municipalities of the future

March 29th, 2018

municipalities of the future

Earlier this month we were excited to be part of the Municipalities of the Future Symposium, hosted in Vaughan by York University. President of York Region Rapid Transit Corp. [YRRTC], Mary-Frances Turner, gave the keynote presentation, talking about trends and future innovation.


Mary-Frances’ presentation highlighted a video by HP that talked about keeping up in this ever-changing world, by planning around these “megatrends”:

  • Rapid urbanization – larger cities, more cities
  • Changing demographics – aging population and lower birthrate, shrinking workforce
  • Hyper global and hyper local – everything connected to the internet, but customization is key
  • Accelerated innovation – market for new ideas and innovative business models, businesses reinventing themselves

future innovation >> smart growth

Looking at the state of the GTA, and global examples of transportation innovation, Mary-Frances talked about the need for “smart growth” in our cities and towns. In York Region, we expect to see a 49% rise in population and a 50% increase in jobs by 2041, but traffic congestion has been the number one concern of residents for the past 13 years.

What is smart growth? It’s compact, higher density development, maximizing the amount of places to live, work and be entertained, within walking distance of transit – where mobility and connections are seamless, regardless of municipal boundaries.

Smart growth includes better access to transportation – including transit, and future innovative technology. In the GTA, we’ve already created better access to health services, education and businesses with transit:

  • Dedicated bus lanes – rapidways – at the doorstep of Southlake Hospital in Newmarket and Markham-Stouffville Hospital in Markham.
  • Direct connection to subway in Vaughan, which stops at York University.
  • Viva rapidway stations near Seneca College’s Markham Campus and the future York University campus in Markham Centre.
  • Easy access for Viva riders and pedestrians to businesses along Davis Drive in Newmarket, and Highway 7 East and West in Markham and Vaughan.

There’s much left to do, including more transit, and more transportation options. Whether it’s bus rapidways, subway extensions, car sharing or drone taxis, there is a world of options out there. At YRRTC, we’re committed to being ready, by working with others to ensure guiding policies result in a successful future, by remaining open to changes in technology and the demands of new demographics, and by thinking outside the norm.

having your own wheels, in your pocket

March 11th, 2018

having your own wheels, in your pocket

For most of us old enough to have our drivers’ license, our approach to transportation has taken a pretty linear path. First, we got driven around by our parents. Then, we got a bit of independence when we could bike to our friends’. The bike in turn was ditched on that much-anticipated and magical day when we could get our own “wheels.” Throughout, as a fallback, there was always the bus. For most of us, how we got around reflected where we lived and what our budget was. But what wasn’t an option, was the thought that at any given time there could be multiple good choices for how we could get around. Or even, that there might be something more convenient or desirable than owning our own car.

All that is changing, and fast.

As this compelling report from consulting firm Deloitte describes, mobility – i.e., how we get around, is quickly becoming something people are approaching as consumers, like any other service or goods they shop for. People want choice, they want flexibility, and they want convenience. And they want it now.

Mobility as a service – MaaS for short – is poised to change how we get around, in the same way that Netflix forever changed how we access entertainment. Remember that not-so-long-ago day, when watching a movie meant lining up at the movie theatre to buy a paper ticket? Now, to catch the latest, you still might want to go out to the theatre, or you might want to call it up on your smart TV at home. Or maybe you want to watch on your phone while you’re enjoying a latte at the coffee shop. Instantaneous options, to suit your mood, at a given moment. Oh, and you don’t need to pay for that movie with cash, since that’s all handled by your TV or phone’s app automatically. It’s all seamless, and easy to use, and we just take it for granted now.

Take that degree of transformation and apply it to how you get around. That’s how mobility is about to be changed.

Say you need to get from A to B. You go to your app, punch in where you are now and where you’re going, and it tells you all your options. Bike sharing, public transit, ride hailing, car sharing, etc. You’ll be told what combination will get you there soonest, and how much each component will cost. You pay on your phone. It’s all coordinated behind the scenes, but seamless for you.

