the roads ahead

March 22nd, 2017

the roads ahead

By now, our projects may be familiar to you if you’ve travelled through our rapidway construction areas, or seen the vision come to life on Highway 7 and Davis Drive. Curious about where the next projects will be? Well, future transit plans are always guided by many factors, including York Region’s priorities and the other changes happening in the GTA.

York Region’s overall priorities for roads, transit, cycling and walking are set out in the Transportation Master Plan [TMP]. From this, the region’s transit operations branch, YRT/Viva, creates annual Service Plans. Within the Service Plans, changes are proposed to routes where there appears to be demand, future development or transit connections. There are plans to complete the remaining rapidway segments along the existing Viva routes on Highway 7 and Yonge Street, and Viva routes will expand in the coming years along sections of Jane Street, Major Mackenzie Drive, and Leslie Street. Typically, new Viva routes begin with service at enhanced curbside stations. Then, once funding is in place, vivaNext takes Viva out of mixed traffic by building dedicated rapidway lanes, making it truly “rapid” transit.

As always, bringing subways to York Region is a top priority, including the Yonge Subway Extension and the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension [TYSSE]. The TYSSE will be generating excitement in the final year of construction as it makes history as the first TTC subway to cross regional boundaries. In the 2018 Service Plan there are changes being proposed as part of the Spadina Subway Transit Strategy [SSTS], helping Viva riders connect to the new subway.

So what can we expect to see on the roads ahead? We’re certain to see transformations – ones that connect transit and people – that we made together with you. And now, it’s back to building what’s next as spring construction is ramping up with better weather on the horizon.

 

 

 

as technology advances, every little step counts

March 15th, 2017

as technology advances, every little step counts

We are always amazed to see examples of technology that depart from the norm. Like this driverless drone “sky taxi” that will begin flying customers in Dubai, United Arab Emirates this summer. If everyone had their own personal drone it would certainly change the daily commute!

Sometimes though, it’s smaller innovations that change transportation for the better for people. Bus rapid transit that rides in dedicated bus lanes is now part of the landscape in Markham, Richmond Hill, Vaughan and Newmarket. At the end of this year in Vaughan, the Toronto-York Spadina Subway will change how many people commute.

Within a transit service there can also be improvements and innovations. YRT/Viva’s goal is to be emissions free by 2051, and their 2017 Annual Service Plan notes several pilot and trial programs underway, including:

  • Electric Bus Demonstration and Integration Trial
  • Alternative Fuel Study
  • Small bus strategy

Over time, these smaller changes can make a big difference. Just fifteen years ago, few people would have predicted that bus customers would be able to zip past congested traffic on Highway 7. And while subway extensions have been a priority for a long time, it’s pretty amazing that residents of Vaughan will soon be living so close to a subway line.

Dreaming about new innovations for the future is one thing; making it happen is definitely another. And in York Region we’ve made these changes together. The future looks bright with more innovation to come!

 

want to know the difference between vivaNext and YRT/Viva?

March 9th, 2017

the difference between vivaNext and YRT/Viva?

Every now and again, members of the community either see vivaNext and YRT/Viva as one and the same, or take one of us for the other. We thought we would help to clear up exactly how they differ.

The essential difference between vivaNext and YRT/Viva is what they do:

  • vivaNext plans and builds rapid transit and the facilities associated with it.
  • YRT/Viva maintains and operates the buses and system elements.

While we each operate as separate organizations, we are connected – much like cousins. Here is a little family history:

YRT/Viva

York Region Transit [YRT] came into being in 2001 when York Region amalgamated five municipal transit agencies.

Viva was launched in 2005 as an additional transit service that focused more on “rapid”. Viva Bus Rapid Transit features faster service, off-board payment and traffic signal priority technology. The next stage of Viva BRT was the move into dedicated bus lanes known as “rapidways”, and began with the route on Highhway7 East in Markham. The rapidway project was designed, planned and built by vivaNext!

YRT/Viva operates both types of transit together. YRT, which travels in and out of neighbourhoods, feeds customers into Viva as one cohesive system.

vivaNext

York Region soon recognized that there was a real need for transit infrastructure projects to move forward quickly. As a result – VivaNext was born as the project name, and York Region Rapid Transit Corporation was the company managing the project. Once funding was received in 2009, vivaNext became more than a plan – it became a brand for the construction projects transforming York Region’s busiest roads. It includes dedicated lanes and Vivastations in the rapidways – as well as facilities and terminals in key locations across York Region.

As each vivaNext project is completed, YRT/Viva takes on the operations with service and maintenance plans.

