Posts Tagged ‘Richmond Hill’

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!”

 

this is just the beginning

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

this is just the beginning

Over the next three years, the vivaNext system is really going to transform the look and feel of York Region’s Centres and Corridors, with new rapidways opening for service. And these new transit options are only the beginning of an expanding vivaNext network that’s being built for York Region commuters.

Here’s the rundown on what’s planned, and how your transit choices are going to be widened over the next few years as vivaNext continues to expand.

Rapidway projects are being built in the order that will create the most connectivity for the greatest number of people and get you past the worst traffic congestion. Check out the map to see how the phases are rolling out, and follow our colour-coding of projects:

The segments on Highway 7 East that are coloured green or orange are either in service or about to be. Construction is well underway along the yellow and purple segments on Davis Drive in Newmarket, and Highway 7 West in Vaughan. Davis Drive is scheduled to be in service by the end of 2015, and only a year later, Vaughan will have its first rapidway to meet up with the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension.

The design-build contract has been awarded for the pink segments on Yonge Street and designs are being finalized as crews begin preliminary work. In Newmarket, work requiring Yonge Street lane closures has been postponed until next year.

But that’s not all – look at the blue segments on the map. These segments are also all designed and funding is committed, with planning well underway for construction to start in 2015. The projects marked in blue include two rapidway segments on Highway 7 West, which will extend on either side of the VMC rapidway. When it’s complete in 2018 this whole section will run over 15 km from Pine Valley to Yonge Street. Another blue segment will extend the Highway 7 East rapidway in Markham from the existing Warden Station on Enterprise Boulevard, to Unionville GO Station.

Other projects that will eventually create a full network across the Region and connecting to other transit systems are grey on the map. Since we don’t have funding secured for all of them yet, we can’t confirm the actual timing.

Of these unfunded segments, two are the top priority. The first priority is the Yonge North Subway Extension, which will provide a critical link for passengers transferring between the vivaNext system and the TTC. Without this connection, vivaNext is missing a critical link that will really make our system a key part of the larger Greater Toronto transit network.

Another future route proposed is a rapidway along Major Mackenzie Drive, which would provide a major transit artery for all the growth taking place in that area. The Major Mackenzie rapidway would provide passengers with connections to the TYSSE, GO lines in both the east and west, and the Viva Highway 7 rapidway in both the east and west.

Imagine how this wonderful rapid transit network would make your life easier? We are working hard to bring it to life, so that everyone in York Region will have the choice to leave their car at home and hop on board Viva for a fast, reliable and comfortable ride, no matter where they want to go.

colour coding the rapidway

Friday, September 5th, 2014

colour coding the rapidway

As we’ve posted previously, Bus Rapid Transit [BRT] is an increasingly popular rapid transit technology around the world. One of the ways to make BRT truly rapid, as we’re doing here in York Region, is to provide vehicles with separate lanes so they can move easily through congested areas. And one way to make those lanes distinct without having an actual grade separation is to make them a different colour. This is why the vivaNext rapidways are bright red.

Colouring asphalt anything other than basic black isn’t as easy as you might think. Here’s what we’ve done to get our rapidways red.

Painting asphalt isn’t an option [if only it was this easy]. Although it’s something we all take for granted, creating a long-lasting, durable asphalt mix for the conditions along a busy roadway like Highway 7 is actually a highly specialized science. The surface on roadways that carry a lot of heavy traffic, especially traffic that is constantly turning and braking or accelerating at intersections, needs to be exceptionally strong to prevent cracking, rutting and shifting. Canadian climate conditions, including extreme temperature changes, hot sun, frost, and salting over the winter, all impose significant challenges. Creating an asphalt mix to take these conditions without requiring frequent maintenance is something that specialized pavement designers work hard to achieve, with the technology constantly evolving.

So adding in the requirement to make it a distinct colour definitely adds to the complexity.

