Posts Tagged ‘transit-oriented development’

how transit and city planning work together

Monday, May 4th, 2015

how transit and city planning work together

An exciting new urban planning report — Make Way for Mid-Rise: How to build more homes in walkable, transit-connected neighbourhoods proposes actions that would help increase density along transit lines in the Greater Toronto Area. The report was released by the Pembina Institute and the Ontario Home Builders’ Association on Monday, May 4.

The nugget of this report is that the range of affordable housing choices for families would increase by building mid-rise, mixed-use buildings along transit lines. The report argues that mid-rise development supports “healthy lifestyles and local economies, since it can help increase walkability and put more people close to transit, while also supporting local business.”

So, should our communities “make way for mid-rise”? If we want our cities to have a better chance of developing the type of population density that supports a healthy neighbourhood with street life, walkability, and good transit, then, yes!

As the populations of York Region and the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area increase, it’s the job of government, urban planners, and developers to ensure that the community infrastructure is properly accommodated, and resources like farmland and clean water are protected.

The Make Way for Mid-Rise report presents five ways to support increased density:

  1. Require minimum densities along rapid transit lines
  2. Eliminate minimum parking requirements
  3. Pre-approve mid-rise development along avenues and transit corridors
  4. Require retail planning before mid-rise is built
  5. Make parkland dedication rules more equitable

When transit planning and urban planning work together, the result can be what vivaNext is all about: great cities and great transit, hand in hand.

Take a few moments to check out the report, Make Way for Mid-Rise, and read more about the proposals in the Toronto Star.

 

why stop here?

Friday, March 20th, 2015

why stop here?

Some of the most successful investors will tell you that thinking long-term is the best way to make decisions. That’s also the route transit planners take, and a long-term increase in passengers is the goal for the investment.

Rapid transit routes are also planned with potential growth opportunities in mind. By looking at municipal zoning and ‘big picture’ plans, higher levels of government and planners can see where higher-density residential and commercial development will be located in the future. They look at the area around each proposed station to see if it seems likely to redevelop into higher-density residential and commercial destinations. Key pointers tend to be municipal zoning that allows for multi-story buildings, large lot sizes, and older buildings that are more likely to need rebuilding or refurbishing. Stations are especially considered at junctions where current or future transit lines intersect. The area may already have urban amenities and high population, or in some areas, empty land is zoned for a planned high-density community. It’s not necessarily about what’s there now, it’s about what could be there.

By studying the facts, transit planners can be confident about where transit stops should be placed, and know that as the community evolves in future years, new developments will naturally make it more compact, transit-oriented and pedestrian-friendly.

In York Region, the location of rapid transit routes is studied carefully to ensure that as our population continues to grow in the long-term, we’ve invested in a great transit system to support it. The Viva routes were planned with that in mind and now with ridership increasing steadily, rapid transit is moving to one dedicated lane in the centre of the road. With this comes a balanced community that provides vibrant urban centres, faster travel choices, and routes that have more connection points and better serve customers

 

building great cities

Thursday, November 27th, 2014

Building Great Cities

York Region’s Centres and Corridors strategy is how our Region is making sure there will be room for our growing population to live, work and play, while also protecting our sensitive lands and green zones. As our Region grows, new homes, workplaces, retail and recreational facilities are being established all along the corridors, and clustered in higher density centres in Vaughan, Richmond Hill, Markham and Newmarket.  And to make it easier for people to get where they want to go, without always needing to get in their car, rapid transit corridors featuring Viva’s comfortable Bus Rapid Transit service will link those centres.

Centres and Corridors has been a key component of Regional Council’s strategic priorities, and the amount of development actively underway in all the centres shows that great progress is already being made. But what are the steps required behind the scenes, to create the kinds of communities that are taking shape in the centres?

The first step, and one that was approved long ago, is that Regional Council provided strategic direction confirming the Centres and Corridors plan as the foundation for the Region’s Official Plan.  The Provincial Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe reinforces the principles of increased intensification and city-building, and specifically identifies the four centres as “urban growth centres.”

