Posts Tagged ‘rapid transit’

connecting the dots

Friday, May 1st, 2015

connecting the dots

If you’ve seen the video we posted yesterday, you’ve seen how excited some people can get over great transit. Ok, so it’s a little over the top. It has been exciting though, to see our vision, planning and designs turn into rapidway reality on Highway 7 East in Markham.

Next, rapidways will open on Davis Drive in Newmarket and Highway 7 West in Vaughan, and a rapidway along Yonge Street will help connect the dots [see our project map]. Each project is at a different stage, and together they’ll provide more travel choices and help support our growing population.

If you haven’t been to our website lately, check out the new photo album showing the progress of the Highway 7 East project from beginning to end. And be sure to sign up for updates about our construction projects. They’re great sources of construction information, and you’ll also receive important project announcements, newsletters and open house invitations.

 

seeing the transformation unfold on highway 7 west

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014

click here to see the video of 2014 Vaughan rapidway construction

we’ve been busy this year

Construction is well underway for the first phase of vivaNext rapidways in the City of Vaughan, and the transformation can be seen along Highway 7 West. Check out our latest video for an up-close look at the milestones we’ve accomplished this year. Although construction will continue throughout the winter months from Edgeley Boulevard to Bowes Road, here’s an update on the progress made in 2014:

  • Traffic has been shifted east of Jane Street to its final configuration, so that work in the centre of the road [including platforms and canopies] can begin in 2015.
  • As part of the 8-metre expansion of the Canadian National Railway [CN] MacMillan Bridge, we poured over 800 tonnes of concrete to create new columns and bridge pier caps.
  • Underground infrastructure revitalization continues – utility, telecommunications and storm sewer relocation is approximately 80% completed.
  • Road widening is completed and base-layer paving is 90% finished between Jane Street and the CN Bridge. Paving activities will continue in 2015.
  • In order to preserve the existing Black Creek and Hillside Culverts, retaining walls were built. In total, five retaining walls have been completed along the corridor with a few more set to get started in 2015.
  • Important traffic and pedestrian changes can be seen at several intersections. Motorists are benefiting from new turning movements and pedestrians now have two-stage crossings.

We know construction can be messy and disruptive at times, and we thank you for your patience and understanding as we continue the transformation. For up-to-date information on construction progress and activities, visit http://www.vivanext.com/hwy7progress.

 

building great cities

Thursday, November 27th, 2014

Building Great Cities

York Region’s Centres and Corridors strategy is how our Region is making sure there will be room for our growing population to live, work and play, while also protecting our sensitive lands and green zones. As our Region grows, new homes, workplaces, retail and recreational facilities are being established all along the corridors, and clustered in higher density centres in Vaughan, Richmond Hill, Markham and Newmarket.  And to make it easier for people to get where they want to go, without always needing to get in their car, rapid transit corridors featuring Viva’s comfortable Bus Rapid Transit service will link those centres.

Centres and Corridors has been a key component of Regional Council’s strategic priorities, and the amount of development actively underway in all the centres shows that great progress is already being made. But what are the steps required behind the scenes, to create the kinds of communities that are taking shape in the centres?

The first step, and one that was approved long ago, is that Regional Council provided strategic direction confirming the Centres and Corridors plan as the foundation for the Region’s Official Plan.  The Provincial Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe reinforces the principles of increased intensification and city-building, and specifically identifies the four centres as “urban growth centres.”

Included in the Provincial Growth Plan are targets for the number of people and jobs to be supported per hectare. The Region’s Official Plan includes these targets, and also establishes policies to encourage transit, pedestrian-friendly street designs, and mixed-use development.

Building on the Region’s policies, each municipality then has to review their own official plan to make sure it conforms and supports the Region’s plan. Municipalities then develop secondary plans, which set out specific land use rules and targets for defined areas including the centres.  Secondary plans shape future development, providing guidance on minimum densities, building heights, streetscaping and other strategies to encourage welcoming, pedestrian-friendly development.

Once the general rules for land use have been developed, municipalities and the Region then actively work to attract new employers and development investments.  Economic Development experts work with their Planning Department colleagues and with potential investors, to create new or expanded work opportunities.  A key driver for many of the new employment opportunities that have already been announced in York Region is the proximity to rapid transit, and the availability of a strong, educated workforce.

