Archive for the ‘Innovation’ Category

municipalities of the future

Thursday, 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.

megatrends

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.

great transit knows no borders

Wednesday, 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.

amazing team, extraordinary results

Wednesday, 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!

The ribbon is cut! Trudeau and Wynne came! Now only two days until subway meets BRT!

Friday, December 15th, 2017

This historic weekend of transit firsts in Vaughan kicked off in style.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joined Premier Kathleen Wynne, Toronto Mayor John Tory and many other dignitaries to officially cut the ribbon on the Line 1 subway extension, at Vaughan Metropolitan Centre [VMC]. Then, they rode the subway from the VMC station to the new York University subway station for a press conference.

“The Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension will mean a faster commute, less time in traffic and more money in people’s pockets as they trade their cars for a subway ticket,” Prime Minister Trudeau told the crowd at York University station.

That’s music to our ears!

The crowd included partners from all three levels of government, who worked together to make this project a reality. Also on hand were many members of our vivaNext team, who played a key role in this project, working with the TTC on the York Region stations. Joining the crowd were the many partners who helped make this happen.

three subway stations in York Region!

In just two days, York Region will have three shiny, new subway stations open for service: Pioneer Village, Highway 407 and the end of the line, Vaughan Metropolitan Centre. On opening day and Monday, members of our team will be on hand to answer your questions and help you find your way.

Our brand new, flagship bus rapid transit station will greet riders at the VMC, forging the connection between our rapid transit network in York Region and the new subway.

Also coming later this month is the GO train connection at the new Downsview Park station, where commuters on the Barrie GO train can connect to the Line 1 subway extension.

“If we build it, they will come”

Now, with the 8.6-kilometre subway extension, downtown is a mere 42 minutes away, but we expect subway traffic to flow both ways. Wayne Emmerson, York Region Chairman and CEO, said, “If we build it, they will come.” He called the subway a “once in a lifetime opportunity,” saying it “will help further develop an urban community that is transit-oriented, forward-thinking and has economic development opportunities to benefit current and future generations.”

“Big transit takes time”

Premier Wynne acknowledged the time and effort of all levels of government that came together to connect the heart of York Region to downtown. She also gave a nod to our new Highway 7 West rapidway, saying that downtown foodies can hop the vivaNext rapid transit system to restaurants in Richmond Hill.

But she summed it up best with: “What an amazing day this is!”

We agree, Premier Wynne! And this Sunday will be even better, when the subway and our rapidway open for service, and you can experience the ride firsthand. It’s going to be a rush! We hope to see you there.

the crowning touch

Wednesday, December 6th, 2017

Ready for the crowning touch? The new SmartCentres Place Bus Terminal comes with a mesmerizing pièce de résistance – a sweeping, curved wooden roof, as beautiful as it is functional.

Reminiscent of West Coast style, the horseshoe-shaped roof shelters the outdoor bus stations in beautiful elegance. A fluidity breathes life into the design, curving in a slight v-shape from the outside in, and rising up at the wingtips and the saddle. You can almost feel the motion, very fitting for a bus terminal with YRT/Viva services branching out across York Region.

an intricate jigsaw puzzle

The simple elegance of the roof belies the complexity of its creation. The wood pieces need to look curved, but they are flat. Custom-cut to the architect’s design, they fit together with the steel substructure, which was also designed in custom pieces.

It’s like a very complicated jigsaw puzzle. Every section is numbered and assembled with exact precision. When the flat pieces fit together, they create the appearance of a curved roof. High-strength glued-laminated timber beams support the roof, running vertically and also lengthwise.

Not only does the wood look stunning, it was a cost-effective choice and is Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified to York Region standards. When it’s finished, it will be stain-coated with intumescent fire-retardant material.

 a showstopper for a new downtown

The result is an eye-catching landmark – a roof that draws the eye and a terminal where you can pass the time in style. After all, SmartCentres Place Bus Terminal is not your run-of-the-mill bus station. As part of the vibrant, new downtown flourishing at Vaughan Metropolitan Centre, this bus station needs to look the part.