Transit is evolving in York Region and vivaNext and YRT/Viva are collaboratively working together to make that happen. What it means to you is convenient transportation in attractive, well-connected communities.

urban parks bring us together

February 23rd, 2017

urban parks bring us together

Having at least one feature park is a hallmark of a great city. Central Park in New York, Stanley Park in Vancouver and High Park in Toronto – they’re all natural gathering places. We go there on a hot summer day to find some shade or a splash pad, and on a snow day we go there to skate or make a snowman. Parks make our towns and cities more appealing places to live and work, so it’s important to have them right in the centre of things, where we can get to them easily by taking transit, walking or cycling.

Green parks are beautiful, and a refreshing change from the indoors, but there is also something to be said for the more activity-oriented parks and parkettes. In Markham, Toogood Pond and Milliken Mills are full of picturesque trees and ponds, but the Pride of Canada Carousel in the heart of Downtown Markham also offers a fun diversion from everyday life. If you don’t live right around the corner from these, you can get there on YRT or Viva.

In Newmarket, Fairy Lake Park and the Mabel Davis Conservation Area provide green places to gather for sports and culture, connected by the Tom Taylor and Nokiidaa Trails and meeting in the middle at the Riverwalk Commons, where people gather for concerts and events throughout the year. Mabel Davis and the Tom Taylor Trail can be reached via the new Viva yellow route on Davis Drive, and on the south end of town, YRT will get you there.

In Richmond Hill, Lake Wilcox Park has cultural and culinary events most summer weekends, and is a stone’s throw from the new Oak Ridges Community Centre and Pool. A short walk west from the Viva blue route on Yonge Street is Mill Pond Park – the heart of Richmond Hill’s downtown and host to concerts and neighbourhood festivals all year.

Parks can be activity-focused too, such as Vaughan Grove Sports Park in Woodbridge, offering several soccer and baseball fields just south of Viva and YRT routes on Highway 7. On the northeast corner of Highway 7 and Jane Street, Vaughan Metropolitan Centre will be adding one more important development to this already bustling construction area: an urban park. Edgeley Pond and Park will be in the middle of commercial and residential developments – a place welcoming to all who will live and work there. With a rapidway on Highway 7, the northernmost station of the Spadina subway line and a bus terminal at Highway 7 west of Jane, this park will be connected in all directions.

As we start to see a hint of the spring weather to come, let’s remember how important it is to have great parks, connected by great transit.

 

change that works

February 17th, 2017

change that works

Cities around the world are searching for safe, sustainable ways to provide mobility to residents across towns and cities. VivaNext, a leader in rapid transit, has risen to the challenge. We pride ourselves on designing a great transportation system that has social significance and measurable benefits.

VivaNext is proud to support the triple bottom line. This business principle holds that business activities should result in financial, social and environmental benefits. The benefits of rapidways are easy to see. For example, the dedicated bus lanes not only allow for fast, convenient service across the region, but they also help facilitate a safer road for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists alike. In addition, emergency service vehicles are able to access the rapidways and cross the median at designated intervals, which improves their response time and bypasses congestion.

What may not be immediately visible, however, are some of the positive economic and environmental impacts rapidways create for communities.

economic development & impact

  • Well thought-out and well-designed transit attracts sustainable, mixed-use development, including new businesses, jobs and a variety of housing options
  • Easy access to transit creates a more desirable mixed-use neighbourhood, and allows for money to be reinvested into the community (through businesses or reinvesting in local infrastructure)
  • Based on other rapid transit projects across North America, property values increase for land within walking distance to transit stations
  • As the Region’s urban transit corridors evolve and attract new retail and restaurants, other new employers wanting to be near transit will follow, continuing to support future economic and social growth

environmental responsibility

  • Every busload replaces approximately 70 vehicles on the road, which means a reduced carbon footprint
  • Rapid transit systems create a safer, more accessible and walkable city

With so many positive benefits of rapid transit, it’s no wonder York Region is a leader in transforming our communities by providing safe, convenient rapid transit. Join us and be moved.

making corners work for everyone

February 16th, 2017

making corners work for everyone

In civil engineering-speak, curb radius refers to the curve of the curb as it goes around a corner; sometimes it’s a wide gentle bend, and sometimes it’s a tight right angle. So here’s a question: when’s the last time you waited at an intersection for the light to change and actually even noticed the curb radius?  If you’re like pretty much everyone else, probably never.

And yet, believe it or not, the curb radius is one of the most important components of streetscaping, and has a profound influence on how drivers and pedestrians use a street.

