Posts Tagged ‘rapid transit’

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.

signs of progress

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

signs of progress

We’re really counting down the days to the next section of the vivaNext rapidway service opening on Highway 7 East from East Beaver Creek Road to South Town Centre Boulevard, and we know you are too! You’ll know we’re really in the final stretches of construction once you see Viva buses out on the new section of rapidway starting next week.

YRT\Viva will be doing driver training and testing on the Highway 7 East new section in the City of Markham, starting July 28 for a few weeks.

Training will be provided for everyone who will need to be familiar with the rapidways, the stations and equipment. There will be vehicles out on the rapidway, taking customer service staff and other YRT\Viva staff along the rapidways to test and familiarize themselves with the new section. Regular transit service will continue to pick-up passengers at the curbside stops, while we do the testing and finish paving the new section. Signs directing passengers will be posted at the stops.

The actual operator training will run from 7am to as late as 9pm some nights, seven days a week. During this time you can expect to see Viva buses running up and down the rapidway, and stopping at stations. The training will focus on entering and exiting the rapidway, and especially entering back into mixed traffic under Highway 404 and past South Town Centre Boulevard.

Training will also focus on the new transit signals at intersections, which will provide a single green arrow for transit operations. This signal will be clearly marked as being for transit only, but YRT\Viva operators will be trained to be cautious and on the lookout to make sure members of the driving public are obeying the signals correctly and not turning into the red rapidway lanes.

The trainees are all experienced Viva operators, so they know the route and the vehicle and have been enjoying the first phase of the rapidway that opened last year on Highway 7; this is just another segment of the system now running in its own dedicated lanes. They’re really excited to get going, knowing that there are just few more weeks of construction ahead of them.


signs, signs, everywhere a sign

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014

It seems anywhere and everywhere you go these days there’s a sign of some type that catches your eye. Whether it’s an advertising, traffic or directional sign, it’s meant to grab your attention. The purpose of all the signs out there is for people to watch and read them every day as they pass by, so that you know what is going on in their neighbourhoods.

With the large number of signs out there you may become desensitized, but the signs in construction zones are there for your safety. A busy season of road work is underway on several vivaNext projects, so we hope drivers and pedestrians pay close attention to construction markers and signs as they may change daily depending on the work.

For pedestrians, crossing between intersections is tempting. But during construction, it’s especially important to cross at crosswalks – lane closures can change frequently and although construction areas are well marked, drivers may not see a pedestrian crossing unexpectedly.  When large equipment and trucks are working in an area, it is especially confusing if workers are not expecting people in their work zones, so please make sure you are in a safe area, which will be well marked with a sign, of course.

We understand the frustration of being a driver stuck in traffic too, and we’re using large digital signs on the street, to let you know ahead of time about lane closures and detours, as well as providing current travel times.   We hope these signs help you plan your route accordingly and help you manage your travel times.  To receive regular updates about our construction projects, subscribe to our email notices. And for on-the-go traffic alerts about our construction, follow us on Twitter.

Whether you’re biking, walking or driving this summer, we hope you’re enjoying the weather, staying alert and following the signs that keep you safe.

BRT around the world

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

BRT around the world

The buzz surrounding Bus Rapid transit [BRT] systems that emerged in the early 2000s has not died down. Cities around the world are continuing to invest in rapid transit projects as an affordable and reliable way of connecting people to job opportunities and leisure activities. As of October 1st, 2013, the transit experts at EMBARQ have reported a total of over 300 bus corridors around the world, spreading to 163 cities across 38 countries.

I’ve discussed BRT systems around the world before, focusing on Curitiba, Brazil and South America’s leading role in rapid transit development. Now, cities in places from Indonesia to South Africa have bus corridors in operation that are positively impacting their growing urban landscapes. Check out some fast-facts on diverse cities who have embraced BRT and view images on our Pinterest board:

Johannesburg, South Africa [Rea Vaya]

  • Hit the road August 30, 2009
  • Rea Vaya means “we are going”
  • 48 stations and 10 median key stations are currently operational on 59 km of trunk routes
  • Commuters stand to save an estimated 73 million hours by shifting to BRT between 2007-2026. The travel time saved is equivalent to over 9 million 8-hour workdays [Embarq].

Brisbane, Australia [Brisbane Busways]

  • Hit the road September 13, 2000
  • A 25 km network of busways, including the South East, Northern and Eastern Busways

Jakarta, India [TransJakarta]

  • Hit the road January 25, 2004
  • First BRT system in Southern and Southeast Asia
  • 12 corridors in operation with over 200 stations along the closed trunk system
  • Carries more than 350,000 passengers daily

Mexico City, Mexico [Metrobús]

  • Hit the road June 19, 2005
  • Transports over 850,000 passengers daily
  • 2,000 days of lost work due to illness were prevented by reducing local air pollution and emission on the Metrobús Line 3 [Embarq]

Istanbul, Turkey [Metrobüs]

  • Hit the road September 17, 2007
  • Approximately 50 km in length and has 45 stations
  • Used by a number of Metrobüs lines
  • Carries around 800,000 people daily
  • In Istanbul, the average passenger on Metrobüs saved 28 workdays per year in reduced travel times [Embarq]


choosing plants for colour, form and structure

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

If you’ve ever tried to fit a load of plants from a garden centre trolley into the back of your car, you’ll know that 292 trees and 4,910 perennials and grasses is a lot of plant material.

That’s the number of individual plants that we’ll be installing in the planters in medians and boulevards along our Highway 7 rapidways between East Beaver Creek and South Town Centre Boulevard, from now until the end of June.