Sounds like some kind of sci-fi? Not at all. Some cities, including in Europe and Japan, are way ahead and already have these apps in place, coordinating the services offered by a whole range of public and private sector mobility providers. Canadian cities aren’t all that far behind. And with some transformation, our public transit services will play a key role as they do in those other cities; many, including at York Region Rapid Transit, are already focusing on mobility options. This means lots of creative ways of working together to make mobility seamless and more efficient for consumers. The day is coming when you can have your own “wheels,” without owning a car.


journey of the Highway 7 rapidway

February 23rd, 2018

2013 marked the dawn of a new and exciting era for the City of Vaughan. With construction beginning, the next several years of sometimes messy construction signaled the unfolding of a new bus rapid transit system on Highway 7.

The transformation took several years to complete, but now all the speed and convenience is yours at the VMC, where the Highway 7 West bus rapidway connects seamlessly to the TTC Line 1 subway.

Click the image above to learn more.

rapid transit means quality of life

February 16th, 2018

rapid transit means quality of life

When you think of rapid transit, you probably think of commuting – getting to school or work on time, without having to rely on a car. It’s true that transit helps people get to work – and that having more people on transit means fewer cars on the roads. But a fast, convenient transit system means more than getting to work.

It means getting home on time to meet friends for dinner, take the kids to swimming lessons or just to enjoy family time. Knowing when the next bus [or subway] will arrive is key. And being able to predict when you’ll get there is important to you, and everyone you’re connecting with.

Whether you take transit because it’s fast and easy, or because you can text your friends on the bus, quality of life is what it’s all about. This Family Day weekend, we wish you all the best, as you connect with friends and family.


who’s who of winter maintenance

February 7th, 2018

They say it can sometimes take a village to raise a child. Well, the same can be said for winter maintenance in one of our construction zones – we work with local municipalities, cities and towns, and our crews to make the construction zones as safe as possible for pedestrians and drivers.


road and sidewalk maintenance

During construction, road and sidewalk maintenance is the responsibility of the construction contractor within the project areas.  But during the winter, the Region and local municipalities are responsible for ensuring the roads and sidewalks are kept clear. Before winter arrives, we ensure every aspect of the construction zones is compatible with the requirements for winter maintenance operations.

This means making sure the snow-clearing equipment can manoeuver through the construction zones, boulevards and platforms.  Our design work and construction staging plans have always had those requirements top of mind, but we walk through the sites with Regional and municipal staff again before winter to identify any little details that might impede their operations.

During winter, we work closely with the constructor to repair potholes, ensure proper signs are installed, organize construction barrels for proper delineation for motorists and pedestrians, etc. We also take steps to ensure traffic moves through the winter, including making travel lanes as straight as possible through the construction zones, and ensure traffic markings are clear.


municipal versus regional roads

Did you know there are more than 50 Regional roads in York Region? Regional roads are usually main arterial roadways that connect the nine local municipalities to one another. These roads are operated and maintained by York Region, and each is identified by a numbered Regional road sign. Local roads are operated and maintained by local municipalities.

This means that the Region is responsible for clearing snow from Regional roads. Similarly, Towns are responsible for clearing snow from municipal roads. The Region often has agreements with municipalities, where the Town is responsible for clearing snow from sidewalks on the Regional right of way


challenges from Mother Nature

Living in Canada, we all know how cruel Mother Nature can be. The fluctuating temperatures and general unpredictability of weather can sometimes cause havoc on our construction sites.

Our construction zones often suffer from the freeze and thaw of winter, meaning road bumps or potholes can appear (and appear often they do!). Potholes and road bumps often appear due to general wear-and-tear, and not as a sole result of construction. Regardless, crews from the Region and our contractor, are out repairing these road settlements often. Road cuts and temporary asphalt patches are only effective when applied on dry pavement and temperature above 6 °C.

These are just some of the ways we work with our Regional partners and constructor to make the construction zones as safe as possible for pedestrians and drivers. Our crews remain busy with the fluctuating weather, so sign up for electronic construction updates.

we’re preparing for spring [despite what groundhogs may say…]

February 2nd, 2018

we’re preparing for spring [despite what the groundhog may say…]

The groundhogs seem to be of differing opinions about when spring is coming. Of the big three – Wiarton Willie, Shubenacadie Sam and Punxsutawney Phil – one says winter is over, and two predict six more weeks.

