Posts Tagged ‘York Region’

take a tour of the new rapidway on highway 7

Monday, September 15th, 2014

video: Highway 7 East rapidway - Now Open - 2014

This morning, The Honourable Steven Del Duca, Ontario Minister of Transportation, announced the opening of the section of rapidway from Highway 404 to South Town Centre on Highway 7 East. He was joined by: The Honourable Michael Chan, MPP, Markham; Bill Fisch, Chairman and CEO, The Regional Municipality of York; Bruce McCuaig, President and CEO of Metrolinx; Frank Scarpitti, Mayor of the City of Markham.

Travelling along Highway 7, it’s hard to miss the beautiful and functional vivastations in the centre median. These stations are making a huge contribution to the transformation of our community in Richmond Hill and Markham, so let us take you on the same guided tour as our dignitaries took this morning for an inside look at the benefits and attributes of these stations.

The first thing you’ll notice as you cross to a station is how big and airy the canopy is at 28m [92’] long and 5m [16’] high. The curved glass above the platform provides both weather protection and a sense of space at the same time and satisfies long-term needs as platforms accommodate two Viva vehicles at once and in future will be able to accommodate Light Rail Transit [LRT]. The platform is approached by a gently sloped ramp with handrails on both sides, making it fully accessible to all, whether they’re walking, pushing a stroller, or in a wheelchair or scooter. Passing by the familiar Viva fin and planter boxes with greenery, you’ll next come to an illuminated wall map of the YRT\Viva system.

Next on the tour is a bank of fare equipment, including a Ticket Vending Machine [TVM], a Ticket Validator [TV], and two PRESTO machines. Once you’ve paid your fare, you’ll move to the Fare Paid Zone [FPZ], which is clearly shown by being paved with a different coloured tile on the ground, as well as by a curved sign above. This area needs to show as distinct, because YRT fare rules require passengers to have paid their fare before moving into the FPZ.

Once you’ve paid your fare, you’re free to make yourself comfortable on the platform until the next bus arrives. We’re making it easy for you to know how long you’ve got to wait, with a large Variable Message Sign [VMS] projected from the canopy. The VMS scrolls through the upcoming Viva arrivals, telling you exactly when the next bus will arrive. Because the VMS system is connected to the GPS technology in our Viva vehicles as well as to the central transit scheduling software, it’s constantly updated to provide accurate and real-time information.

If you decide to sit on a bench or get comfy out of the elements, the shelters have been designed with passenger comfort as a priority. The heated glass enclosure is well lit, and accessed by two push-button automatic doors. The heaters – which will be appreciated later this year – automatically turn on if someone enters the enclosure, and if the temperature in the enclosure feels lower than 10 degrees Celsius. Recycling and garbage disposal units on the platforms make it easy to keep these lovely stations clean.

The entire platform will be well lit, with lighting inside the canopy as well as on the platform.  And to enhance your feelings of comfort and security, the back of the platform is protected from Highway 7 traffic by a barrier wall topped with a guardrail, and there are multiple security features including cameras and an emergency call button.

Last but not least, to help you stay oriented, wayfinding signage will show you where the buses will stop, and other features including the way to the crosswalk.

It’s hard to do the stations, and the rapidway justice with written descriptions, so here’s a video showing you some of the action involved in completing this section of the rapidway. One of the regular passengers tweeted that “it has cut my travel time in half, way to go!”

 

this is just the beginning

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

this is just the beginning

Over the next three years, the vivaNext system is really going to transform the look and feel of York Region’s Centres and Corridors, with new rapidways opening for service. And these new transit options are only the beginning of an expanding vivaNext network that’s being built for York Region commuters.

Here’s the rundown on what’s planned, and how your transit choices are going to be widened over the next few years as vivaNext continues to expand.

Rapidway projects are being built in the order that will create the most connectivity for the greatest number of people and get you past the worst traffic congestion. Check out the map to see how the phases are rolling out, and follow our colour-coding of projects:

The segments on Highway 7 East that are coloured green or orange are either in service or about to be. Construction is well underway along the yellow and purple segments on Davis Drive in Newmarket, and Highway 7 West in Vaughan. Davis Drive is scheduled to be in service by the end of 2015, and only a year later, Vaughan will have its first rapidway to meet up with the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension.