Set to open in 2018, the Terminal will complete the transit powerhouse at the VMC: subway, rapidway and YRT/Viva terminal, working together to move you, faster and easier than ever before.

rain, rain, go away

Monday, November 13th, 2017

Our new rapidway station at Vaughan Metropolitan Centre is ready for the rain, innately designed to handle a downpour and keep those pesky puddles off the road.

Large structures like the new bus rapid transit station shed a lot of rain during storms. With the size of the station’s roof, the volume of water collecting from even light rain storms would be enough to create some pretty major puddles.

Water management has been a key design consideration for the station since day 1. Letting runoff drain freely onto the roads isn’t an option since the station is right in the middle of Highway 7. Here’s the rundown on how we’re managing runoff.

Water management strategy includes features built into the station’s design, and the design of the road and storm water management systems around the station.

Gutters run along the curved station roof between the skylight and the roof panels, designed to collect and funnel water to the ends of the station. At that point, brow gutters – shaped like eye-brows – will drain the water into downspouts on the sides of the station, which then drain safely into underground catchbasins connected to the storm water management system.

But that’s not all! Water from the middle portion of the roof, below the roof gutters, will drain off the roof onto the road. Generally at our vivastations, the road design ensures water doesn’t become puddles.  A very gradual slope away from the station to the curb lane directs the water into a series of curbside storm sewers and catch basins.

However, the VMC station is so much larger than the other stations, there’s simply too much water to direct across the road. Instead, we drain the water closer to the station.

We’ve built up the road surface so that its highest point is 1.2 metres away from the station.  Water draining off the station will be naturally directed back towards the station, running along the curb into a series of catchbasins and into the storm sewers.

We know that rain gutters and catchbasins aren’t the most glamourous features of the new station, but on a rainy day, we’ll all be glad they’re there.

world-class transit a lure for big business (like Amazon)

Thursday, November 9th, 2017

The hunt for Amazon’s second headquarters is on, and two sites in York Region – the new Vaughan Metropolitan Centre and Markham Centre – are vying for the coveted prize.

World-class transit systems could be their ticket to success in this competitive bid process. Cities and regions all over North America are competing for the golden opportunity worth a US$5 billion investment and up to 50,000 jobs.

One of the top considerations for Amazon is simply logistics. With an influx of up to 50,000 potential employees at HQ2, the question becomes: how is that going work? The RFP noted a core preference for the new site to have direct access to mass transit: rail, train, subway, bus.

“In weeks of speculation and showdowns, a lack of transit connectivity has been one of the great presumed disqualifiers [for the Amazon bid],” writes CityLab’s Laura Bliss in her article Amazon’s HQ2 Hunt is a Transit Reckoning.

Here in York Region, we’ve been busy planning a strong rapid transit system, but the plan was never just about transit connections. The rationale behind vivaNext’s bus rapid transit network has always been that the rapidways are just part of the puzzle; an investment in long-term prosperity that helps attract businesses and foster economic vitality in communities.

We’re building it, so they can come.

In the Toronto Region RFP response, maps showcase transit connections for each proposed location. For Markham Centre and Vaughan Metropolitan Centre, the picture looks good. We’re beginning to forge the kind of transit connections that count when it comes time to move the masses.

The first subway is coming to our Region later this year with the TTC Line 1 extension serving Vaughan Metropolitan Centre. Three rapidways are up and running, including one serving the tech corridor in Markham Centre and a segment on Highway 7 East in Vaughan. Combine that with YRT/Viva buses and GO Transit, and we have great transit connections that are ready to serve the likes of Amazon, and other big businesses on the move.

So Amazon, if you want to come, our rapidways are ready for you! And take note, better transit systems ultimately translate into better quality of life. Employees spend less time getting where they need to be, and more time being where they want to be.

Whether at home or at work, that’s time well spent.

Read more about the Canadian bids for Amazon:

Premier backs bids for Amazon HQ

Amazon HQ2 would ‘fundamentally alter’ potential Canadian city candidates

history of transportation along Yonge Street

Friday, September 15th, 2017

Click the image to view our YouTube video on the history of transportation along Yonge Street. 

Yonge Street was first initiated by Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe in 1796. Although the road – as we know it today – was commissioned as a military road, local historians indicate that the route was travelled centuries before by First Nations people.