And the last component of our multi-pronged approach is to ensure that new housing options are available all along the corridors and in the centres.  We know that people want to live relatively near to where they work, with a short commute being highly valued.  The new housing developments that are springing up near our vivaNext routes are already providing very attractive options for people wanting an urban home, with great access to transit and work.

City-building isn’t a short-term process, but with all these components working together, bit by bit our centres and corridors are being transformed into exciting, urban places, while protecting and respecting existing developments and our natural environment.  For everyone, that means more options, more choices, and linking it all together, more Viva.

 

yonge street rapidway – a key connection

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

video: Yonge St rapidway is on the way

Check out the newest vivaNext video featuring the Yonge Street rapidway project! This rapidway is a key part of York Region’s transit network, and will connect with the Richmond Hill Centre/Langstaff Urban Gateway at Highway 7 – a key Regional Centre with a variety of transit services and transportation options.

Now that the contract has been awarded to RapidLINK, our next step will be to work closely with the contractor to finalize the design of the rapidway on Yonge Street and develop a construction schedule. Over the summer and through the fall and winter months, crews continue working along the Yonge Street corridor to prepare for construction.

During this pre-construction phase, these teams will more accurately document existing conditions above and below the ground. This work is mainly conducted during off-peak driving hours and sometimes requires lane closures.

Building a roadway is a process that follows clearly defined steps and uses modern technology, equipment and materials. Although we have access to some of the best, most experienced construction contractors, building the rapidway down the middle of some of the Region’s busiest roads is a complicated undertaking. That said, we have an experienced team of dedicated staff and constructors who are on board and up for the challenge.

During construction, we realize that it’s important to minimize the impact on businesses and people using the road by keeping travel lanes open whenever possible and safe to do so. For more information on the project and construction information, visit vivanext.com/yonge-street-richmond-hill.

 

take a tour of the new rapidway on highway 7

Monday, September 15th, 2014

video: Highway 7 East rapidway - Now Open - 2014

This morning, The Honourable Steven Del Duca, Ontario Minister of Transportation, announced the opening of the section of rapidway from Highway 404 to South Town Centre on Highway 7 East. He was joined by: The Honourable Michael Chan, MPP, Markham; Bill Fisch, Chairman and CEO, The Regional Municipality of York; Bruce McCuaig, President and CEO of Metrolinx; Frank Scarpitti, Mayor of the City of Markham.

Travelling along Highway 7, it’s hard to miss the beautiful and functional vivastations in the centre median. These stations are making a huge contribution to the transformation of our community in Richmond Hill and Markham, so let us take you on the same guided tour as our dignitaries took this morning for an inside look at the benefits and attributes of these stations.

The first thing you’ll notice as you cross to a station is how big and airy the canopy is at 28m [92’] long and 5m [16’] high. The curved glass above the platform provides both weather protection and a sense of space at the same time and satisfies long-term needs as platforms accommodate two Viva vehicles at once and in future will be able to accommodate Light Rail Transit [LRT]. The platform is approached by a gently sloped ramp with handrails on both sides, making it fully accessible to all, whether they’re walking, pushing a stroller, or in a wheelchair or scooter. Passing by the familiar Viva fin and planter boxes with greenery, you’ll next come to an illuminated wall map of the YRT\Viva system.

Next on the tour is a bank of fare equipment, including a Ticket Vending Machine [TVM], a Ticket Validator [TV], and two PRESTO machines. Once you’ve paid your fare, you’ll move to the Fare Paid Zone [FPZ], which is clearly shown by being paved with a different coloured tile on the ground, as well as by a curved sign above. This area needs to show as distinct, because YRT fare rules require passengers to have paid their fare before moving into the FPZ.

Once you’ve paid your fare, you’re free to make yourself comfortable on the platform until the next bus arrives. We’re making it easy for you to know how long you’ve got to wait, with a large Variable Message Sign [VMS] projected from the canopy. The VMS scrolls through the upcoming Viva arrivals, telling you exactly when the next bus will arrive. Because the VMS system is connected to the GPS technology in our Viva vehicles as well as to the central transit scheduling software, it’s constantly updated to provide accurate and real-time information.

