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.

 

beautiful curves of glass

December 27th, 2017

If you’ve ever had to replace a window in your house, you know that working with glass is fiddly, exacting work. It needs to fit perfectly or you’ll get drafts and leaks. Glass has no tolerance for being the wrong shape or size. And dropping a pane from a window: well, that means another trip back to the store.

Now, imagine the challenges of installing the glass on the curves of our new Vaughan Metropolitan Centre [VMC] rapidway station. As you can guess, it was a long, multi-stage process, done with great care and precision.

strength and safety

As with all our vivastations, the VMC glass was laminated and tempered for strength and safety. First the glass was cut into panes, and then it went through a special process to make it extra strong. This way, if it breaks, it crumbles into small granular chunks instead of sharp pieces.

To add more strength and make it even safer, we then laminated the tempered glass by sandwiching two glass sheets together around an interlayer. If the glass is broken, the interlayer holds the small pieces together instead of breaking into many little shards, the same way a car windshield stays together in an accident. The interlayer on the blue skylight glass is actually a different, stronger material than the interlayer used for the clear side glass, since the top skylight needs to support heavier loads from snow and maintenance workers.

creating curves

Fitting flat glass to the curved shape of the station was a challenge, because every surface of the steel roof curved over two dimensions, much like the outside of a ball. The first step was to divide the glass into a series of triangles. Three-sided shapes are easier to work with compared to four-sided shapes, the same way a tripod is more stable on uneven ground compared to a four-legged chair.

But this still left the challenge of fitting flat pieces of glass over a curved frame. The solution here was to adjust the bolts on the corners of the spiders [the stainless steel fittings that hold  the glass pieces onto the frame] so they’re each set at a different height. We knew how high each bolt needed to be from 3D scans, so we adjusted them before we installed the glass. By installing each corner of glass at a slightly different height, we recreated the curves of the tubular steel frame.

intricate jigsaw puzzle

The last step was putting the glass panels in place, one by one. Although they were all triangles, every piece was unique like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, so to avoid mix-ups they were carefully numbered before they were delivered. Once the glass panels were bolted onto the spiders and the final adjustments made to perfect the curve of the glass, we sealed the gaps with caulking to make the structure weather-tight.

Building this strong and beautiful glass-covered station took precision, but look at the stunning results! This landmark station helps set the architectural stage for future development at the VMC and makes the everyday experience of transit a beautiful one for our customers.

amazing team, extraordinary results

December 20th, 2017

What a week it has been! The launch of the TTC Line 1 subway extension with the Highway 7 West rapidway and vivastation on Sunday in Vaughan is one of those lifetime moments. We’re going to remember this day for the rest of our lives. This is the day everything became a little closer, and a lot faster for York Region and the City of Vaughan.

unwavering dedication

For everyone involved, including us at York Region Rapid Transit Corporation, it was an exhilarating and emotional weekend, the culmination of years of incredible challenges and unwavering dedication, everything we’ve been working toward for a very long time! Many of us shouted and cheered as the first train pulled into the new subway station.

Then, seeing that Viva bus roll down the red asphalt rapidway into the open, airy Vaughan Metropolitan Centre vivastation and pick up actual passengers who came up the stairs from the subway – well, it’s hard to describe the feeling, except to say that more than a few grew a little misty-eyed! So many people came out to mark this milestone day for transit in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, we know how much these new transit connections matter and we thank you for your patience during the long construction period.

#AnEngineerWasHere

Kudos goes out to the engineers, planners and project team, whose tireless drive moved the VMC station and rapidway project forward every step of the way: from the environmental assessments to the design to breaking ground, from utility relocations to storm sewer work and road widening. Along with the many contractors, they pushed though good and bad weather, scalding heat, freezing cold and everything in between. They worked through paving and bridge reconstructions, to timelines off schedule and on again, to the construction of our vivastations and our landmark Vaughan Metropolitan Centre vivastation. Experts from many agencies, cities and private companies all came together to make this day happen.

Now we have incredible, tangible results with the first subway-BRT connection, a legacy that will keep our Region moving for years to come. Just goes to prove anything is possible with extraordinary teamwork, unwavering dedication and an eye to the future. Again, thank you for supporting this project and we hope you get out and try the new system!

Subway and new Viva connections NOW OPEN in Vaughan!

December 17th, 2017

This morning, the first subway carrying transit customers arrived in York Region, forging a historic connection between bus rapid transit and subway. Now, everyone can experience seamless transit connections in Vaughan! The vivaNext rapidway and new landmark vivastation also opened for service this morning with an epic celebration at Vaughan Metropolitan Centre [VMC], alongside the TTC Line 1 subway extension opening. Viva la subway!

Read the news release.

even more transit connections

Now the transit connections available to customers simply go further and faster. The rapidway-subway connection marks a tipping point for transit in York Region, amplifying the power of the Viva rapid transit network.

The VMC area is a transit powerhouse, home to two new stations: the landmark Vaughan Metropolitan Centre vivastation and the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre subway station – the new terminus of TTC Line 1. In a few months, the SmartCentres Place Bus Terminal will make the VMC area even better, connecting YRT buses to both stations with a pedestrian tunnel.

true city building

There’s no doubt – your destination has arrived! The new VMC development is true city-building on an epic scale, built on the foundation of strong transit connections. Not only does rapid transit transform how people move in our Region, it changes how we live – for the better. Stronger economies, more jobs, and walkable, livable, desirable communities: it’s the driving force behind York Region’s Transportation Master Plan and the reason we build rapid transit.

On an even larger scale, strong connections like these that cross regional borders are crucial to the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area [GTHA], and a key strategy of the Metrolinx Draft 2041 Regional Transportation Plan.

Thank you!

Now we can see the network take shape in York Region, with three rapidways running, two more underway and an actual subway connection!

Changes of this magnitude are fueled by the power of collaboration and funding partnerships. Our rapidway projects are funded by the Province of Ontario, and our other projects are funded by a combination of Federal, Provincial and Regional contributions. SmartCentres Place Bus Terminal even includes some private funding for the pedestrian tunnel.

We’ve all come a long way together, and we thank you for your patience during construction. Now, we hope you enjoy the ride!


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