pedestrian safety

June 22nd, 2017

When there’s something on the other side of the street you need to get to, the nearest intersection might not seem close enough. It can be tempting to cross (or jaywalk) in the middle of the road. The problem with jaywalking is that it poses a risk to you as a pedestrian. Drivers aren’t expecting pedestrians in non-pedestrian areas, and may do something unexpected – or not brake in time – for you to cross the road safely.

During construction, crossing at designated crosswalks is even more important than ever. Lane closures can change frequently and when areas are blocked off, drivers must pay close attention to signs and road markings. Drivers might easily miss a pedestrian who is crossing or running into a non-pedestrian safe zone.

Even when crossing at a designated crosswalk, it’s important to keep safety in mind. Be sure to look both ways and stay aware. Put away your phone or tablet, and focus on the road. You should be constantly alert, just like the drivers.

For pedestrians, other safety concerns include the construction zones themselves. There are a lot of hazards around a construction site that you wouldn’t necessarily know about. We block off these work areas and create detours to protect drivers and pedestrians, so it’s important that you respect those boundaries for your own safety.

To keep up on what’s happening in the construction areas where we’re building rapidways, subscribe for email updates at vivaNext.com/subscribe.

live, work, play…and study in Markham!

June 14th, 2017

live, work, play…and study in Markham!

The City of Markham is growing quickly, and for some time now has been considered a major employment hub, especially in the tech sectors. According to Markham’s website, of the 10,400 companies in Markham, there are more than 400 Canadian head offices located there. This includes IBM, GE Digital Energy, Honeywell, Johnson & Johnson, Honda – you get the picture. As an article in Computer Dealer News points out, York Region and especially Markham, has the highest concentration of Information, Communication and Technology [ICT] firms in Canada. Given its role as a key employment centre, it’s no surprise Markham has a large population of residents – it’s the GTA’s fourth-largest city, and York Region’s biggest municipality.

GO, all day

So naturally, there are people travelling to and from work in Markham, and they’re going to need more options for getting there. GO trains are a popular choice, so it stands to reason that GO Transit’s Stouffville Line travelling through Markham should be expanded. Last week, MTO announced increased, all-day GO train service on weekdays, starting later this month. 17 new trains trips per weekday will double the number of weekly trips on the Stouffville line from 85 to 170. GO passengers connect to Viva and the Highway 7 rapidway at Unionville Station, and YRT at Centennial, Markham and Mount Joy Stations.

York U

Last Friday, the Province of Ontario announced $127 million in funding to help build the new York University campus in Markham. The campus has been in the plans since 2015, when the Province agreed the new campus should be located in Markham. Set to open in 2021, it will host 4,400 students – both graduate and undergraduate – and partner with Seneca Collage to offer some programs. Seneca’s Markham campus is already nearby, a stone’s throw from Allstate Station on the Highway 7 rapidway.

Markham is growing – with plans and transit in place to support that growth. Having more travel and education choices is a wonderful thing no matter where you are, and we’re excited to see it happening here in Markham!

helping seniors stay connected with transit

June 7th, 2017

 

When we consider the need for transit, we often think about the students and workers on their daily rush-hour commute. But there’s a growing population that will be making more use of transit in the next 15+ years. By 2031, one in five people in York Region will be 65 or older.

Keeping seniors connected means having accessible, convenient transit nearby. In fact, York Region’s Seniors Strategy: Thinking Ahead [2016], points out transportation as one of the key priorities for seniors. Two of the Region’s four identified roles – enabling aging in place by supporting age-friendly, complete communities; and helping seniors stay safe and connected – are closely tied to the availability of transportation options.

aging in place and staying connected

The term, “aging in place”, essentially means helping to make it possible for seniors to live where they choose, and to get the supports they need for as long as possible.

