Posts Tagged ‘Richmond Hill’

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.

 

spring is in the air

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

John Steinbeck – “What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.” Such words have never been truer than this past winter.  The Greater Toronto Area recorded the coldest winter in 20 years; there have been at least 10 days of temperature that dipped below -20 C, which hasn’t happened in seven years and this has been the longest winter on record in over 100 years! With the official arrival of spring, vivaNext is preparing to ramp up our construction and road work.

Last year, we had some great milestones with the opening of 3.9 kilometres of rapidway on Highway 7 from Bayview Avenue to Highway 404. The Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension [TYSSE] project celebrated a major milestone at the end of last year, with the tunnel boring machines [TBMs] “Yorkie” and “Torkie” finished their tunneling journey north to Vaughan Metropolitan Centre [VMC] station. Ongoing utility relocation on Highway 7 West, as well as CN Bridge work.  On Davis Drive, nearly all retaining walls have been constructed, the eastern creek culvert has been replaced and extended, and the majority of hydro poles have been relocated. Road widening and base-layer paving has started, while reconstruction of Keith Bridge and the extension of the western creek bridge on the north side continue.

Building on the progress and advancing the BRT project, we’ll continue to relocate utilities, construct retaining walls, widen roads and pave along the different corridors, not to mention finishing the new viva stations on Highway 7 in Markham.  With the longer days and bright sunshine, comes a lot more activity in the construction zones so please drive carefully and be alert to workers in the area. We know construction can be daunting and we thank you for your patience and understanding. Please drive with care and give yourself extra time to get to your destination safely.

To find out what is happening this spring, follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook. You can also sign up for email notices at vivanext.com to keep you updated on the construction underway in your area.

 

taking care near our urban watercourses

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

If you’ve been at the corner of Jane Street and Highway 7 in Vaughan recently, you’ll have seen the work underway to build a 10 metre long retaining wall near where the Black Creek flows through a large culvert under the roadway.

We’re building the retaining wall to support the newly widened roadway. Ensuring that our project does not negatively affect any of the watercourses adjacent to or crossing our rapidway segments is a top priority for vivaNext, and we have made commitments through the Environmental Assessment phase of the project for how we will carry out that work to ensure there are no harmful effects.  In keeping with this commitment, we need to have the major work on the retaining wall finished this spring before April 1, completing the in-water work before the closing of the pre-established work window.

This “work window” is set by the provincial Ministry of Natural Resources, and is set out in timing guidelines that are applied to construction projects near or in watercourses that are home to any species of fish.  These timing guidelines are intended to protect fish from any impact from construction work being done in or around water, during the critical life stages for fish including spawning migrations, egg incubation and fry emergence.

Provincial guidelines are organized by region as well as by fish species within those regions.  Fish can be divided into those that spawn in cold water (i.e. in the spring) and those that spawn in warm water (i.e. in the fall), with the species in the Black Creek being in the cold-water group.  For that reason, the construction permits require that any work we do in or near the Black Creek be done outside of the period from April 1 to June 30, to ensure that the project doesn’t interfere with their spawning.

Once the work window closes April 1, we will not do any work in or around the water until the beginning of July.  So we go to great lengths to ensure the work on the Black Creek retaining wall is finished by the end of March, and that we won’t need to do any other activities involving in-water work until the summer.

Our commitment to ensuring our work has no adverse effects on the environment goes well beyond avoiding any in-water work at sensitive times.  On all our segments, we work closely with the local conservation authorities, who approve the final designs before we get their permission to work.  Our mutual goal is to ensure the project, at a minimum, avoids any harmful impacts, and in many cases actively enhances the natural environment. We also use various construction strategies to mitigate any potential impacts while we’re working, such as installing cofferdams from sheet piles or sand bags around our work zones within watercourses.   By using these methods, we’re able to work “in-the-dry”, thereby avoiding any risks to the watercourse and its fish, even if the in-water work window has closed.

We’re happy to know that the vivaNext project is going to ultimately enhance our shared environment for people and the other creatures that live in York.  So taking great care as we work near our creeks and rivers is just one example of how we’re committed to protecting and enhancing our natural surroundings, even in a fully-urbanized area like Highway 7 and Jane Street.

Please remember as the temperature heats up during spring thaw, water ways and creeks can been extremely dangerous, remember to keep a safe distance.

