Posts Tagged ‘transit-oriented development’

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


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!


turning on the Lights

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

Street lights are one of those infrastructure elements that the public may not give a lot of thought to, but in truth their design contributes significantly to the overall streetscape.  And because our project is being used to transform Highway 7 East from a highway to an urban corridor, all the vivaNext design components including the street lights have been given a lot of thought.  But before design considerations can be focused on, safety is the first priority to be achieved by street lighting. Here’s an overview of the role lighting plays in the vivaNext vision, and the street lighting elements you will see installed on all the rapidway corridors.

Designing street lighting, like all the major elements in the vivaNext project, is used to achieve a combination of practical and design objectives.  Lighting is first and foremost a public safety consideration. There are strict national and local standards against which street lighting is designed including how much lighting is required for different conditions (for example, different measures are used to determine the lighting levels for roadways compared to intersections and sidewalks).  Once the levels are known, lighting designers will develop a design, which includes variables such as pole height, spacing and “lux”, which is the amount of light to be provided by the fixture.

Once the lighting design is done, streetscape design objectives can come into play in order to marry the technical requirements with the architectural priorities needed to achieve the desired streetscape “look”.  In the case of vivaNext, the streetscape objectives are for a modern, stylish and uncluttered look that will contribute to the feeling of the corridors as being urban destinations, and make them distinctive from other Regional roadways.

To achieve all these safety requirements and design objectives, we have selected a special street light pole and luminaire (the light head or fixture), and arm that holds the luminaire, to be used along all the rapidway segments.  The poles will be a little higher than the ones they’ve replaced (9.9 m high versus 8.0 m), and they’re made of metal with a dark grey powder-coat finish for long-wearing good looks (and less maintenance).  Unlike most poles which are octagonal shaped and tapered to the top, these are round and cylindrical for a sleeker, more modern look.  And the lighting head or luminaire on top was chosen to complement the sleek modern look of our canopies.

Under its good looks, the street lights have a photo sensor to automatically turn on and off when it’s dark.  And the bulbs – which are little larger than the light bulbs you have in your home – only need to be replaced every 4 years.

So next time you’re sitting at a stop light or at a bus stop and you’re looking at the beautiful new streetscape, you’ll know more about all the decisions that were needed to turn on the lights!



Let’s talk transit

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

I was recently watching a video about the importance of transit in communities [see the link below], and was reminded what a difference it makes to every person to have convenient, fast transit nearby. Those of you who take transit every day are likely nodding as you read this, but if you’re not a regular transit user you may wonder how it can benefit you.

If you have to drive every day, then the road in front of you has one less car for every person who takes transit. It may be hard to picture, but next time you drive down an urban street, imagine that the people driving cars around you are riding transit and waiting at transit stops instead.

Transit is important to people with different incomes, and at different stages of life. Not only is it a smart way to save money, sometimes it’s the only affordable option to get to school or work. Having the option to take transit can be liberating, especially if you’re unable to drive due to age, medical conditions or disabilities. Some may use transit mostly in their youth, whereas others may find themselves using it later in life.  The wonderful thing is having choices.

Where you live plays an important role too. Transit is more popular in urban areas where driving and parking are frustrating. If you live just outside an urban area, transit can be your ticket to town, without having to pay for parking or taxis.

So as the video says, transit is important for communities – and that includes you, those you live with, neighbours and coworkers.

Video by the Canadian Urban Transit Association:

How long is your commute to work?

  • 30 – 60 minutes (40%, 28 Votes)
  • over an hour (27%, 19 Votes)
  • 10 – 30 minutes (27%, 19 Votes)
  • 0 – 10 minutes (6%, 4 Votes)

Total Voters: 70

Bus Rapid Transit: South America leads the way

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

Inside a BRT station in Curitiba – photo by

The vivaNext rapidways project is one of a relatively small number of Bus Rapid Transit projects here in Canada, or for that matter in North America. There are BRT systems in Canada and the US, but the number of cities with BRT systems planned is relatively small, compared to the number of cities that would benefit from better transit.

What’s really interesting is how many cities around the world use BRT – cities with enormous populations and transit usage. Transit experts at EMBARQ (the Sustainable Transport wing of the World Resources Institute, an environmental think tank) estimate there are 120 cities around the world with BRT systems. And South America has taken to BRT enthusiastically, with BRT systems in 32 cities – more than a quarter of the total BRT systems around the globe.