Keeping seniors connected means having accessible, convenient transit nearby. Our senior population has different needs, depending on many factors including age. Younger seniors may still be working and very active, compared to the older senior population who may have more mobility issues and medical needs, and a less of a social network. Some may choose to live without a car, making other options such as transit or walking even more important.

accessibility and walkability

To help seniors age in place, complete communities need to be walkable, and include a mixture of different housing and amenities. The new vivaNext streetscapes and rapidway infrastructure we’re building in Markham, Richmond Hill, Newmarket and Vaughan are accessible and walkable, and set the stage for planned growth, including places to live, work, access services and medical care, shop and dine.

senior citizens rule!

Life continues to be active and fulfilling for seniors. In fact, the senior citizen population of York Region contributes significantly to their communities through volunteer work. And the history books are full of examples of seniors doing amazing things – like Ed Whitlock of Milton, Ontario, who at 69 became the oldest person to run a standard marathon in under three hours. At 77, John Glenn became the oldest person to go into space.

Whether it’s getting to the grocery store, going to the community centre to volunteer, attending medical appointments or just visiting with friends and family, we’re building the connections seniors will need.

the utility bonus

May 31st, 2017

click here to see our YouTube video about utilities!

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ve probably noticed how often we post a story on some aspect of utility infrastructure. That’s because, as much as our main focus is transit, relocating and upgrading utilities is a very significant  piece of our construction project just on its own, in terms of effort, time and money.

Most of our posts are about the complexities and challenges of utility relocation. But the most important story is about the bonus: at the same time as we’re building new transit, York Region residents and businesses are going to be getting new telecommunications, water, sewage, drainage, power and gas lines to power them into the future.

Unlike a single construction project with one overall manager, the utility project demands that many players work together collaboratively. Working within multiple agreements and relationships, our projects [funded by Metrolinx], the Regional and local municipalities, and the utility companies all work together to coordinate the utility construction.

Whereas York Region Rapid Transit Corporation leads the design decisions for the transit project, it’s the utility companies – including private companies and municipal utility companies – who determine what they need to meet the needs of their customers. Starting with our project’s alignment and overall design, it’s up to the utility companies to decide what infrastructure they’ll need as the population grows, and where it needs to go. For this, they need to take into account future development as well as current needs.

Because there’s not much room down there, and there’s a logical order to what goes in first, the utilities need to work out their plans in ways that work for everyone. In some cases they can jointly locate their services, but more often they need their own space within a separate trench or on an overhead line. Finally, they are responsible for carrying out their own construction, with only one crew able to work in a given area at a time.

Because we’re all equal players in this, coordinating activities requires us to work together, including our project team, the designers and construction experts working for the utility companies, and the various levels of government.

With every vivaNext corridor that gets completed, the end result is increased telecommunications capacity, upgraded water and sewage, better drainage, and new service connections to individual houses and businesses. That’s a future bonus that’s definitely worth the effort and a benefit for everyone.

 

sneak peek >> what’s to come

May 26th, 2017

sneak peek >> what’s to come

Have you ever walked past those construction sites surrounded by wood walls, and wanted a peek inside to see what’s being built? Curiosity is good – it helps us to move forward and to try new things. In York Region right now, we have a chance to sneak a peek at what’s to come.

In some cases, it’s right out there in the middle of the road. Communities with rapidway construction underway can see how their street will look once it’s done, by looking at Highway 7 East in Markham and Richmond Hill or Davis Drive in Newmarket. It’s more than bus lanes – it’s new utilities and infrastructure like bridges, tree-lined sidewalks and where possible, bike lanes.

In Vaughan Metropolitan Centre [VMC], we can see the transit hub on the way in the next year that will include a super-sized vivastation in the centre of Highway 7, linking to a YRT bus terminal via an underground pathway and above ground plaza, and connecting directly to the new subway platform below via escalator and elevator.

We can even get a peek at the new subway stations that are part of the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension project. TTC is hosting a Doors Open Toronto event this Saturday only, at the new Downsview Park Station and York University Station, set to open for service at the end of 2017. Information about the event is available on the project website, and if you can’t go, be sure to take a look at the photos posted by project staff on their Flickr site. And check out this TTC video of the future subway ride from Downsview Park to VMC, recorded last year to celebrate the final tracks being laid.