Using red pavers or bricks would not provide a sufficiently durable driving surface long term, and would be extremely costly to install and maintain.  One approach that is used when the colour is needed in very limited areas, such as crosswalks or bike lanes, is a material called “street print.” But this material, which is actually a special top layer that’s heated right into the asphalt once it has been imprinted with a brick or paver pattern, would be too complicated to use along the full length of the rapidways [although we are using it for our crosswalks], and again would not be durable enough.

So the best approach is to tint the black asphalt, which we’re accomplishing in a couple of ways. Asphalt is composed of a mixture of sand, stones and asphalt cement binding it together. By adding reddish stones rather than grey ones, we can give an underlying red tint to the asphalt, especially as it wears.

The more complex adjustment is to add a special red pigment. The challenge with the pigment is to be careful in how much we add:  too little and the colour doesn’t come through, but too much and the overall durability of the asphalt could be compromised. The pavement design team has worked long and hard through a highly technical process to get the balance just right.

We’re delighted with their final results, which gives us what we need: a clearly defined rapidway that stands out from the regular traffic lanes, with a long-lasting and durable surface, at an affordable price. Drivers need to remember as they make turns from side streets along Highway 7 to follow the white skip lines and not turn onto those red rapidways!  Although beautiful, they are red for safety too!

 

welcoming all cyclists

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

welcoming all cyclists

We’ve been focusing recently on all the features of the new rapidways as we wind up construction on Highway 7 to Town Centre Boulevard – a project that will make transit truly rapid along Highway 7 East. Many of the design features were developed to ensure that all users of the Highway 7 East corridor feel welcome and secure as they enjoy the new rapidways.  Cyclists make up a large percentage of commuters so ensuring their safety, as well as the safety of other motorists and pedestrians, is important in creating convenient and cohesive roads. Biking is a healthy, environmentally friendly way to get around, and the vivaNext corridors are helping to facilitate this. Viva vehicles now have bike racks on the front for easy loading as you travel around York Region.

The new bike lanes will extend 5 kilometres, from Chalmers to South Town Centre Boulevard with lanes on both the north and south sides of Highway 7. Unlike in many urban settings, York Region cyclists will have these lanes to themselves. Our new bike lanes are “dedicated,” meaning they’re not shared at any point with other vehicles.

We’re following the established safety standards, making the bike lanes 1.4 metres wide, with an additional half metre for a buffer zone between the bike and traffic lanes. Also, to give maximum visibility for the bike lanes they’ll be painted a high-contrast green in areas around intersections, with special bike lane markings to clearly identify them mid-block.

With the high volume of traffic, bike lanes will provide a much more comfortable and secure environment for cyclists riding along Highway 7. Eventually cyclists will want to turn right or left from Highway 7. Waiting in the left turn lane with vehicles to cross multiple lanes of traffic and the rapidway wouldn’t be safe on a bike, so we’re adding another feature to make the experience better for cyclists. They’re called bike boxes, and they’ll make the corridor more welcoming to cyclists.

Here’s how they work. Cyclists turning left from Highway 7 will proceed through the signalized east/west intersection in the bike lane into the far side  then stop in a protected area, reserved for cyclists, tucked into the boulevard on the far side of the intersection. This area, known as a “bike box,” will offer cyclists a waiting zone while they wait for the light to change. Once the light changes, they will then cross Highway 7 along with other north/south traffic. For a demonstration, see York Region’s video about bike boxes.

The bike boxes will be clearly marked with green paint like the bike lanes and other markings, so drivers and pedestrians will know they are for cyclists only. Permanent bike boxes will be put in place this fall and replace the painted ones on the street, so by next spring cyclist will have a great new pathway to follow, with the latest of features

We’re excited to be providing these new features for York Region cyclists, and know that they’re going to help make this corridor much more welcoming to all travellers, no matter how they choose to get around.