If you decide to sit on a bench or get comfy out of the elements, the shelters have been designed with passenger comfort as a priority. The heated glass enclosure is well lit, and accessed by two push-button automatic doors. The heaters – which will be appreciated later this year – automatically turn on if someone enters the enclosure, and if the temperature in the enclosure feels lower than 10 degrees Celsius. Recycling and garbage disposal units on the platforms make it easy to keep these lovely stations clean.

The entire platform will be well lit, with lighting inside the canopy as well as on the platform.  And to enhance your feelings of comfort and security, the back of the platform is protected from Highway 7 traffic by a barrier wall topped with a guardrail, and there are multiple security features including cameras and an emergency call button.

Last but not least, to help you stay oriented, wayfinding signage will show you where the buses will stop, and other features including the way to the crosswalk.

It’s hard to do the stations, and the rapidway justice with written descriptions, so here’s a video showing you some of the action involved in completing this section of the rapidway. One of the regular passengers tweeted that “it has cut my travel time in half, way to go!”

 

getting to where you want to go

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

The continuation of dedicated rapidway along Highway 7 East – from Bayview to Town Centre Boulevard – has resulted in some important changes to the way drivers get to their destinations, and how the traffic signals work.  Some of these changes have already become familiar to drivers on the west leg of the rapidway and during the construction phase of the east end, but it’s worth going over them again -

    1.Watch for your signal. 

    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.

    2. Left turns only during the left turn arrow.

    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.

    3. U-turns are allowed during the left turn arrow.

    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.

    4. Transit green arrows are for buses only.

    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.

    5. Be careful making right turns, watch for signs.

    There some changes to right turns on Highway 7 from side-streets.  At some intersections, right turns are no longer allowed; drivers need to watch carefully for signage on the traffic lights.  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.   Stay tuned for the new section opening this August!

safety first!

Monday, August 18th, 2014

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

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 indicating when you can cross safely.  Also, because this is new for everyone, it is important that pedestrians watch for traffic before stepping out to cross the road – there could be cars making left-hand and u-turns.  Whenever there are changes, it is important to be aware of all the users to the roadway to ensure your safety at all times.

The new Viva 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 (ECB) 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, which we talked about in a previous blog.

These new features are probably things that most people will never need to think 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!

we can hear you, loud and clear

Friday, August 15th, 2014

Most PA systems are pretty frustrating in the garbled sound quality they provide. But at vivaNext the engineers have worked hard to design the optimal public address system for your new vivastations.    There’s nothing worse than knowing something important is being said, but not being able to understand it or hear it properly.

To make sure the new PA system is always audible, we started with an acoustic analysis study using special “Enhanced Acoustic Simulator for Engineers” (EASE) software. This study analyzed the two elements most critical to sound: Sound Pressure Level (SPL) and Speech Transmission Index (STI). The SPL, measured in decibels (dB), is concerned with sound magnitude and takes into account ambient noise levels – it is the relative “loudness” of a sound.  STI predicts how the equipment being used and the surrounding environment will affect the quality of the sound, and therefore how intelligible it is for you as you hear it.

First, the acoustic engineers needed to determine what effects our curved canopies and the beams and angles inside the station would have on the way sound is going to move around.  Secondly, the reflection of sound by the concrete wall, floor and glass was modeled. This analysis helped predict how clear the final sound will be on the platform and in the enclosure, and also helped determine the number and placement of speakers that will be most effective in achieving clear sounds.

Following this sophisticated modeling the engineers determined that the optimal number of speakers to achieve these goals would be 12 speakers located outside of the passenger enclosure, and another 3 speakers inside.

The next challenge was to work on the volume of the speakers.  The problem with PA systems in noisy places is that the ambient noise can overwhelm the volume of the PA system, making it impossible to hear what’s being said.  Our solution is to use a speaker volume system that automatically adjusts when its sensors detect that the ambient noise has increased or decreased.

There are two sensors on each new Viva platform to measure noise level. This way, announcements should be audible whether there’s a bus idling in the station and trucks are moving past, or it’s nighttime and quiet. Volume control and environmental sensitivity helps determine the right sound levels without disturbing those who don’t need to hear the message.

The PA system will be used for recorded and live announcements from transit operations, such as emergency information or service changes.  It will not announce bus arrivals at this time, although it does have that capability should we want to turn on that function.