So if you’re curious about the subway, be sure to visit Downsview or York University Stations this Saturday. And if you’re curious about transit in York Region, feel free to ask us a question or follow us on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.

what exactly is a ‘partial rapidway’ ?

May 17th, 2017

what exactly is a ‘partial rapidway’ ?

Where there are dedicated rapidways in York Region, there are also transition areas to get buses in and out of mixed traffic – and something called “partial rapidways”. Here are some simple explanations of what will be happening with transit in these areas.

full dedicated rapidway

The typical rapidways are dedicated lanes in the centre of the road for buses serving specific Viva routes. Vivastations are located roughly every kilometre or so, with customers being able to access the stations via signals at intersection crosswalks. Rapidways will allow Viva vehicles to zip past regular traffic.

transition lanes

Transition lanes take the buses into and out of the centre-lane rapidway. A good example of this is on Davis Drive west of Yonge Street.

partial rapidway

For the purposes of the vivaNext projects, partial rapidway typically means dedicated bus lanes in one direction of a roadway only. For example, in the Bathurst & Centre area, there will be dedicated rapidway for the most part on Bathurst and Centre Streets, and partial rapidway in three locations:

  • On Centre Street between Highway 7 and Dufferin Street, there will be regular centre-lane rapidway going westbound, and partial rapidway eastbound (full rapidway starts part-way).
  • The rapidway on Bathurst Street over Highway 407 and Highway 7 will be one direction southbound. The northbound rapidway will end just north of Flamingo Road.
  • The rapidway on Highway 7 between Bathurst Street and Yonge Street will be one direction eastbound. The westbound Viva route will run in mixed traffic.

transit in mixed traffic

While a partial rapidway is still in the centre lane, when Viva bus routes run in regular mixed traffic, there are no designated lanes, meaning that buses will travel in lanes that are also used by other vehicles. This usually occurs along roadway areas that are more highway-like without a lot of residential or commercial development, and therefore not a lot of customers.

For example, on Highway 7 roughly between Bayview Avenue and Yonge Street, Viva buses exit the rapidway and rejoin regular mixed traffic. Also, in the short section along Highway 7 between the GO Barrie bridge underpass and Centre St., there is no road widening or improvements as the underpass is not being widened. Therefore, in this stretch, transit will be in mixed traffic.

curbside rapidway

The vivastation at Bayview Avenue is curb-side with two levels, to allow customers to transfer between east-west transit service on Highway 7 and north-south service above on Bayview Avenue.

Designing rapidways is complicated, but it takes into account the local area geography and the ridership levels, today and in the future. This ensures that vivaNext is building dedicated lanes in areas that will see the highest levels of improved travel times.

Any questions you have, we are happy to answer. And if you’d like to keep up on what’s happening in the construction areas where we’re building rapidways, subscribe to email updates at www.vivanext.com/subscribe.

 

 

smart growth is supported by transit

May 11th, 2017

smart growth is supported by transit

Recently in the news, planners have been saying that there’s a “missing middle” in the GTA housing market. They’re talking about a lack of low-rise and mid-rise buildings, ranging from low-rise stacked condos and townhomes to mid-rise buildings four to 12 stories high. This “missing middle” is important because it gives buyers and renters more options in the middle ground between single family homes and high-rise condos and apartments. The good news is the formerly elusive low- and mid-rises have started to show up, right where they make sense – along rapid transit routes.

As this Globe and Mail article says, developers are choosing to build low- and mid-rise buildings outside the urban core, where growth is expected. They see the value in low- and mid-rise buildings, because they have a lower capital investment than high-rises, and more buyers/renters per square foot than single family homes.

Markham Centre has been developing for several years, and it is a good example of an area which includes low-rise townhomes and mid-rise business and residential buildings in close proximity to transit, retail and commercial buildings. Davis Drive in Newmarket is also following the trend and has its first mid-rise building being built. This new building will provide much-needed rental housing for local residents. Yonge Street in Richmond Hill already has some mid-rise buildings, with more on the way. Vaughan is a bit different because high-rises are already being built around transit in the urban core of the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre [VMC], with subway and bus rapid transit nearby the area can support more density and will be a popular location once all the new transit services are open. East and west of the VMC has everything from new streetscapes, Viva rapid transit, and a good variety of housing options from traditional single family homes, to mid-rise building.