 

making your trip more comfortable across the YRT\Viva system

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

making your trip more comfortable across the YRT\Viva system

Many transit riders across York Region are YRT riders as well as Viva riders, and even though we’re building rapidways for Viva, YRT comfort is just as important.

YRT is currently carrying out upgrades to all their curbside stops across the YRT system to add new amenities and freshen up existing ones. If you’ve been to the YRT stop at 16th Avenue and Warden you’ll already have seen the prototype that’s going to be installed everywhere.

Each YRT stop will get a modern new shelter, which will provide superior protection from the elements. And for more comfort, each station will have new benches and garbage containers. More and more people are choosing to commute by bike but if biking part-way and then jumping on YRT\Viva suits you better, YRT is installing bike racks at each stop so you can leave your bike with confidence until your return.

YRT is going to be working their way through the entire system across the Region to upgrade all the YRT stops, with the Highway 7 rapidway sections being the first to change over to the new curb-side YRT amenities this summer. With the rapidways on the way and YRT shelters being refreshed, York Region will have a refurbished look and feel that highlights its commitment to serving residents.

These upgrades will bring a new level of comfort to YRT riders, and show the commitment YRT\Viva has to providing all its riders with a great customer experience, no matter what route they’re taking. We encourage you to come visit the area!

Remember, where rapidways are in service, you now board Viva from the centre median, but continue to get on YRT at the curb-side shelters.

 

 

using colour and shape to create welcoming pedestrian spaces

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

using colour and shape to create welcoming pedestrian spaces

If you’ve walked along the new rapidway on Highway 7, you’ll have seen the vivaNext pavers we’ve installed on the boulevards. We know from the feedback we’ve received that people love the new look.

Most sidewalks in York Region, like pretty much everywhere else, are made of concrete, and the most important consideration is functionality: they need to be safe, accessible, durable and easy to maintain. But beyond those goals, we also want our new boulevards – which are wider than the Region’s regular sidewalks – to reinforce the “complete street” concept – the guiding philosophy for our vivaNext streetscape design. With all the development coming to the Region’s centres and corridors, in the future there will be more pedestrians, whether they live, work, or commute along our rapidway routes. So we’ve made sure that our boulevard design is going to be visually appealing as well as functional.

The boulevard is made up of the pedestrian zone and the furnishing zone. The pedestrian zone is typically a 2m-wide sidewalk which is fully paved with light-toned coloured pavers near intersections, and paved with concrete in the mid-block areas. The sidewalk is a continuous system even across driveways to alert motorists that pedestrians have priority.

The furnishing zone is located next to the pedestrian zone. The furnishing zone is an area where pedestrian amenities and planters are located. It is paved in light coloured unit pavers which reinforce the identity of the vivaNext system.

We’re using a combination of coloured pavers which not only look great but also add to wayfinding for pedestrians. The main field pavers are a light-coloured cool gray with contrasting coloured accent bands, which will increase in frequency as pedestrians approach the main intersections. The east-west accent bands are a red; the north-south accent bands are a dark charcoal gray.

Immediately adjacent to the roadway and running along beside the pedestrian zone is a 610mm-wide “transition zone,” which provides an important comfort buffer from bicycle and vehicular traffic. In the winter months, it also provides an area for snow storage and protects the plantings nearby from salt spray. This zone will be paved in special “eco-pavers,” which allow water to seep through to the storm sewer system.

A charcoal gray coloured textured warning strip will alert visually impaired pedestrians that they are approaching an intersection or driveway. At midblock where the pedestrian zone is paved in concrete, the warning strip will be grooved concrete. Both approaches will provide a tactile clue for visually impaired pedestrians of potential conflicts.

We’ve given special attention to the boulevards near intersections to ensure they reinforce pedestrian priority and add to placemaking. These areas have been designed to function as urban plazas with unit paving and accent pavers. Soft landscaping will define the corners of the intersections and function as gateways to the adjacent areas.

 

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!