Newmarket, crews will continue storm sewer installation, utility relocations and underground ductbank [gathers together and encases telecommunication wires] installation along Davis Drive. The south side of western creek culvert near Niagara Street will be also be widened over the next several months.

In Markham, utility relocations will continue on South Town Centre Boulevard, Cedarland Drive and Warden Avenue. Some construction work will also continue on Highway 7 East in the centre median.

Along the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre [VMC] corridor, hydro, gas and telecommunications installations and relocations will continue. Work will also begin on the CN Bridge. Preliminary construction activity also continues in Vaughan along Highway 7 West from Helen Street to Edgeley Boulevard and from east of Bowes Road to Yonge Street, including parts of Bathurst Street and Centre Street.

On Yonge Street, surveying, geotechnical testing and utility locates will take place in Richmond Hill and Newmarket. In early 2014, the design-build contract of the Yonge Street rapidway will be awarded. Once the contract is awarded, rapidway construction will begin.

While construction continues outside, inside our contractors are preparing for a busy spring. They are finalizing designs, plans and schedules for next year so when the warm weather returns construction crews can hit the ground running.

To see the progress we’re making over the winter, follow us on Twitter and Facebook. You can also sign up for email notices at vivanext.com to keep you updated on the construction underway in your area.

ol’ man winter is here… are you ready?

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

Yes, it’s that time of year again, winter arrives officially this weekend.  The weather reports are full of white stuff, and the frosty temperatures are here.  Now is the time to ensure you are extra vigilant and aware of your surroundings at intersections, crosswalks and in construction areas as you travel the roads in York Region.

Snow and ice wreak havoc on the traveling public, but disasters are largely preventable.  If poor weather is forecast, plan ahead and leave plenty of time to get to your destination.  Better yet, postpone unnecessary trips until the weather has improved. As always we encourage you to try transit in bad weather days, but if you are driving, keep your vehicle tuned up and be especially aware of your tire condition.  Snow tires are the best bet in the winter months, but regardless of tire type, be sure to check pressures and tread wear regularly.

The bottom line is that winter is a Canadian fact and we can’t change the weather.  All we can do is prepare for it and understand the inherent hazards.

Here are some safety tips to help navigate construction zones in the winter safely:

  • Obey the speed limit – You should be careful to obey the speed limit in construction zones, as many will be lower than normal.
  • Keep on the lookout for construction workers – One of the main reasons that construction zones can be so dangerous is that there are often people working on the side of the road. You will want to be very careful when you drive and try to be aware of any workers.
  • Watch for lane changes – Often in construction zones, the lanes move differently than normal. Especially at night, in bad weather, or when it is difficult to see, pay attention to where your lane goes.
  • Be especially careful if there is no shoulder – A lot of times, construction forces the closure of the shoulder.

Remember to always be aware of road conditions and those who are working in these zones. As you pass through the vivaNext projects, we know that our construction disrupts the life of pedestrians, transit riders and drivers, and we do everything we can to keep that to a minimum.

We hope that as you pass by our construction areas you’ll keep safety in mind!  Travel safe!

getting ready for winter

Monday, December 9th, 2013

If you have a property with a garden, you’ll be familiar with the list of things you do every year to get things tidy and safe before it freezes up out there. We face the same kind of to-do list along our construction zones on Highway 7 and Davis Drive, although the key difference is we’ll still be actively working throughout the winter (I’ll tell you more about what we’ve got planned for the winter months in an upcoming post).

But in terms of getting things all tidied up, here’s what you’ll see us doing over the next couple of weeks to get ready for the snow and ice.

Our top priority, as always, is making the construction zones as safe as possible for pedestrians and drivers.  For that reason much of our pre-winter activity involves ensuring that sidewalks and boulevards are free of hazards, and hazards that cannot be removed are carefully fenced off.  In some cases we’re finishing the grading and construction of some boulevards, and in others installing temporary walkways and ramps where work isn’t scheduled to be finished until next year.

Snow fences are being installed behind sidewalks in areas where work is continuing, to help mark the safe route for pedestrians.  And because of ongoing roadwork and other activities, some sidewalks will remain closed.  We’ll make sure there’s a clear route for pedestrians through work zones, although it may require crossing from one side of the street to the other. Look for directional signage to know where it’s safe to walk, and how to access bus stops – for your own safety it’s critical that pedestrians stay out of work zones.

During construction, road and sidewalk maintenance is the responsibility of the construction contractor within the project areas.  But during the winter, the Region and local municipalities are responsible for ensuring the roads and sidewalks are kept clear. For that reason, another top priority before winter is to ensure every aspect of the construction zones is compatible with the requirements for winter maintenance operations.

This means making sure the snow-clearing equipment can manoeuver through the construction zones, boulevards and platforms.  Our design work and construction staging plans have always had those requirements top of mind, but we walk through the sites with Regional and municipal staff again before winter to identify any little details that might impede their operations.