As you already know, streetscaping refers to all the elements making up the public spaces along our streets. Because a key vivaNext goal is to make everyone feel welcome on our streets, whether they’re walking, biking, waiting to hop on Viva, or driving, we pay a lot of attention to streetscaping considerations. This includes the curb radii for every single intersection and entrance along our rapidways.

The curb radius describes the shape of a corner, such as when two perpendicular streets come together at an intersection, for example. The curb radius is expressed as a number, taken from the radius of the curve connecting the curbs of the two streets. On a wide suburban corner, the curb radius might be as high as 35, whereas on an urban street corner, it might only be 2.

Most urban settings, including along our vivaNext rapidways, aim for a smaller curb radius wherever possible.  That’s because the smaller the curb radius, the shorter the distance a pedestrian has to walk to get to the other side of the road. A smaller curb radius has other impacts too. It results in more space at the corner, including more space for accessible ramps. It makes it easier to line up crosswalks with connecting sidewalks.  It improves the sightlines for pedestrians and makes pedestrians more visible to drivers. And it slows down turning movements for vehicles going around corners, which is safer for pedestrians.

Of course, curb radius design also considers the needs of drivers, including traffic volume, vehicle size, and their desired speed going around corners. It also has to take into account bike lanes, on-street parking, bus stops, emergency vehicles, and other design requirements.  Whether or not the road is part of a truck route may affect the curb radius, because trucks need a larger turning radius to be able to navigate turns while staying within their lane.

Our final curb radius design isn’t up to us alone, of course.  Our designs reflect standards and requirements set by York Region and the municipalities as part of their broader planning for their regional and local road networks. Those requirements in turn reflect the design standards from a variety of authorities including guidelines from the Transportation Association of Canada and the Ontario Ministry of Transportation.

There’s a lot involved in the design of a simple concrete curb than you probably would have guessed. But the final result is for a more welcoming, safe and accessible streetscape for all users.

 

connecting people to people

February 8th, 2017

connecting people to people

Have you ever wondered why the central markets, main streets and train stations of old cities thrive for so many years? Whether it’s the Temple Street Market in Hong Kong, the piazzas of Italy, or Toronto’s Union Station, it’s important to have a place to gather and connect. Somewhere to meet a friend or someone new, wait for the next bus or train, or just people-watch.

We all want to be around people, at least some of the time – Aristotle once said “man is by nature a social animal.” So in York Region, we’re hard at work building attractive places to spend our “connecting” time. A warm area at the station while you wait for Viva [it won’t be long!]… a place to buy coffee at the SmartCentres Place Bus Terminal in Vaughan, tree-lined sidewalks in Newmarket for walking along Davis Drive, or a trellis-covered plaza with benches to meet a friend at Cornell Terminal in Markham.

In this world of internet and mobile devices it’s easy to find ourselves isolated from the general population, so we’re using smart design to make sure everything we build connects people – not just vehicles.

 

matching the heights

February 2nd, 2017

matching the heights

With the extraordinary maneuvering required to install the roof sections of the VMC BRT station in its location in the centre of Highway 7, you might think the most challenging part of this project has been its incredible glass and steel canopy.

It’s true that installing the canopy of the station required a lot of planning and meticulous engineering. But actually, the coordination of the underground subway station with the BRT station above has been – and still is – a much more complex logistical challenge.

the mechanics of it all

Building the actual physical connections between the two structures was involved but not unduly complicated, similar to any building that has a framed structure on top of a concrete slab. Because the top of the station is wider than the lower part and overhangs at the edges, we couldn’t use rebar dowels, which are the most common construction method. Instead, we used mechanical couplings that enabled us to essentially bolt the top to the bottom.

working together

What makes the project more challenging is that the subway station is being built by the TTC, while the above ground BRT station is being built by vivaNext. With two different owners, and two different contractors, the project demands an intensive degree of coordination and planning.

Joint planning work began long ago, starting with establishing the specific requirements for how the project needed to be built, both below and above ground, and inside and outside the subway station. With the TTC building the subway station up to the surface, and vivaNext building the BRT station from the ground up, the heights of floors and ceilings had to line up perfectly.

top to bottom, inside and out

The vertical elements between the lower and upper floors – including the stairs, escalators and elevators – had to be installed early, with no margin for error. Escalators are very rigid, designed to fit perfectly between floors. And because the rapidway runs right through the station, the top of the escalator, stairs and elevator also had to align precisely with the existing level of Highway 7 outside.

At the same time as the TTC was building the lower levels of the subway station, we were outside building the civil works – the roadway, curbs and gutters – that surround the BRT station. Again, because the rapidway runs through the station, the heights of the underground parts of these elements had to fit with the height of the subway box below.