Included in the Provincial Growth Plan are targets for the number of people and jobs to be supported per hectare. The Region’s Official Plan includes these targets, and also establishes policies to encourage transit, pedestrian-friendly street designs, and mixed-use development.

Building on the Region’s policies, each municipality then has to review their own official plan to make sure it conforms and supports the Region’s plan. Municipalities then develop secondary plans, which set out specific land use rules and targets for defined areas including the centres.  Secondary plans shape future development, providing guidance on minimum densities, building heights, streetscaping and other strategies to encourage welcoming, pedestrian-friendly development.

Once the general rules for land use have been developed, municipalities and the Region then actively work to attract new employers and development investments.  Economic Development experts work with their Planning Department colleagues and with potential investors, to create new or expanded work opportunities.  A key driver for many of the new employment opportunities that have already been announced in York Region is the proximity to rapid transit, and the availability of a strong, educated workforce.

And the last component of our multi-pronged approach is to ensure that new housing options are available all along the corridors and in the centres.  We know that people want to live relatively near to where they work, with a short commute being highly valued.  The new housing developments that are springing up near our vivaNext routes are already providing very attractive options for people wanting an urban home, with great access to transit and work.

City-building isn’t a short-term process, but with all these components working together, bit by bit our centres and corridors are being transformed into exciting, urban places, while protecting and respecting existing developments and our natural environment.  For everyone, that means more options, more choices, and linking it all together, more Viva.

 

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.

Transit focused Markham Centre picked for York U expansion

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

Transit focused Markham Centre picked for York U expansion

York University, a globally recognized research centre, recently announced that it had chosen Markham Centre as the preferred location in its bid to build a new satellite campus in York Region. York Region is one of Ontario’s fastest-growing major urban areas, and with a current population of more than 1.1 million, is the only municipality of its size in North America with no university campus.

The City of Markham was selected based on its ability to demonstrate alignment with 10 core principals including, having a campus within an urban centre, easily accessible across the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area, transit oriented development, use of public infrastructure and strong local partners.

This achievement shows how York Region’s Centres and Corridors strategy, of which vivaNext is a key part, is already resulting in important economic development benefits for our region. It’s more proof that its long term, visionary planning framework will channel new jobs, housing and shopping within the newly urbanized centre in Markham.

As Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti said in their news release, one of the reasons the Markham Centre location was chosen, in addition to all its “incredible amenities,” is that Markham has a reputation for having bold initiatives. The Mayor also pointed to the city’s efforts in attracting major businesses such as Enbridge, Honda and Aviva as well as attracting the Pan Am games to the city.

The timing of York University’s announcement could not have been better. Transit, parkland and local secondary plans are currently underway. The city can fully integrate a university within the new downtown urban fabric.

York Region’s vivaNext rapidway project along Highway 7 is in the last final stages with bus lanes set to open by the end of the year. Additional Bus Rapid Transit is planned for Markham Centre along Enterprise Drive to Unionville Go Terminal, scheduled to be completed in 2019, making this area truly the model of live, work, shop, play and now get educated!

 

everything at your doorstep

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

everything at your doorstep

Imagine everything you needed was nearby: shopping within walking distance, doctor’s office right around the corner and a park just up the street. Your work is an easy trip on transit, and there are even places on your street for dinner and entertainment. It can happen, and it’s not just in the big city.

A well-planned community combines residential, commercial and recreational uses in the same area, and this is what planners call “mixed-use.” Transit is a key part of a mixed-use community, because it gets people where they need to go without a car. It also connects us to other areas within the Region. Over time, mixed-use development naturally favours pedestrians and transit riders. This is a style of development that city planners and builders design so that people can have everything close to sidewalks and transit stations, instead of across giant parking lots or wide highways. This type of development creates a more dynamic, people-friendly style of living which had not been available in York Region’s suburban style design of the past. Providing options for living is important, from suburban to urban, because when you can find it all mixed together in one community it allows generations to transition without having to move too far.

