Posts Tagged ‘Richmond Hill’

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!


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!