The BRT station is well on its way and is already a head-turner. In the not-too-distant future, all of this engineering and coordination will make it possible for you to step off the escalator at VMC subway station and easily make your way to the BRT station on Highway 7 and beyond.

See an artist’s rendering of the VMC BRT station once complete.

 

2016 >> all together now!

January 25th, 2017

YouTube video: 2016 year in review

Some of the best songs start with just a few notes – maybe the base in a band or the baritones in a choir. Then more and more parts are added, and by the middle of the song everyone is singing or playing different parts, all in harmony. For York Region’s rapid transit system, 2016 was the “middle of the song.”

The prototype station opened in 2011 in Markham, followed by a 10-kilometre rapidway opening in 2013 and 2014 on Highway 7 East. In Richmond Hill, a LEED Silver-certified transit service facility opened in 2015. The Davis Drive rapidway in Newmarket opened for service in 2015, with some final work completed last summer.

Along with finishing Davis Drive, 2016 projects included important utility and prep work along Yonge Street in Newmarket and in Richmond Hill – temporary traffic signals, median work and retaining walls, new hydro poles, water main and gas main replacements. Similar work is being done for the rapidway on Bathurst and Centre Streets in Vaughan, and along Highway 7 west of Highway 400 to Helen Street/Wigwoss Drive.

Highway 7 in Vaughan was a symphony of activity in 2016, with construction wrapping up east of Jane Street to Bowes Road, and work moving ahead quickly on the large rapidway station west of Jane Street that will connect directly to the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension.

Bus terminals are planned in Vaughan and in Markham, and in 2016 those projects worked through the “backstage” steps of design and procurement.

A high note in 2016 was the announcement from the Province of Ontario of $55 million in funding to advance the design and engineering for the Yonge Subway Extension [YSE]. The YSE is York Region’s top transit priority, and we’re committed to working with Metrolinx, TTC and the City of Toronto to move this project forward.

In our plans, 2016 was the year we knew most of our projects would be happening, all at the same time, and it was busy! 2017 will be full of accomplishments too, and there are even more rapid transit projects planned for the future. So we plan to keep working on every detail or “note” to make sure our song – a connected transit system – makes it to the finale!

 

making sparks fly

January 18th, 2017

making sparks fly

If you’ve been near the future Vaughan Metropolitan Centre [VMC] vivastation recently, you’ve likely seen our welding crews up on man-lifts. And if you’re like most people, you probably didn’t give the welding process much thought – welding is welding, right? Lots of protective clothing, impressive clouds of sparks, and something gets permanently stuck to something else.

Of course, as always with all our engineering and construction activities, there’s so much more going on than meets the eye, and welding on the VMC station is no exception. Here’s the primer on what they’re doing up there, and what some of the complexities are.

Since we’re talking vivaNext, form and function both matter. There are two ways to join two pieces of metal: bolting them together, or welding them. Bolting works well enough, and is the most common method used on bridges, high rises and many other structures. But bolts show, and when the design – as for the VMC station – is for a smooth, seamless architectural look, bolts would be out of place. So welding was chosen as the method to join the pieces of steel throughout the structure.

Welding design takes into account the ultimate strength and performance needed from the structure being joined together, including the loads it will bear, and any flexibility it will require. In the case of the station’s steel superstructure, we are using “full penetration” welding. That means that the two elements being welded together are literally being fused into one piece. Rather than one piece being stuck onto the other, enough heat is applied that the two pieces melt and become one at a molecular level. With this type of welding, it’s not just one surface being glued to another; the joint literally goes through the full depth of the elements being connected. The resulting element is as strong structurally as one solid piece of material.

Once the weld is done, it is reviewed by the welding contractor for certification that the weld meets the required standards including having no impurities or voids. The reviews are generally done visually, although in some cases x-rays will be used. Our general contractor will also do their own quality control, and carry out random spot-checks on many of the welds.

In general, welding can be done until the temperature drops to -18 Celsius. But this specialized kind of welding requires warmer outside temperatures. When temperatures are -5 or below, some weld areas may need to be pre-heated with electrodes.

We’re moving as fast as we can to get the roughly 200 structural welds done, with welders working in shifts, each safely attached by full harnesses to a man-lift while they’re up high. Once the sparks are finished, and because it’s too cold out to paint steel, our last step will be to protect the welded areas with an anti-rust finish.

If you’re in the VMC area, we hope you’ll slow down and look around you. If you do, you’ll be able to admire up close its sleek, architectural lines, and understand all the work that went into making the steel superstructure smooth, strong and beautiful.

 


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