Although we’ve tested the system many times, we continue to monitor the sound levels, so let us know if you can truly hear us, loud and clear.

 

ITS – balancing the needs of all travellers

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

Gridlock is an increasing problem everywhere across the GTHA and most other large cities.  But what can be done about it?  VivaNext is one part of the solution.  With the new vivaNext system comes improved ITS – which isn’t what you think…

Some people may think ITS is connected to “Information Technology”, but in the vivaNext world ITS stands for “Intelligent Transportation Systems”. ITS is an international transportation-engineering discipline that is 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 component of the vivaNext program, although with low-visibility.

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

As high-tech as each of these components are, none can be effective unless it can communicate with the others.  Each one also needs to be connected to the overall transit system which keeps track of the schedule for each bus, and which determines when the traffic signal phasing requires a temporary adjustment to let a delayed bus get back on schedule by holding a light.

The connection is provided through a fibre optics communications network that links all of the intersection and every vivastation to YRT’s transit operations and York Region’s traffic operations.

This system is fully automated, with approaching vehicles alerting intersections that they are arriving, and each intersection sharing that information with the central traffic control system, which in turn compares that information with the transit schedule.  The system is continuously adjusted and fine-tuned to ensure the buses stay on schedule, while keeping the roads and intersections working well for everyone.

To enhance passenger safety, each station is equipped with cameras to monitor the platforms, a public address system to provide announcements and an emergency call box for personal safety.  All of these systems operate reliably and seamlessly over the new fibre optic communications system.

The future Highway 7 will be significantly more urbanized, with more people living and working along the corridor.  That means there will be more transit riders, pedestrians and cyclists whose travel requirements 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 help balance everyone’s needs, to get everyone there as fast as possible!  It truly is a balancing act!

 

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

Monday, August 4th, 2014

video - Highway 7 East: summer update 2014

With crews working on the finishing touches on the eastern half of the Highway 7 rapidway, we’re getting closer to the completion of this rapid transit corridor. As much as we’re looking forward to celebrating this milestone, it’s only one [very exciting] step in a long path that started years ago.

There’s a lot of media coverage these days, of transit needs all across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area [GTHA], and we’re proud that York Region is actively working to bring rapid transit to our region. In 2002, the Region produced the York Region Transportation Master Plan and the follow-up Rapid Transit Plan, committing the Region to a blueprint of multiple transportation initiatives to be built over the next 30 years.

With approval to the Rapid Transit Plan, we got to work and in 2005 the Viva team launched “QuickStart,” the first phase of Viva service. Viva offered enhanced features that made transit more comfortable and convenient, and put the customer first. With ridership levels increasing steadily, Viva changed the way people in York Region thought of transit and there was appreciation for the higher level of services with enhanced features and frequencies.

But while our new Viva service was a major success and an important first step in encouraging people to try transit, designing the vivaNext rapid transit system was the Region’s long-term vision. Ontario municipalities are mandated to plan sustainable, more intensive land-use as part of the provincial government policy, and rapid transit is a key component in achieving that goal. Anticipating this, the Transportation Master Plan directed that future growth in York Region would be concentrated in new downtowns in Markham, Newmarket, Richmond Hill and Vaughan. By building more intensively in these areas, there would be less pressure for growth in existing neighbourhoods.

These urban centres would be connected by transportation “corridors,” making it easier for people to get around the region and providing transportation options, such as regular transit service. The vivaNext rapidways are being built along the corridors, providing these connections across York Region and into the rest of the GTHA.

Much of the new development being built around vivastations is compact and mixed-use, providing housing, employment, retail, dining, services and recreation, all within walking distance of transit. Developments include more welcoming public spaces, attractive landscaping, and other amenities that contribute to the centres becoming more dynamic destinations.

The plan is well and truly underway, and rapidways are being built on Highway 7 in both the east and west, as well as in Newmarket. The Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension is under construction, and the designs for rapidways on Yonge Street are being finalized. Great new developments are popping up all over the new urban centres across the Region.

So when the next segment of rapidway on Highway 7 East starts service this summer, we can all celebrate the implementation of the first phase of our transportation and growth management blueprint, not to mention the end of construction! Check out the new video highlighting the Highway 7 East segment.