Archive for the ‘Accessibility’ Category

helping seniors stay connected with transit

Wednesday, 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.

making corners work for everyone

Thursday, 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.

 

matching the heights

Thursday, 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.

 

it’s new, and it’s for everyone

Friday, August 21st, 2015

it's new, and it's for everyone

One of the perks of building a new transit system is that modern technology can be included from the get-go. New transit systems are installed with the newest technology, in the same way that a new computer comes with new software, or a new house has to meet modern building codes.

Some of the new technology is embedded in the vivaNext rapidways – for example, as a film to strengthen the vivastation glass, or as an additive in the pavement. Modern GPS and transit signal technology help to keep the buses moving on schedule, and new government regulations ensure the system is accessible to all.

Aside from the new regulations in the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act [AODA], there is also a new way of thinking – that our streets should be accessible to everyone. So we’ve made transit a priority. We’ve added bike lanes where possible. And we’ve added tree-lined sidewalks, and crosswalks with audible signals for pedestrians.

Viva has the technology in place to add audible announcements at vivastations, and Viva riders can see and hear when the bus is approaching their station. Each vivastation has a textured platform surface to help customers identify which part of the platform they’re standing on, and when they’re approaching the edge.

It’s new, and it’s for everyone. Whether you ride a wheelchair, use a cane, push a stroller or ride a bike, the vivaNext rapidways are for you.