The design-build contract has been awarded for the pink segments on Yonge Street and designs are being finalized as crews begin preliminary work. In Newmarket, work requiring Yonge Street lane closures has been postponed until next year.

But that’s not all – look at the blue segments on the map. These segments are also all designed and funding is committed, with planning well underway for construction to start in 2015. The projects marked in blue include two rapidway segments on Highway 7 West, which will extend on either side of the VMC rapidway. When it’s complete in 2018 this whole section will run over 15 km from Pine Valley to Yonge Street. Another blue segment will extend the Highway 7 East rapidway in Markham from the existing Warden Station on Enterprise Boulevard, to Unionville GO Station.

Other projects that will eventually create a full network across the Region and connecting to other transit systems are grey on the map. Since we don’t have funding secured for all of them yet, we can’t confirm the actual timing.

Of these unfunded segments, two are the top priority. The first priority is the Yonge North Subway Extension, which will provide a critical link for passengers transferring between the vivaNext system and the TTC. Without this connection, vivaNext is missing a critical link that will really make our system a key part of the larger Greater Toronto transit network.

Another future route proposed is a rapidway along Major Mackenzie Drive, which would provide a major transit artery for all the growth taking place in that area. The Major Mackenzie rapidway would provide passengers with connections to the TYSSE, GO lines in both the east and west, and the Viva Highway 7 rapidway in both the east and west.

Imagine how this wonderful rapid transit network would make your life easier? We are working hard to bring it to life, so that everyone in York Region will have the choice to leave their car at home and hop on board Viva for a fast, reliable and comfortable ride, no matter where they want to go.

colour coding the rapidway

Friday, September 5th, 2014

colour coding the rapidway

As we’ve posted previously, Bus Rapid Transit [BRT] is an increasingly popular rapid transit technology around the world. One of the ways to make BRT truly rapid, as we’re doing here in York Region, is to provide vehicles with separate lanes so they can move easily through congested areas. And one way to make those lanes distinct without having an actual grade separation is to make them a different colour. This is why the vivaNext rapidways are bright red.

Colouring asphalt anything other than basic black isn’t as easy as you might think. Here’s what we’ve done to get our rapidways red.

Painting asphalt isn’t an option [if only it was this easy]. Although it’s something we all take for granted, creating a long-lasting, durable asphalt mix for the conditions along a busy roadway like Highway 7 is actually a highly specialized science. The surface on roadways that carry a lot of heavy traffic, especially traffic that is constantly turning and braking or accelerating at intersections, needs to be exceptionally strong to prevent cracking, rutting and shifting. Canadian climate conditions, including extreme temperature changes, hot sun, frost, and salting over the winter, all impose significant challenges. Creating an asphalt mix to take these conditions without requiring frequent maintenance is something that specialized pavement designers work hard to achieve, with the technology constantly evolving.

So adding in the requirement to make it a distinct colour definitely adds to the complexity.

Using red pavers or bricks would not provide a sufficiently durable driving surface long term, and would be extremely costly to install and maintain.  One approach that is used when the colour is needed in very limited areas, such as crosswalks or bike lanes, is a material called “street print.” But this material, which is actually a special top layer that’s heated right into the asphalt once it has been imprinted with a brick or paver pattern, would be too complicated to use along the full length of the rapidways [although we are using it for our crosswalks], and again would not be durable enough.

So the best approach is to tint the black asphalt, which we’re accomplishing in a couple of ways. Asphalt is composed of a mixture of sand, stones and asphalt cement binding it together. By adding reddish stones rather than grey ones, we can give an underlying red tint to the asphalt, especially as it wears.

The more complex adjustment is to add a special red pigment. The challenge with the pigment is to be careful in how much we add:  too little and the colour doesn’t come through, but too much and the overall durability of the asphalt could be compromised. The pavement design team has worked long and hard through a highly technical process to get the balance just right.

We’re delighted with their final results, which gives us what we need: a clearly defined rapidway that stands out from the regular traffic lanes, with a long-lasting and durable surface, at an affordable price. Drivers need to remember as they make turns from side streets along Highway 7 to follow the white skip lines and not turn onto those red rapidways!  Although beautiful, they are red for safety too!

 

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.