In York Region, some of our core areas are now evolving into mixed-use communities, so we’re supporting that change by building a fast, convenient rapid transit system. As part of the Centres and Corridors initiative, York Region has a vision and best practices for new mixed-use development to make sure that is gets built in areas which are supported by higher levels of transit. Markham, Vaughan, Newmarket and Richmond Hill also have their own specific plans for key centres in each municipality. You can see the work taking place by looking for the cranes on the horizon, not a sight you would have seen here a decade ago.

As these areas evolve, buildings will be closer to the road, and closer to shops, restaurants, services, recreation, work and transit. So, it’s really nice to have everything at your doorstep if that is a lifestyle you are looking for – you can now find it being built right here in York Region.

 

 

building healthier communities

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

building healthier communities

What if I told you that taking public transit can significantly improve your health? The Toronto Star recently reported on health professionals in the Greater Toronto Area [GTA] who agree that when it comes to land-use and transportation planning, more consideration must be given to encouraging residents to walk, cycle and use public transit.

How our communities are designed influences how we choose to get around, so making transit and active transportation integral to city planning can contribute to healthier, more active lifestyles. Instead of driving your car, choosing to bus, bike or walk to work are alternatives that mix pleasure and health benefits. Also, the article mentions that taking public transit can easily add 30 minutes of physical activity into your day because it can include walking to and from bus stops or subways.

One of the benefits of designing a major infrastructure project like vivaNext is the opportunity it provides to enhance our natural environment wherever possible. In addition to the new rapid transit system, the urban transformation that vivaNext is helping to shape will result in more walkable, people-friendly neighbourhoods that encourage pedestrians and cyclists to get out and enjoy their local environments. What’s great is that residents now have safe choices in how they want to travel.

The new communities in the urban centres will be mixed-use, meaning they’ll offer residential, employment and recreational options. With convenient access between these new urban neighbourhoods and an expanding rapid transit network, people can travel across York Region and into the rest of the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area [GTHA] without needing a car, making the centres an attractive option for people who want an urban lifestyle within York Region. These new urban hubs will offer walkable, bike-friendly and people-centred neighbourhoods that will be welcoming to people at all stages of life – from young professionals to empty nesters, making York Region a great place to live.

 

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!

business recognizes the importance of “excellent transit”

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

Aviva Canada, one of Canada’s largest general insurers, recently made the exciting announcement that they have chosen downtown Markham for their new Canadian headquarters.

This development shows how York Region’s Centres and Corridors strategy, of which vivaNext is a key part, is already resulting in important economic development benefits for our region. It’s more proof that long term, we’re all going to benefit from a visionary planning framework that will channel new jobs, housing and shopping to the newly urbanized downtowns in Markham, Newmarket, Richmond Hill and Vaughan.

And, central to the Centres and Corridors strategy is the vivaNext rapid transit system, which will make it easy for employees and residents to travel conveniently and make transit connections across York Region.   Employers need to attract workers, and one of the things that employees need is access to transit to provide options for the daily commute.

Municipalities that are able to offer easy access to great transit have an important competitive advantage when employers are deciding where to open new offices.  And new offices, and the jobs and prosperity they bring a community, help improve the standard of living for everyone.

As Aviva’s President and CEO company said in their news release, one of the reasons the downtown Markham location was chosen, in addition to all its “incredible amenities”, was that it offers employees access to “excellent transit”.

With the combined policies from all three levels of government – provincial, Regional and local – we’re going to be able to maximize the economic development potential of our new downtowns. Gradually, more and more new developments are going to want to come to these emerging neighbourhoods, bringing with them more jobs and more choices in housing, shopping and entertainment.  And we’re excited that, companies have access to “excellent transit” and recognize it as a key selling point.

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.