Posts Tagged ‘Richmond Hill’

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.

 

hug a tree

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

Maybe it’s time to rethink the age-old saying “money doesn’t grow on trees.” According to a new report from TD Economics, Toronto’s dense, urban forests are providing more than $80-million of savings and environmental benefits every year. The report looks at Toronto’s urban forest of 10-million trees from an economic perspective, calculating the value each tree provides by saving energy, keeping rain and snow off the streets, and absorbing pollution. Even with maintenance costs factored in, the city’s trees are returning between $1.35 and $3.20 for every dollar spent.

Although the report focuses specifically on Toronto, the value in planting and maintaining trees can be attributed to any city in which you live. In fact, benefits can have more than just monetary value. Beautification, green space for recreation and importance to the residents are benefits that are difficult to calculate or define, yet still contribute to the landscape of a thriving community. The report also found that a mature tree canopy adds significantly to property values, adding yet another layer of economic benefit.

York Region already has plenty of recreational parks and green spaces that enhance the beauty of its towns and cities. The vivaNext projects will further enrich these communities by ensuring plant installation and growth well into the future. In Richmond Hill and Markham alone, approximately 292 trees and 4,910 perennials and grasses will be planted along the Highway 7 East corridor and boulevards.  Our challenge with new plantings is to get them to thrive in the first 2 years, but luckily all new plants and trees come with just that – a 2 year warranty! Further planting and new greenery will also be installed on BRT corridors in Vaughan, Newmarket, and Richmond Hill, once construction is complete. Details about the different types of trees and the selection process can be found in a previous posting.

Our hope is that the growth and maturity of the greenery reflects the prosperous growth of York Region over time. Especially during these warm summer months, get out and appreciate the beauty and colour that surrounds you. Hug a tree!

 

long, cold winter leading to plant woes

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

long, cold winter leading to plant woes

This past winter’s sub-zero temperatures, heavy snowfalls, driving winds and ice storm will go down as one of the longest and harshest on record. The effects of the ice storm are still being felt here in York Region, as we start to take stock of our plants, trees and shrubbery this spring.

In one of our earlier blogs, we talked about the trees, perennials and grasses that we’ll be installing in the planters in medians and boulevards along the Highway 7 rapidway between East Beaver Creek and South Town Centre Boulevard. Like you, we have noticed that some of the perennials and grasses have not come back this spring.

All the trees, perennials and shrubbery on Highway 7 are under a two year warranty and we are monitoring their growth to see if they need to be replaced or will come back throughout the spring and summer months.

We are hopeful that the chilly winter will result in better soil, leading to healthier gardens. Soil science shows that the cold weather creates pores in the soil, which naturally aerates plants. The colder it gets, the deeper frost penetrates. When the frost melts, it leaves pockets in the soil. Winter damage is always factored into gardening in Canada, as we assess our plants every spring and replace the ones that didn’t survive.

With all this in mind, vivaNext is committed to maintaining our new landscaping which will make Highway 7 much more attractive, pleasant and welcoming for everyone.

 

 

recognizing great transit

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

recognizing great transit

As I’ve discussed in a previous blog, huge infrastructure projects involve the cooperation and organization of many parts. Fast, reliable transit systems are not built overnight. Years of design and planning go into a project before construction even begins. You might feel like construction in the vivaNext corridors is never-ending, but remember that these are important transit investments that, in the long term, will drive positive change in our communities.

The plan to promote awareness in the City of Markham was initiated back in the fall of 2001 with the “Great Transportation Debate,” which drew attention to the need for a rapid transit system in York Region. Fast-forward 13 years later to today, where the first section of rapidway is open on Highway 7 and the rest of the ambitious vivaNext projects are well underway.

World renowned environmentalist David Suzuki mentioned our project in a recent article, calling it an “impressive BRT network with rapid transit corridors for a fleet of modern and comfortable fast buses.” He pins the success of the world’s leading cities like New York on government investments in transportation solutions, from light rail and subways to bus rapid transit networks, so it’s exciting to know that cities in York Region are heading in this direction.

VivaNext’s success has been recognized by others as well: earlier this year it was awarded Project of the Year by the Ontario Public Works Association, for a transportation project valued greater than $50 million. The honour is granted to an organization that promotes excellence in the management and administration of public works projects by recognizing the coordination between managing agency, the consultant, architect, engineer, and the contractor.

Also, the York Region Chapter of the Professional Engineers of Ontario chose vivaNext as Engineering Project of the Year. It’s gratifying to have our commitment to excellence and dedication to the vision for York Region recognized by top industry professionals.

With summer construction season well underway, we thank you for your patience as these “impressive” infrastructure projects get built.

 

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.

 

planning to get permission

Friday, May 9th, 2014

If you’ve ever done a major renovation on your home, you’ll know about all the permits and approvals that are needed before, during and after construction. So it will come as no surprise that in the world of infrastructure construction, obtaining the necessary approvals is a large and important piece of our work.

What makes obtaining the necessary permits and approvals for vivaNext a complicated task is the sheer number of elements that our project affects, involving a corresponding number of approving bodies and organizations. Every element that we touch or change plays an important role in our shared infrastructure, and is part of a larger, well planned system. So those checks are in place to ensure that construction changes will have no negative impact on the larger system of critical public infrastructure, which includes everything from storm sewers, hydro lines and gas mains to watercourses, railway crossings and highway exit ramps. It’s vital that none of those components and their proper functioning is affected by the implementation of the project.