We’re ready for spring to come at vivaNext, with lots of plans afoot to continue the transformation of York Region’s busiest roads to rapidways.

When spring has sprung and the ground has thawed, our crews will be ready to carry out their detailed construction plans.

We carry out construction in all seasons, but there are some things that need warmer temperatures, like road widening, paving and of course, planting! Planters will be installed along Yonge Street in Newmarket this spring. At our newly open Vaughan Metropolitan Centre Station, the planters are ready and waiting for a green touch, soon to be filled with greenery.

We’re paving the way to spring with information, preparing newsletters on our projects, and keeping our Board and local stakeholders updated. Subscribe to sign up for email updates today.

At this time of year, we’re looking forward to ramping up our work. It’s not long now, and whether the groundhogs are right or wrong, we’re ready for spring.

viva la winter!

January 29th, 2018

Brr, it’s cold out there, or unseasonably warm, depending on the day. You never know what’s in store. Regardless of the weather, our construction crews continue to expand the Viva rapidway system to improve connections in York Region. The winter season lends itself to certain types of work, especially the kind that happens above ground.

shiny, new canopies

Forget the January blahs! It’s been exciting times on the Bathurst & Centre corridor this past month. The first two vivastation canopies were installed at Bathurst/Hwy 7 Station located on the Bathurst connector road, one for each side of the station. There’s nothing like seeing that crane lift the canopy into place!

The elegant, arched glass canopies evoke traditional European transit infrastructure, transforming the everyday experience of transit into a beautiful one. A third canopy is coming this winter to the vivastation on Bathurst at Atkinson Avenue.

Looking to the west, construction of the first vivastation platform is beginning to take shape at what will be Commerce Street Station on Highway 7 West.

On both Highway 7 West and Bathurst & Centre, road widening and construction of storm sewers, retaining walls and culvert work is underway. Winter is also a great time to relocate hydro lines and install new poles, which is getting close to being completed in this area.

signals, check!

Our Yonge Street projects are not as far along, and the underground utility work they need to do is limited during cold weather. Crews have made some progress on installing underground duct banks and gas mains in Richmond Hill. Traffic signal work, a good above-ground winter activity, and is also underway. In Newmarket, crews are preparing to start work on the east side of Yonge when the weather gets a bit warmer. They’ll be replicating the road widening that was performed on the west side last year.

planning season

Winter is also a great time to make plans, large and small. We’re working together with the TTC on design and engineering for the biggest plan of all – the Yonge Subway Extension. Also, our staff and contractors are carefully planning spring construction schedules for the Viva rapidway projects, coordinating in advance with stakeholders, and procuring contractors for other projects.

Come spring, our crews will be raring to go, full steam ahead. If you’d like to keep on top of what’s going on in your community, we invite you to sign up for updates.

the critical role of spiders in building Vaughan Metropolitan Centre Station

January 10th, 2018

Now, before you think we’ve imported some exotic tropical arachnids, what we call “spiders” are actually the stainless steel fittings that hold together the glass pieces on our stations. They’re called spiders due to their shape, and they play a critical role in the architectural and structural design of our stations.

For the new Vaughan Metropolitan Centre [VMC] rapidway station, the main structural support comes from the welded steel superstructure that forms the distinctive curved shape. Over top of that, steel, custom-made spider fittings are bolted to each steel intersection. The spider fittings support the individual glass panels on the station’s sides and skylight.

410 panels of glass

Each triangular-shaped panel of glass is attached by brackets on the legs of the spiders. Because each piece of glass is a unique size and shape, the job of attaching the glass to the spiders is very fiddly. The extra-large 50 by 24 metre VMC canopy has an eye-popping 410 panels, each equally spaced and slightly different due to the station’s curved planes. The tempered glass can’t be cut or drilled on site without shattering, so holes for the brackets were made during the fabrication process.

beautiful precision

We knew if the holes in the glass didn’t line up exactly to the spider brackets, the glass pieces wouldn’t fit. Since glass fabrication is a fairly slow process, we didn’t want to risk having to go back and remake a piece. Rather than making the glass in advance, we installed the spiders, then measured them with a 3-D laser scanner that registered the targets as multiple cloud points; essentially the same process used to make a 3-D model.