In the early years, individuals who utilized Yonge Street were often reliant on their own strength to travel the route, often portaging, walking or snowshoeing with their belongings to their destination. As oxen and horses became more accessible, historians express that travellers started to rely on these animals as a way to transport them to their final destination.

Research suggests that with the influx of travellers, so did the need for transportation options. Established in 1849, H. B. Williams’ Omnibus Bus Lines provided the first known public transit alternative [horse-drawn carriages] within York/Toronto. Within a decade, however, the first street railway system—with radial services to outlying towns—was established on the same route and became a more popular option.

History has shown us that at the beginning of World War I, horses were becoming a less favourable choice for commerce. Around this time, motorized vehicles brought about unprecedented economic improvements for retailers and consumers alike.

With the onset of motorized vehicles, historians illustrate that Canadians wanted to improve both the quality and safety of their local roads. To improve their mode of transportation, locals started laying planks of wood—similar to a boardwalk—to create a more even surface to travel on.

More than 200 years later, the demand for safe, efficient and reliable public transit remains strong along the significant arterial route that is Yonge Street. Today, Viva travels Yonge Street in mixed traffic, but in the future it will have its own dedicated transit lane to further improve service along the import corridor.

Keep an eye out for the second video that will explain further the history of transportation along Yonge Street.

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transportation technology >> the future is calling

Wednesday, August 2nd, 2017

transportation technology >> the future is calling

When you think of the future of transportation, what do you think of? If you’re older than 30, maybe you think of The Jetsons – an old TV series about a futuristic family living in skypads and commuting in bubble-shaped aerocars. The TV show may be a little far-fetched, but recently we’ve seen examples of new transportation technologies that have some similarities.

United Arab Emirates is officially testing the first driverless flying taxi in its largest city, Dubai. The new drone-based taxis were scheduled to begin operating in July, so the results should be in soon. Imagine the impact on traffic-congested cities if commuters took to the skies.

Another emerging technology is the vactrain or Hyperloop – pods travelling through tubes at very high speeds. Earlier this year, MIT students demonstrated the first ever Hyperloop prototype.

In June, China introduced the world’s first rail-free, self-driving “train.” This road-based vehicle with wheels is a cross between a bus and a tram or LRT, and follows a predetermined route. Forward-thinking manufacturers across the globe are busy designing self-driving concept vehicles for use as both personal cars and transit vehicles.

Sometimes new technology is not in the vehicle itself, but in how it’s accessed. New apps, new payment systems, and more accessible vehicles are some of the ongoing improvements. Ridesharing and bike sharing have been around for several years, and many communities are working on ways to integrate them with transit systems.

It’s great to see these examples of innovation and new ideas in mobility. Having more technology options means we’ll be able to design and build innovative infrastructure, helping our communities grow into amazing places to live, today and tomorrow.

a look back at the CN MacMillan Bridge expansion

Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

As work starts up on the Highway 7 bridge over Highway 400, which is being widened to accommodate rapidway lanes and a multi-use path, let’s take a look at a completed bridge expansion project: the CN MacMillan Bridge.

The Highway 7 bridge passes over the CN MacMillan Rail Yard, the second-biggest rail yard in Canada.

The expansion project, which was part of the Highway7 West-VMC rapidway project, involved widening the bridge by 8.5 metres to accommodate the two lanes of rapidway that opened in February 2017.

Crews poured 4,000 tonnes of concrete to build abutment walls, piers, foundation and piles, sidewalks and decks; embedded 300 tonnes of reinforcing steel; and built a new pedestrian sidewalk and hand-rail and bike lanes!

All of the work expanding the bridge had to be done – and was accomplished – without stopping the trains or impacting the 10 sets of tracks. For safety purposes, before construction even began, crews had to rehearse set-ups and take-downs with numerous safety drills so it would proceed like clockwork.

During construction, crews worked very closely with CN to coordinate work around train schedules. An additional challenge was the fact that the rail yard, which handles one-million-plus cars per year, also operates 24/7.

Mega feats of engineering and construction like the CN Bridge project are beginning again with the expansion of the Highway 7 west bridge over Highway 400. Next month, we’ll take a look at the different components of work involved for this project.

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