 

building up the centres and corridors

Thursday, February 13th, 2014

The most obvious benefit that vivaNext will provide, and one that is already taking shape on Highway 7, is the convenient rapid transit system that we’re constructing across York Region.  But as I’ve described in many previous posts, vivaNext is much more than a transit project; it’s also a key part of the long-term strategy being used by York Region to help our Region respond to and manage growth.  Central to that strategy is the overall vision of Centres and Corridors, which will help concentrate future growth in higher-density, mixed use developments clustered in four new urban nodes, one each in Markham, Newmarket, Richmond Hill and Vaughan.  Here’s a summary of how this strategy will transform our Region and help it manage growth.

Population increase is happening across the Region, and brings many advantages.  More people means the Region can attract and support new choices in housing, employment, shopping, entertainment, dining and recreation. But as the Region grows, more people also means more traffic, more congestion, and more crowding.  So the strategy that York Region has developed, in collaboration with both the Province and the local municipalities, is to channel much of that growth into newly developed communities clustered in new urban centres along Highway 7 and in Newmarket.  With this strategy, existing neighbourhoods will be protected, along with the way of life that attracted many people to the Region in the first place.

The new communities in the Regional Centres will be mixed use, meaning they will offer residential, employment and recreational options – including a proportion of affordable housing choices. Once these new downtowns are fully established, people will be able to work, live and play without needing to get in a car, enjoying choices for housing, jobs, shopping and dining, all within walking distance.

Linking these emerging downtowns will be major transportation corridors along Highway 7, Yonge Street and Davis Drive, featuring our new vivaNext bus rapid transit rapidways and the Spadina subway extension (and once funding is secured, the Yonge Subway extension).  With convenient access between these new urban neighbourhoods and our expanding rapid transit network, people will be able to travel across the Region and into the rest of the GTA without needing a car, making the Centres an attractive option for people looking for an urban lifestyle.

Obviously, completing York Region’s new downtowns isn’t going to happen overnight, but new developments are already transforming the look and feel along Highway 7, up Yonge Street and across Davis Drive.  And as these new urban areas take shape, we’re working hard to get the transit part of the equation built, one rapidway station at a time – to provide a convenient, fast way for everyone in York Region to get around using transit.

 

join the discussions in vaughan?

Friday, February 7th, 2014

Congestion in the GTHA is at an all-time high, with an additional 2.5 million people and one million more cars expected in the next 20 years, the problems will only get worse. We can no longer postpone building the kind of transit network that offers residents and commuters better transportation choices, eases congestion, connects them with jobs and travelling efficiently in all directions.

New transit lines connect most neighbourhoods and business districts, putting commuters within a short walk of rapid transit.  The vivaNext project is a part of this overreaching transit network that will connect not only local but regional service once completed.

York Region Transit [YRT] conventional routes cater to local communities in all York Region municipalities and also include GO Shuttles and Express services.  These routes stop frequently at the curbside of the road. Viva connects Markham, Richmond Hill, Vaughan, Aurora and Newmarket and also links York Region with Toronto and its subway system, GO Transit and the Region of Peel. It operates along major corridors much like an above-ground subway, for faster service.  Once Viva service is running in its own rapidway, service will be even faster.

Transit planning takes time and includes: consultation with the users, route planning, bus scheduling and stop identification.

This year, YRT is holding stakeholder engagement meetings to discuss transit routes and overall service to prepare for the opening of the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension [TYSSE] in the City of Vaughan. The Subway is scheduled to open in 2016 and we want to be ready.

YRT\Viva is looking for your input at their public information meetings.   We encourage you to come out to these events and learn how transit development will affect you in your daily commute and provide your input in what service and routes you want.

The vivaNext team will be there also, so join us for an in-depth look at different elements of vivaNext projects, plans, designs and ongoing activities or visit vivanext.com.

winter work to make our spring schedule

Friday, January 31st, 2014

With its cold temperatures, snow and ice, winter is not the ideal construction season for roadwork in general, which is why most vivaNext construction is focused on other tasks for the next few months.  But to make sure we’re ready to get going on roadwork as soon as it’s warm enough next Spring, our crews and those of various utility companies are keeping busy this winter doing a range of activities.  Here’s what you can expect to see going on out there this winter.