 

crossing in safety

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

crossing in safety

Welcome back students! Can you believe summer is over? As the children flood back to the streets and sidewalks it is important for everyone to keep safety in mind, whether you are walking, driving or taking transit.

Making the new rapidways more welcoming to pedestrians continues to be a top priority, and that includes ensuring that pedestrians feel safe and secure while crossing Highway 7 and in the future on Davis Drive. We know from your feedback that you’re already enjoying the protected waiting areas built into the medians, and you’ve become familiar with the two-stage crossing at crosswalks that’s been in place for much of the construction period. But in case you don’t know how it works, here’s a reminder of how to cross the rapidway safely to get to the new vivastations.

With its new wider overall alignment to incorporate the two rapidway lanes and median stations, the crosswalks across Highway 7 East are longer than they used to be. To enhance the safety of pedestrians, a two-stage crossing is recommended. Lights are timed to give enough time for the average pedestrian to cross to or from a median vivastation. For people going all the way across the road, the light will allow them to cross to the protected median and wait for the next pedestrian signal. Remember, if you want to take the local YRT bus, you still catch those curb side, because they stop more frequently than Viva.

In addition to watching the lights, once the system is fully operational, pedestrians will hear an audible signal indicating whether they should “walk” or “wait,” and for people with visual impairments, the signals are equipped with a locator sound that direct people to the push button. The locator signal has a detection system that enables it to automatically adjust its volume depending on the ambient sound levels, so it’s always audible.

Remember that the pedestrian signal is only activated once the button is pushed; it will not automatically be activated as part of the through-traffic phase. Pedestrians cannot proceed to cross until they get the visual and audible signals that it’s safe to go. It’s important that pedestrians check for left turning cars before stepping out onto the roadway.

Crosswalks are wider than usual to provide more space for pedestrians, and clearly marked in white.

With new residential and employment development all along the corridor, and more and more people using the new rapid transit system, Highway 7 East is seeing an increasing number of pedestrians. As they are only one of the priority user groups of the Highway 7 corridor, pedestrians need to be aware of their busy surroundings and stay safe while they enjoy all the new amenities. Whether you live, work or play in the area, we hope you check it out soon!

making our stations accessible for everyone

Friday, August 29th, 2014

making our stations accessible for everyone

The vivaNext commitment is to ensure everyone feels equally welcome on vivastation platforms and is able to board the Viva vehicles, whether they have mobility or other physical limitations, or are pushing a baby stroller, or for any other reasons feel uncomfortable accessing transit service. Over this holiday long weekend, we hope you get out and about using transit and take advantage of the system.

In addition to meeting all the accessibility requirements set out in Provincial and local regulatory frameworks, we’ve gone to great lengths to design the new platforms so all users have a comfortable and pleasant customer experience – and we obtained advice and input from the CNIB and York Region’s Accessibility Committee during the design process.

Here’s what we’ve built into the new stations to ensure all users feel safe and comfortable:

    • The pedestrian ramps to the platform have a shallow incline and handrails on either side, and there are no changes of grade or tripping hazards anywhere on the platform.   For people with impaired vision, the platform edge is clearly indicated through the use of domed tactile tiles in a contrasting colour. At the primary bus stop location there are directional tiles which provide directional grooves going toward the bus, which will be helpful for people using canes for guidance.
    • People using wheelchairs will have no difficulties getting in and out of the heated enclosures, which provide wheelchair-turning radius inside, and have doors at either end to simplify access. And the enclosures have barrier-free doors which have been designed to meet the highest accessibility standards including their button placement and operations such as door opening speed and how the door responds if it contacts an object. Even in construction zones, we try to maintain one accessible sidewalk at all times.
    • We’ve included benches inside the enclosure and outside, complete with grab bars for people who appreciate a little help getting up and down. And for anyone who dreads the chilly experience of sitting on a metal bench in a Canadian winter, we’ve planned for that too. The benches are constructed from durable Brazilian Ipe wood that will make sitting a little warmer in the cold weather; which is right around the corner!
    • The electronic ITS elements are all designed to ensure using the equipment is equally successful for all our customers. All the fare equipment is designed to be functional for people at wheelchair height or with other physical limitations, with angled screens, clear, bright graphics and large push-buttons. The VMS will provide clearly visible information about buses, routes and the time. We extensively researched and analyzed our PA system to make sure it’s clearly audible, and provides full coverage along the platform and in the enclosures. The notice holders for system updates are posted at the right height so they’re easily read whether you’re walking or in a wheelchair. And we’ve installed large map cases at each platform, illuminated to make it easy for everyone to navigate their route.