We’re excited to see these transformations around the Viva rapidway routes in York Region. New buildings are located near the road so that tree-lined sidewalks, transit, shops and restaurants are right on the doorstep for everyone to enjoy.  It is inevitable that areas will continue to grow as populations increase but creating sustainable buildings located near transit is really “smart growth”. And, from a housing option, variety is good for both young and old.

 

it’s time to take a bath

May 3rd, 2017

Recently, we learned about an element of the national public health program in Japan that got us very excited – calmly excited. It’s called “forest bathing.”

Forest bathing is simple and elegant: being in the presence of trees. An article from World Economic Forum suggests, “Just be with trees. No hiking, no counting steps on a Fitbit. You can sit or meander, but the point is to relax rather than accomplish anything.”

We heartily support this idea! Each vivaNext project involves adding trees and greenery to the streetscape because it creates a more livable community. In addition, there’s evidence to show that this actually does help to create a healthier environment for the community’s citizens.

The experiments conducted by Japan’s Chiba University studied the effects of forest environments on the body. Field experiments in 24 forests on young 20somethings found that, “Forest environments promote lower concentrations of cortisol, lower pulse rate, [and] lower blood pressure… than do city environments.”

There’s an abundance of parks, trails and forests in York Region for you to explore or simply *be* in. But we are also pleased that the Viva rapidways also offer you the opportunity to “forest bathe” as well. So the next time you’re feeling too rushed and too stressed, consider taking a forest bath!

changemakers

April 26th, 2017

changemakers

When building infrastructure and planning the future of cities, professionals in the industry use their years of education and experience to come up with ways for towns and cities to grow. Sometimes though, we benefit from the innovative ideas that those outside the industry can bring.

New ideas in transportation and streetscape planning can come from people who, on their daily commute to school or work, think of better ways to do things. Whether it’s walking, taking transit, cycling or driving, taking note of how people use their streets can bring about new ideas.

Recently, 8 80 Cities hosted 1UPToronto, a youth conference to inspire students in the GTA to be changemakers. Students were asked to suggest solutions to real-life problems in Toronto, and then were tasked to build a prototype using basic supplies. The goal was to get students more involved in their city’s future, but the students’ ideas were impressive, showing that different perspectives can bring about innovative ideas.

We love to see the creative ideas out there, and more than that, we like to be involved in the communities where we’re building. Stay tuned for a youth colouring contest we’ll be launching next week in Vaughan, offering prizes and a chance to have some fun!

Follow us on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter to find out more about the contest.

 

Earth Day is all about creating a better tomorrow

April 21st, 2017

Earth Day – the day we remember the fragility of the planet, celebrate its strength, and commit to creating a better tomorrow for future generations.

In the spirit of the 150th anniversary of Canada’s confederation, the theme this year is “EarthPLAY for Earth Day 2017: Connect to your nature!” According to Earth Day Canada, “celebrations across the country are highlighting our great outdoors.”

This commemoration has great meaning globally as well. The Earth Day Network reports that over 1 billion people now take part in this annual celebration! Promotion of the Trees for the Earth Campaign, invites citizens to plant 7.8 billion trees worldwide by 2020 – one for every person projected to be living on the planet.

Our outdoors is important to everyone – whether you’re a gardener or simply love trees and flowers, whether you’re a cyclist or ardent transit fan, you probably feel as strongly about Earth Day as we do – Earth Day shares so many of the vivaNext goals.

Celebrating Earth Day is a wonderful, worthy endeavour. However, it’s so important to think about it every day of the year. At vivaNext, we are solid in our commitment to design, plan and build transit to reduce reliance on cars, to protect and enhance our communities and streets, promote smart growth, and to help create vibrant, livable cities for today and the future.

 


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