One of the earliest BRT systems in the world was built in Curitiba, a large city in the south of Brazil with a population of just under 2 million within a larger metropolitan area. Other systems have been built all over South and Central America, including in all the major cities like Guatemala City, São Paolo, and Bogotá. There’s no doubt those systems are a spectacular success – transit ridership numbers in South American cities are huge. The Curitiba system carries a whopping 2.3 million riders per day, using 72 kilometres of median bus rapidway. Or how about São Paulo, with 104 kilometres of bus lanes, and a daily ridership of 5.7 million!

Besides a convenient way to get around, cities with bus rapid transit have been shown to have reduced commute times, lower tailpipe emissions and fewer traffic fatalities. And a key part of the success of these successful systems is that transit was built early on, and the surrounding land use was shaped by rapid transit. People became accustomed to taking transit, and transit-oriented development followed.

It’s exciting to think of the benefits vivaNext rapid transit projects will bring to our region. We know that there are differences in climate, landscape, and culture between South and Central American cities and York Region, but there are examples of BRT elsewhere in the world, and I’ll talk more about those next week.

Celebrating Canadian transit

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

Examples of Canadian transit systems

With Canada Day just behind us, this is a great time to talk about the emerging enthusiasm across Canada for the importance of great transit.  If you’ve ever travelled outside of Canada to the world’s largest cities, there’s no doubt you will have seen how some large urban areas have really incredible transit systems – established networks that mean you truly never need to drive anywhere, and where transit is the easiest, fastest way to get around.  

But let’s talk about what makes good transit systems a priority, and how Canadian cities are increasingly investing in transit solutions.  The first factor that comes into play in transit design, is population density.  There’s no doubt that the more people who live or work in a defined area, the more transit can be effective.  Because Canadian cities don’t yet have the population of the really big international cities, they traditionally haven’t built the extensive networks that exist in places such as London or New York City. 

The problem is that this is a chicken and egg situation. Many people only want to live in an area where there’s convenient transit but transit planners – at least in the past – have often waited for an area’s population to increase before they invested in transit.   

Fortunately, many Canadian cities are realizing that they need to invest in transit before the population increases happen.  At the same time, they are increasingly encouraging the kinds of development that will support higher densities and that result in compact, pedestrian-friendly communities where people are more likely to leave their car at home and take transit.

Cities across Canada are building and expanding their transit networks, and using all sorts of different methods to encourage people to hop on board transit – from LRT and BRT, to ferries, subways and commuter trains, and even bike rentals. 

In Montreal, the transit provider STM has launched a new partnership called the Transportation Cocktail, which recognizes that there are all sorts of ways for people to get around apart from private autos. The Cocktail offers great deals combining tickets for transit and Bixi, the bike rental program.

Calgary’s C-Train is an enormous success, with the LRT in 2009 having counted one billion passengers since service was launched in 1981. It has the highest ridership of any LRT in North America. One of the success factors – apart from Calgary’s quickly growing population – is that rides in the downtown area are free!  Another great fact about the C-Train is that it gets all its electricity from wind power.  Now that’s a really small carbon footprint.

In Vancouver, the SkyTrain, which is a system of fully automated trains running mostly on elevated tracks, connects to a wonderfully diverse transit system that gives people lots of choices.  The entire system includes buses, trolley buses, a commuter rail system and the Sea Bus, a passenger-only ferry. 

The SkyTrain has been credited with helping to spur a significant amount of transit-oriented development to Vancouver – BC Transit says that more than $5 billion of private money has been invested within a 10–15 minute walking distance of the SkyTrain and SeaBus. 

Both Ottawa and Edmonton are currently extending their LRT lines, with the project in Ottawa involving tunneling through the busy downtown.

And what about the technology choice we’re using with Viva – BRT? 

Although it’s relatively new to Canada, cities all across the country are discovering the benefits of choosing BRT.  Some form of BRT has already been added to the transit services in many Canadian cities, with more extensive BRT services being planned or built across the country, from Victoria to Quebec City.

So in the future you’ll be able to visit cities across the country without having to get in a car, enjoying the sights by using our increasingly comprehensive transit services.  

If you’re interested in reading more about BRT in Canada, be sure to read this article from the Canadian Urban Transit Association.