The last step was the installation of the glass panels to the station roof, and seeing all this precision and planning come together for beautiful results. Now if you visit the VMC rapidway station, you can take shelter under a strong and stunning glass canopy reminiscent of the great European architectural traditions, right here in York Region.


great transit knows no borders

January 3rd, 2018

The vivaNext mandate is to build a strong bus rapid transit network in York Region, but our responsibility doesn’t end at our Region’s borders. We’re forging transit connections that help people get wherever they want to go, in our Region and beyond. That’s why we partner with organizations like Metrolinx, and engage in big-picture thinking about how people use transit and what customers want. We don’t live our lives constrained by regional borders, why should our transit systems?

crossing borders

A key feature of the Metrolinx Draft 2041 Regional Transportation Plan for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area [GTHA] is that it calls for historic levels of transit investment to deliver more – and more frequent – transit service across the region that crosses regional borders more simply and efficiently. Another key strategy is optimizing the system, so we make the most of what we have.

getting ready to meet RER

For example, over the next 10 years, the Metrolinx Regional Express Rail program plans to transform the GO rail network – the backbone of regional rapid transit in the GTHA – providing two-way all day service north-south, east and west. This doesn’t happen in isolation. We’re preparing to offer integrated services with YRT/Viva networks, to serve passengers riding the trains.

one fare system

We’re not there yet, but that’s the direction we’re headed. From a passenger perspective, a transit system with one simplified fare system that transcends regional boundaries across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area could make a lot of sense. We’re on our way with the PRESTO card, which you can use to pay for transit at 11 different transit agencies in the GTHA. As digital apps improve and new technology comes on board, we look forward to what comes next.

TTC subway, now running in York Region

The regional transit system took a giant leap forward with the first TTC subway to cross regional borders, connecting with the Viva bus rapid transit network. Now we’re seeing what one subway [and bus rapid transit] connection has done for Vaughan, with all the ground-breaking residential, office and entertainment development at the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre. The next top priority transit project for York Region is the Yonge Subway Extension, which will elevate regional subway connections to an entirely new level.

These are just some of the ways we’re involved in strengthening regional transit connections, a task that comes with challenges and opportunities.

To understand more about the challenges in our region and beyond, the Ryerson City Building Institute hosted Breaking Transit Governance Gridlock, an all-star panel on regional transit governance. Read their blog about the event.

StatsCan commuting data highlights need for transit investment

December 30th, 2017

The latest Statistics Canada census numbers on commuting confirm what many of us already know, experiencing it firsthand as we head to work each day. The commute is only getting busier. There are more commuters in Canada than ever, 15.9 million, up 30% from 1996. Not only that, but the journey is taking longer. The average commute now lasts 26.2 minutes, up from 25.4 minutes in 2011.

room to grow

These long-term trends shine a spotlight on why continued investment in bus rapid transit and subway projects is so important. We know growth will continue, and we should do our best to be ready. Here in York Region, we’re expected to have 300,000 more jobs and 590,000 more residents by 2041. Imagine the toll that could take on our already busy roads.

transit commuting on the rise

Over 20 years, transit commuting in Canada increased at a higher rate than driving to work – up 60% compared to a 28% increase. However, before people can ride transit, someone has to build it.

While StatsCan found transit commutes were taking longer as of 2016, the beauty of our rapidway system is that commutes generally won’t get longer. As traffic increases with our Region’s growing population, the buses can bypass congestion in the dedicated rapidway lanes and continue to provide consistent travel times.

the suburban work shift

The Toronto CMA alone, which includes York Region, added 191,450 more commuters over 20 years. As of 2016, a greater proportion of these commuters were working in the municipalities surrounding the City of Toronto. Statistics Canada says this indicates a slow shift of workplace locations from Toronto to outlying communities. Markham with its booming tech sector, and Vaughan with its new developments, are prime examples

With the suburbs attracting more businesses and jobs, investing in transit infrastructure now is the ticket to keeping our economies moving well into the future.


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