    Overall, our objective has been to provide a comfortable, safe and welcoming experience for all our transit riders with no barriers or restrictions. With back to school on everyone’s minds, safety and accessibility make a world of difference. Enjoy your holiday weekend!

     

    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.

     

    ITS – balancing the needs of all travellers

    Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

    Gridlock is an increasing problem everywhere across the GTHA and most other large cities.  But what can be done about it?  VivaNext is one part of the solution.  With the new vivaNext system comes improved ITS – which isn’t what you think…

    Some people may think ITS is connected to “Information Technology”, but in the vivaNext world ITS stands for “Intelligent Transportation Systems”. ITS is an international transportation-engineering discipline that is 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 component of the vivaNext program, although with low-visibility.

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

    As high-tech as each of these components are, none can be effective unless it can communicate with the others.  Each one also needs to be connected to the overall transit system which keeps track of the schedule for each bus, and which determines when the traffic signal phasing requires a temporary adjustment to let a delayed bus get back on schedule by holding a light.

    The connection is provided through a fibre optics communications network that links all of the intersection and every vivastation to YRT’s transit operations and York Region’s traffic operations.

    This system is fully automated, with approaching vehicles alerting intersections that they are arriving, and each intersection sharing that information with the central traffic control system, which in turn compares that information with the transit schedule.  The system is continuously adjusted and fine-tuned to ensure the buses stay on schedule, while keeping the roads and intersections working well for everyone.

    To enhance passenger safety, each station is equipped with cameras to monitor the platforms, a public address system to provide announcements and an emergency call box for personal safety.  All of these systems operate reliably and seamlessly over the new fibre optic communications system.

    The future Highway 7 will be significantly more urbanized, with more people living and working along the corridor.  That means there will be more transit riders, pedestrians and cyclists whose travel requirements 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 help balance everyone’s needs, to get everyone there as fast as possible!  It truly is a balancing act!

     

    countdown to handover

    Monday, August 11th, 2014

    countdown to handover

    Taking advantage of every sunny day to advance the work on the Highway 7 rapidway in Markham, our teams are working hard to finish all sorts of little details. With much of the construction complete, we’re now focused on the final stages of construction and testing, and then getting ready for handover, when the system is officially turned over to York Region and YRT, the system owners and operators.

    Handover means just what it says – it’s the moment in time when the transit system is handed over to the owner for care and custody. From that time forward, the system – which until then has been the responsibility of the Contractor/Design Builder – becomes the private property of the owner.

    Because the formal handover is such a significant development, especially on a major infrastructure project like the vivaNext rapidway, it’s important to ensure everything is in perfect working order. The various steps involved in commissioning, which is the testing period that takes place before handover, vary depending on what is being handed over. For example, with the fare equipment, we make sure the ticket vending machine [TVM] prints properly. With the traffic signals, once they’re programmed the permanent signals are turned on and each phase is tested individually, and all the push buttons are tested to make sure they work.

    Streetlights are inspected to ensure all the wiring is according to the drawings; that the bases are level, and the power connections are all correct. The teams go out at night to actually turn on the lights, to ensure all the lamps come on and nothing is flickering. Lighting is an important safety feature for both pedestrians and vehicles.

    Every single detail is inspected through a visual walk-down. Then a list of the things that still need to be finished or perfected is created with items graded from most serious to least serious. These items will be fixed either prior to the system opening or post opening under the warranty.

    Once handover takes place, legal ownership and responsibility is transferred to the owner, and the Contractor/Design Builder’s warranty period begins, just the way it happens when a homebuyer takes possession of a new house.

    Handover in this case means some elements of the rapidway, like the rapidway, stations, boulevards and planters, are transferred to the Region. Others, like the sidewalks and streetlights are transferred to the local municipality to maintain.

    Ultimately, vivaNext wants to provide a reliable, efficient rapid transit system and beautiful streetscape. Because, at the end of the day, the ultimate owners are the public of York Region and with every new piece of rapidway delivered, it makes it a better system that we all can be proud of.