And to keep traffic moving throughout the winter, we’ll be taking steps to make travel lanes as straight as possible through the construction zones, and ensure markings are clear.

Just like at your home, we like to get everything tidied up and in order before winter, so we’re going to keep working steadily at it until we’re forced to stop by severe winter weather.  Once that happens, we have a long list of other activities we will continue with, so stay tuned.

 

you’re invited to our Yonge Street open houses!

Monday, November 18th, 2013

The next generation of rapid transit is coming to Yonge Street in Richmond Hill and Newmarket! In both communities, Yonge Street will be widened to accommodate dedicated rapidway lanes in the centre of the road, providing fast, reliable, convenient transit, while enhancing the area as an attractive destination for residents, businesses and visitors alike.

In Richmond Hill, the rapidway will extend 6.5 km and include 7 new vivastations from Highway 7 to 19th Avenue/Gamble Road. In Newmarket, dedicated bus rapid transit lanes will run along 2.4 km and include 3 new vivastations from just south of Mulock Drive to Davis Drive.

This project is moving full steam ahead with work beginning in 2014, and we want you to talk about it with us at our open houses this week! This is your chance to look at information boards and maps, and talk to vivaNext staff about what you can expect during the construction season ahead. You will also learn how a rapidway works and discuss the benefits it will bring to the community.

The same information will be available at both open houses. We hope to see you there, but if you can’t make it, you can subscribe online to receive construction updates and view all of the materials on our website after the meeting.

You’re invited!
Richmond Hill
When: Tuesday, November 19, 4-8 p.m.
Where: Richmond Hill Presbyterian Church
10066 Yonge Street, Richmond Hill

Newmarket
When: Wednesday, November 20, 4-8 p.m.
Where: Ray Twinney Recreation Complex
100 Eagle Street West, Newmarket

Learn more about the Yonge street rapidways ahead of the open houses by reading our Yonge Street project newsletter, and as always, feel free to contact us with any questions you might have at contactus@vivanext.com.

 

choosing the right form of transit

Thursday, November 14th, 2013

In September the Province set up an expert panel to look at how Metrolinx should be expanding transit in the GTHA, and to propose realistic options to pay for it.  The panel has just released their second discussion paper, and it’s well worth a read for anyone interested in getting beyond the rhetoric and really understanding the facts and issues.

Certainly the issue of what transit technology should be funded, and where it should run, is a subject that’s dominated the headlines for months and is of interest to everyone.  It’s understandable that so many have views on this subject, and it’s also reasonable to expect that the people doing the planning should listen to those views.

But in the final analysis, choosing a mode of transit – the main rapid transit options are subway, LRT, BRT and commuter train – shouldn’t be treated like a popularity contest. There’s just too much money involved.  Each mode of transit has its uses, benefits and drawbacks.  Those qualities are well known to transit planners, and need to be thoroughly and objectively analyzed in the context of local circumstances including passenger volumes, current and anticipated densities, employment projections, and present and future land use patterns.

Planners ideally will look at a range of transit modes to meet the needs of users across a region or area, with the primary consideration being a seamless system that enables passengers to make easy, fast connections.  That doesn’t necessarily mean the trip will be non-stop, or use the same technology the entire way.

This is a concept we all already live with, so we shouldn’t expect transit to be any different. Pretend you are taking a trip to a small island in the Caribbean.  You’d probably drive to the airport, then you’d get on a big jet, then most likely transfer to a smaller plane for the last leg, or maybe even a boat if you were going somewhere out of the way. You’d never expect the big jet to swing by your house to pick you up at your door, then whisk you non-stop to the tiny island.  Getting around the GTHA, depending on where you’re travelling from and to, follows the same logic.  Some riders may need to take surface transit, then transfer to one form of rapid transit – and then possibly to another mode to complete their trip.  The key point is to create a system that gets you there as fast as possible.

In a world where there’s only so much new money available for transit, careful decisions are needed to ensure final choices get the greatest number of people into transit, reducing gridlock on the road system.  The most costly option – subways – should be reserved for where it will do the most good, i.e. get the greatest number of cars off the roads.  Given that the need for new transit massively outstrips the money available, every single transit dollar needs to be spent wisely.

Professional analysis of facts has always been the basis for our vivaNext decisions. That’s why we’re installing BRT – the lowest cost form of rapid transit – along Highway 7, with the option to change to LRT when future volumes justify it.  On the other hand, the ridership and future employment projections do justify the cost of extending the subways north to the VMC, and along Yonge Street from Finch to Highway 7, so our plan includes subways too.

We’re proud of the system we’ve planned and are building for York Region, and are looking forward to the day when it will be connected to a system that covers the entire GTHA.  Now that’s something we think everyone will support.