As we’ve described in earlier postings, the plant selections were made carefully, and reflect expertise from our Landscape Architects and York Region’s own Forestry Department.  Plants in the planters need to be hardy and strong to be able to withstand the tough conditions imposed by their surroundings.  Not only do they need to be generally low maintenance, but being so near traffic means they have to survive wind, drought and salt-spray in the winter.

Another key requirement is that trees under hydro lines need to be naturally compact so that they don’t conflict with the lines overhead and can grow to their full potential without needing to be pruned.

So the final list was carefully developed with all these requirements in mind, and includes a wide range of trees, shrubs, perennials and grasses.  Trees include Kentucky Coffee tree, Ivory Silk Tree Lilac, and Ohio Buckeye, all of which are well regarded as decorative, long-lived trees.

Tree plantings will also include Skyline Honey Locust and Accolade Elm, both of which are prized as street trees for their vigorous growth and adaptability to tough growing conditions (and in the case of the latter, resistance to Elm disease).  Rounding out the tree selections, the Autumn Blaze Maple and Bradford Pear will provide colour interest and welcome shade.

Along the medians and in the boulevard planters, there is a wide range of grasses, shrubs and perennials which will provide form and colour throughout the year.  Most are familiar to home gardeners, such as varieties of red twig dogwood, shrub roses and Euonymus.  Mugho Pines and various forms of juniper will offer structure to our planters in the winter.  And grasses, daylilies and coneflowers will provide flower interest in the summer.

With all these plants the boulevards and vivastation platforms will be more appealing to pedestrians and transit riders, who will appreciate the shade and colour up close.  But even from a distance, the addition of new landscaping will make Highway 7 much more attractive and pleasant for everyone passing through, and will add to the feeling that this increasingly urbanized corridor welcomes all users.


CN Bridge expansion: when transit intersects

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

Did you know that as part of vivaNext’s rapidway project on Highway 7 West in the City of Vaughan, construction is underway to expand the south side of the Canadian National Railway [CN] MacMillan Bridge? The bridge surface, located west of Keele Street will be widened approximately 8-metres to accommodate dedicated rapidway lanes, sidewalks and bicycle lanes.

Aside from being one of the most widely-used bridges along Highway 7, most drivers may not even realize that each time they cross the bridge, they are driving over the CN MacMillan Rail Yard, the largest rail yard in Canada.

Named after former CN president, Norman John MacMillan, the yard measures approximately 6.5-kilometres in length and 1.6-kilometres in width and was developed in the late 1950s as part of CN’s redesign of the Toronto trackage network. The yard operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and handles over 1 million railcars per year to service local businesses in the Vaughan area, as well as the broader North American economy!

As part of the bridge widening, construction activities include:

  • removing the existing walls and sidewalks on the south side
  • backfilling with 8,000 tonnes of earth
  • pouring 4,000 tonnes of concrete to build walls, columns, sidewalks and bridge decks
  • embedding 300 tonnes of reinforcing steel and;
  • completing the surface finish with new light standards and pedestrian hand rails.

Sounds like a lot right? So how do we do this without impacting CN’s business?

During construction, rail yard operations along the 10 sets of tracks will be maintained, and the contractor will work closely with CN to coordinate activities around train schedules. The majority of the construction activity will happen below and underneath the bridge. Motorists will notice large equipment and construction vehicles such as large cranes, transport trucks, drill rigs and concrete pump trucks onsite for certain operations, including sub-surface drilling, pouring concrete and the installation of large pre-cast concrete sections.  With the increase in construction vehicles, safety awareness is important if you are travelling through the area.

In order to maintain traffic flow along Highway 7 during the bridge expansion, the centre median was removed earlier this year and traffic was shifted to the north side of the bridge. To further minimize disruptions, an access road off of Highway 7 is also being constructed for equipment and deliveries. Due to the nature of this work, there will be noise and vibration around the work area. Being mindful of our neighbours, noise and vibration monitoring will be conducted to ensure levels are kept within industry standards.

The first phase of the Highway 7 West rapidway in the City of Vaughan will extend 3.6 kilometres from Interchange Way/Edgeley Boulevard to east of Bowes Road. The project features three new rapidway vivastations, wider sidewalks, landscaped boulevards and transit connections to the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension and the York Region Transit Bus Terminal. The CN Bridge expansion work in Vaughan is expected to be complete in 2016.

For more information about vivaNext projects, visit or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

vivaNext goes to school

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

Recent stories in our local media have described the exciting proposal put forward to York University and Seneca College to locate a satellite campus in York Region. Newmarket/Aurora, East Gwillimbury, Richmond Hill, Vaughan and Markham all had strong submissions that each would offer all manner of benefits to York Region.  On Friday, April 24 they short listed the possible sites to include: Richmond Hill, Vaughan, and Markham.

The fact that these proposals advanced is proof of the increasing urbanization of York Region, especially in its emerging centres in Newmarket, Markham, Richmond Hill and Vaughan.  This increasing urbanization is good news in so many ways, including for young people who would like the option to attend post-secondary school closer to home.

VivaNext is a key part of bringing that urbanization to life.  By extending rapid transit routes into these key areas, a potential new university or college campus would more easily be able to attract faculty and staff as well as new students.  Having rapid transit on its doorstep is just one of the many reasons why these campus bids are so strong.

The long-term vision for York Region is to give people more choices, whether it’s where they live, work, shop or dine out – or go to school.  We’re seeing that vision come to life, block by block, with new developments taking shape all along the rapid transit routes and in the new centres.  And each new development, whether it’s residential, employment or retail, attracts even more economic growth. The new centres are already becoming increasingly important destinations, just as York Region had planned.

VivaNext is proud to be a key part of these plans. We’ll look forward to hearing the news later this spring where the future home of a college or university campus will be located.  And then, it will be our great pleasure to get those students and their teachers to class on time!