Posts Tagged ‘transit-oriented development’

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.

 

bringing vaughan metropolitan centre to life

Thursday, November 7th, 2013

We recently posted a great blog on planning that talked about the link between transit and new urban communities. Given that tomorrow (November 8), urban planners from towns and cities in over 30 countries worldwide will celebrate World Town Planning Day, we thought we would take a moment to highlight another one of York Region’s amazing communities, and see how vivaNext transit projects fit into York Region’s planning vision.

In the Region’s Centres and Corridors strategy, selected areas in Newmarket, Richmond Hill, Markham and Vaughan are targeted to have new, urban “downtowns.” They will be vibrant, higher density, attractive destinations with a full range of amenities so that people can live, work, shop and play in the same community. These “centres” will be connected by transportation “corridors” that will make it easier for people to get around the region. That’s where we come in. Our vivaNext rapidways will run along the corridors, connecting the centres through transit and safe and efficient travel options for pedestrians, motorists and cyclists alike.

You can see the vision for one of these centres coming to life in the City of Vaughan’s new video about the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre [VMC] . Located in the heart of Vaughan, centered on Highway 7, between Highway 400 and Creditstone Road, VMC will be one of the largest and most ambitious development projects in the area’s history, and is a superb location for Vaughan’s new downtown.

In the VMC, mixed-use transit-oriented development is proposed along a tree-lined main street, including businesses, residences, entertainment and cultural facilities, as well as pedestrian shopping areas. The VMC area will act as a transportation hub, including convenient passenger pick-up and drop-off, a York Region Transit bus terminal, and viva rapidways running in dedicated lanes along Highway 7.

VMC will also be home to the northernmost subway station, as part of the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension [TYSSE], an 8.6 km subway extension from Downsview Station, northwest through York University and north to the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre. An entrance to VMC Station will be built on Millway Avenue, between Edgeley Boulevard and Jane Street to provide easy and efficient connections to other transit services.

With approximately 442 acres of development opportunities, VMC also includes:

  • Projected office development: 1.5 million SF
  • Projected retail development: 750,000 SF
  • Minimum of 12,000 residential units
  • Population potential: 25,000 new residents
  • Employment potential: 11,000 jobs of which 5,000 will be office jobs

It’s exciting to visualize how Vaughan will evolve in the years to come. To find out more about other vivaNext projects, visit our projects page.

 

making your trip more comfortable across the YRT\Viva system

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

You already know how excited we are to be introducing you to our new vivaNext rapidway system, with its comfortable and convenient stations and amenities, now open on Highway 7.   But for many transit riders across York Region, you’re YRT riders as well, and your comfort on that part of your commute is just as important to us.

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 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 over the summer, with the Highway 7 rapidway sections being the first to change over to the new amenities this summer.  With the rapidways now open and the new YRT local stops being refreshed, Highway 7 has taken on a refurbished look and feel that highlights York Region’s commitment to serving its residents. Check out this video

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!

need some retail therapy? ….your neighbourhood shops are open

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

We’ve all heard the term “retail therapy.” For some, shopping can be a remedy to cheer us up and for other’s it’s a way to relieve stress. Perhaps as you read this, you can relate to doing some of your own retail therapy at one time or another.  Whether we’re shopping for a pick-me-up, or need a few items from the store, I’m sure we can all agree there is nothing better than stopping at a good restaurant or finding a little boutique around the corner.

The businesses along the vivaNext rapidway corridors are a great example of the variety of unique restaurants, professional offices, and boutique shops available within your local community. No matter what the stage of transformation– in the heart of construction on Davis Drive, just starting construction on Highway 7 West, getting ready for construction on Yonge Street and completing the transformation of Highway 7 East, there is no change to how any of these businesses serve you.

As you drive or walk along Davis Drive and Highway 7 East you’ll notice the Shop Davis and Shop 7 billboards. These road signs are just one component of a broader advertising campaign in support of your local businesses. During construction along Highway 7 West and Yonge Street you’ll also see Shop billboards along these corridors, to help remind you to support your local retailers.

Perhaps you’ve even seen vivaNext staff out and about in your neighbourhood promoting your local businesses. As part of the shop local campaigns, you may have received a reusable shopping bag to use when you visit stores in your community. If you see a vivaNext staff member, come by, say hello and pick up your reusable shopping bags [while quantities last]. Your local businesses and vivaNext have you covered the next time you are out shopping in the neighbourhood.

To get to your favourite stores on Highway 7, why not take a ride on the new rapidway. The dedicated centre lanes for viva vehicles are now open on Highway 7, from Bayview to Highway 404 and will provide riders with faster, more consistent travel times, getting you to your destination faster so you can shop till you drop!  The new urban landscape and lovely boulevards are a great incentive to visit these revitalized areas in Markham and Richmond Hill. Stop by for some shopping or just stroll around, because these are great places to visit.

Whether you’re shopping for back to school, meeting friends for dinner, or buying a gift for that special someone, your local retailers and restaurants are open for regular business throughout vivaNext construction. To see a sample of the business offerings provided by your local retailers check out the business profiles section of the vivaNext website at vivanext.com

 

ITS – balancing the needs of all travellers

Monday, August 12th, 2013

It’s stating the obvious to say that our roadways are getting slower because they’re carrying too much traffic – that’s the basic definition of gridlock, and it’s an increasing problem everywhere across the GTA.  But what can be done about it?  VivaNext is one part of the solution – if people have the choice of taking a reliable and convenient rapid transit system, there will be fewer cars on the road, and everyone will be able to get around more quickly.

But even with vivaNext, there’s still going to be a lot of traffic out there, and York Region doesn’t have room for more or bigger roads.  So what else can be done to help traffic move better?  This is where ITS comes in.

Although some people may think ITS is connected to “Information Technology”, in the vivaNext world ITS stands for “Intelligent Transportation Systems”. ITS is an international transportation-engineering discipline that is concerned with trying to improve the efficiency of travel, whether it involves the travelling public, commercial vehicles, or transit.  The basic assumptions behind ITS are that delays cost money, and more efficient travel saves money. This new technology is an absolutely critical, although low-visibility, component of the vivaNext program.

ITS is used to ensure that all parts of a traffic corridor’s infrastructure – the physical roadway’s design, lane markings and signs, traffic signal design and timing, and the brains that connect all these pieces – are designed as one coordinated system.  In a transit project ITS has an additional layer which is concerned with how the transit system is integrated into that larger system.

ITS is also about giving people accurate information so they can make better choices about travel, whether that means building roadside signage to alert drivers to upcoming congestion and suggest alternative routes, or giving transit riders real-time information about next bus arrivals.

Overall, ITS is about finding the perfect balance so that all the users of a roadway find it works better; making a roadway faster for one group of users cannot come at the expense of all the other users.  ITS starts with an understanding of who is using the roadway now and who will be using it in the future, and then develops strategies to make it more efficient for everyone.

Along Highway 7, we know that drivers and transit are the main users currently, but that’s going to change as development intensifies. The future Highway 7 will be significantly more urbanized, with more people living and working along the corridor.  That means there will be more pedestrians and cyclists whose travel needs need to be considered, in addition to car and truck traffic.  Helping transit vehicles stay on schedule is also a priority, since rapid transit can’t be rapid if it’s stuck in traffic.

These ITS strategies will balance everyone’s needs, to help everyone get to where they’re going as fast as possible!