A key task for all the vivaNext corridors is widening the roads so we can keep the existing number of travel lanes, plus make room for the rapidways and stations in the median.  But before we can get going on construction to make the roadways wider, we need to remove and relocate all the utilities that previously ran beside the curb of the existing roadways.  This step, which involves relocating a wide range of services including gas, hydro, telecommunications, water, and sanitary and storm sewer systems, requires painstaking coordination between contractors for our project as well as the utility companies and their crews.  With contractors needing to be spaced from one another by both time and distance, and there being a logical sequence in which the services get relocated, this is a hugely time-consuming process that will be ongoing throughout the winter in various locations.

The specific activities vary from corridor to corridor, involving different utilities and work at different stages of completion. Where hydro service is above ground, hydro relocations involve crews restringing the wires on the new poles once they’ve been installed in their new locations, and then removing the old poles.  Once the service is relocated on the new poles, crews then create the connections from the new service to individual addresses.

There’s also gas work underway in several areas along the vivaNext corridors, which involves relocating gas mains underground, and then attaching individual addresses to the new service.

And working in close coordination with the underground gas work are crews from the telecommunications companies, who are relocating their services into underground joint-use duct banks that the telecoms use. Constructing the duct banks involves much more work than simply stringing wires on poles, but the benefit is that with fewer poles along the side of the road there’s more potential to beautify the streetscape, which is an important objective for our project.

Finally, the last part of this complicated dance of roadside work involves our own crews who are busy relocating sanitary sewers and storm sewer systems and watermains.

All of this work is carefully planned out one step at a time and coordinated between our builder and the utility companies, then carried out in conditions that involve extra challenges due to the need to keep the ground warm enough to work in.  But it will be worth it, since the heavy road widening and construction is best done in the warmer weather.  And once it comes, we’ll be ready to go, widening the roads so that the rapidway stations can be installed.

So watch out for all the crews who are out there working this winter, and know that their work is an important part of the vivaNext schedule.

keeping you warm out there

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

This has been a really cold winter so far, and there’s still a lot more winter to come.  Fortunately for our viva riders on the newly opened Highway 7 rapidway, keeping you warm was one of our priorities when we designed the new median stations.  Like everything else with vivaNext, a lot of engineering analysis and planning was done to ensure the enclosures provide the right level of comfort in the winter.  Here’s the background.

When we opened the prototype vivaNext station at Enterprise and Warden, we used a well-regarded heater that our original analysis showed would keep things adequately warm.  But at 1000 watts, the heater wasn’t quite powerful enough to provide the level of comfort we wanted to achieve.  So when it came time to design the shelters for the larger rapidway program, we went back to the drawing board.

First, we determined how warm we wanted to make the shelters. Given that most people are only waiting for a few minutes, we didn’t want to make the shelters so warm that people would need to take off their coats.  Bearing this in mind, we decided that the right target would be to heat the shelters to 10 degrees Celsius.

Next, we needed to find a technology that would be energy efficient: with the enclosures’ semi-outdoor design, using traditional space heaters would, in addition to requiring exhaust systems and airflow, be very inefficient. We decided to use radiant heaters, which work by projecting heat energy directly onto the people in the shelter (if you’ve watched your kids play hockey at a rink, you’ll know how effective this kind of heater can be).  Another benefit is that radiant heaters quickly ramp up to full power but can be shut off quickly as well, conserving energy.

Last, we needed to determine how many heaters we’d need to install to achieve our target temperature.  We did a computer simulation of the bus shelter, programming in local weather data to assess the thermal conditions in the shelter for every hour throughout a typical year.  The model took into consideration the concrete and glass design of the shelter, as well as replicating wind speeds and temperatures.

Using all this information, we decided that four heaters, each providing 3000 watts of power, would be sufficient to achieve the 10 degrees target: that’s 12,000 watts per enclosure (a typical electric fireplace is between 750 and 1500 watts). Sensors on the units detect when someone walks into the enclosure, starting the heater; if the sensors don’t detect any other movement, the heaters will shut off after 30 minutes.   And to help keep the warmth in the enclosures, we’ve installed push buttons on the doors so they close automatically, as well as installing winter covers over the ventilation louvers on the doors.

We hope you are pleased with the comfort we’ve been able to design into the shelters, and are happy to make winter a little warmer for our viva riders.

 

agglomeration – the value transit brings to a city

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

 

managing the vivaNext plan

Thursday, January 2nd, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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