So what are some of those permits and approvals? At a high level, our general design went through the comprehensive study and approval process of an Environmental Assessment long before detailed design even began. At a more practical level, there are all the obvious ones that are similar to what you’d need if you were building a new addition to your house. VivaNext stations and associated structures (like the elevator/stair towers on Highway 7 at Bayview Avenue) all need building permits from the local Municipality before construction starts. There are also ongoing approvals at intervals during construction such as structural, drainage and electrical inspections.

But there are more complex approvals and permits that are less obvious, yet are concerned with critical components, and getting signoff frequently requires a significant degree of planning and analysis. For example, the rapidways on Highway 7 are close to Highway 400, Highway 404 and 407 ETR, which are Provincial controlled access highways. Any roadway and intersection changes we may require within 400 metres of a controlled access highway need to be approved by the Ministry of Transportation. The rationale for this is to ensure that nothing in the design will result in drivers exiting the freeways being blocked by congestion, which in turn could interfere with traffic flow on the freeway itself.

For similar safety reasons, any roadway changes near railway crossings (both bridge crossings and level crossings) need to be approved by the railway companies. And the timing of traffic lights at intersections near level crossing also need to be carefully planned for and approved, so that traffic doesn’t get stopped on the railway during a red light.

Work near a watercourse or sensitive environmental feature requires various approvals in advance of any changes being made and to guide how work will be done. Environmental approvals and permits may require signoff from multiple bodies including the Ministry of Natural Resources, the local Conservation Authority – and depending on the significance of the watercourse, even the Federal Department of Fisheries or the Department of Transport. Working near cultural features, such as designated heritage buildings, cemeteries or potential archaeological sites, also requires considerable advance study and approval from the Ministry of Culture.

Getting permits and approvals is time-consuming but a necessary part of the project, and one that guides the work from the earliest stages of the project, until the final shovels of mulch are placed around new plantings along the boulevards. These processes ensure that every aspect of vivaNext is great for our community, both above and below the ground!

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!

rapid transit is coming to yonge street

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

The next generation of rapid transit is coming to Yonge Street. We’re excited to announce that York RapidLINK Constructors have been awarded the $260.5 million design build contract for the York Viva Bus Rapid Transit [vivaNext] rapidways along Yonge Street in the Towns of Richmond Hill and Newmarket.

The project involves widening Yonge Street within Richmond Hill and Newmarket to accommodate approximately nine kilometres of dedicated rapidway lanes for viva rapid transit vehicles in the centre of the road as well as 10 new vivastations.

In Richmond Hill, the Yonge Street rapidway will extend 6.5 kilometres from Highway 7 to 19th Avenue/Gamble Road, including seven new vivastations. In the heritage area north of Major Mackenzie Drive, viva will continue to drive in mixed traffic as it does today.

In Newmarket, the rapidway will extend 2.4 kilometres on Yonge Street from just south of Mulock Drive to Davis Drive, and will include three new vivastations. Construction is expected to begin later this year, and be completed by the end of 2018.

This is an important project that will benefit the local economy for generations and will support the significant development and growth of these communities by reducing congestion and providing commuters with a better way to get around.

To learn more about the Yonge Street project and sign up for project updates, visit vivanext.com.

 

earth hour 2014 – celebrating our commitment to the planet

Friday, March 28th, 2014

Nelson Mandela – “Let us stand together to make of our world a sustainable source for our future as humanity on this planet”

Earth Hour is an annual global event that is held on the last Saturday of each March to raise awareness of climate change, and to encourage each of us to make choices that will lessen our impact on the environment. This remarkable initiative first began in Sydney, Australia in 2007 with 2.2 million Sydneysiders [A native or inhabitant of Sydney, Australia] and 2,100 businesses taking part. To date it has grown to over 6950 cities and 152 countries worldwide.  In 2012 Vancouver was recognized as the first Global Earth Hour Capital. The City of Vancouver has set green targets of being a global leader on climate-smart urban development. Vancouver aims to have all newly constructed buildings be carbon neutral in their operations by 2020.

In reflecting on the true meaning of Earth Hour it raises the question – why wait until March 29 at 8:30pm to make a difference in saving energy or working to reduce climate change? Why not make small changes throughout the year? Small changes like carpooling or taking public transit will help reduce vehicle emissions and pollution. We are seeing these everyday changes right here in York Region with a 38% increase in ridership and over 22.7 million riders on YRT\Viva since 2005.  With the section of the rapidway that is open on Highway 7, you can hop aboard a Viva bus and cut your commute time by up to 40% during the rush hour commute.

Once vivaNext rapidway construction is completed, the sustainable transformation of this urban corridor will support growth, and reduce congestion to help make York Region an even more inviting place to live, work, shop and play. These benefits extend well beyond York Region. For example, the rapidways will also play an important role in a seamless transit system across the GTHA, helping to reduce traffic congestion, increase productivity and provide sustainable alternatives to car use, which help reduce our environmental impacts.

If we all tried, even for one day, to reduce our environmental footprint it would be a symbolic demonstration of our commitment to reducing climate change.  Don’t forget to power down this Earth Hour, our planet will thank you.