Archive for the ‘Rapidways’ Category

vivaNext made the Top 100 Urban Planning blog list!

Thursday, October 19th, 2017

The vivaNext blog has been called out by Feedspot as one of the Top 100 Urban Planning Blogs. We came in at #55 on this list, which includes notable think tanks and urban planning publications, such as CityLab, Planetizen, The Urbanist and Spacing.

We’re humbled, honoured – and very excited – to be in the company of such notables, and to be included in one of Feedspot’s ‘best of’ lists.

Our place on this list shows the vital connection between urban planning and transportation planning, and the importance of urban design when building transit systems. Our blog reflects that, ranging from updates on our rapid transit projects to the big picture of what it all means from a smart growth perspective.

The fact is, we’re not just building transit. We’re building connections that make communities work for the future, and attractive destinations for people living, working, and travelling in York Region. We’re always looking for new topics to write about – urban planning or otherwise – so if you have a suggestion for a blog topic, be sure to let us know!

designed to connect: the VMC rapidway station on Highway 7

Wednesday, October 4th, 2017

designed to connect: the VMC rapidway station on Highway 7

If you’re a Viva customer, you know that vivastations generally follow the same design, with a curved glass canopy providing shelter from the elements, and extending over the concrete platform and enclosed glass waiting area.

easy on the eyes

Elegant curves and expanses of glass, warmed by wood. Open and airy while still welcoming, human-scaled and sheltering — these are the main themes in the vivaNext design language. A vivaNext structure, whether it’s a vivastation, the towers at Bayview Station, or the Operations, Maintenance and Storage Facility [OMSF] in Richmond Hill, contain those recognizable elements and marry functionality with beauty.

We believe that taking public transit should be a great experience. It should be convenient, comfortable and reliable, but also aesthetically pleasing.

the biggest vivastation yet

So in keeping with this overall design goal, we’re excited to report the progress on the new bus rapid transit [BRT] station taking shape on Highway 7 in the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre [VMC] transit hub.

With the vivaNext curves as our visual starting point, we needed to tailor the design of the new station to its unique role: linking Viva passengers arriving via the BRT lanes in the middle of Highway 7 to the subway trains below and to the YRT bus terminal nearby.

connecting connections

Passengers connecting between the new Line 1 TTC subway and Viva literally don’t have to cross the road to get to the subway or the new SmartCentres Place Bus Terminal north of the subway station. Once in the station, stairways and escalators and elevators will make it easy to connect to the subway concourse level below, and to an underground pedestrian path connecting to SmartCentres Place Bus Terminal for YRT. For pedestrians and cyclists in the area, there’s also going to be street level crosswalks and a plaza on the north side of Highway 7 connecting to the subway station and YRT bus terminal.

Over the next several weeks, we’re going to be posting more information and descriptions of the wonderful new VMC BRT station, including its design and an introduction to its amenities. And then before you know it, we’re all going to be able to enjoy fully rapid transit connections between York Region and Toronto. That’s something to really celebrate!

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.

To subscribe for construction updates, visit vivaNext.com/subscribe.

#MyYongeStreet selfie contest winners

Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

With summer winding down and fall nearly on our doorstep, it’s time to pause and celebrate the winners of our #MyYongeStreet selfie contest. Business support is a big part of our rapidway projects, as we know that long-term construction can be disruptive for business owners. To encourage people to rekindle their love of shopping and dining on Yonge Street, with the help of the Town of Newmarket and Chamber of Commerce, we put together a fun and easy contest to enter and win!

Over the span of three weeks, we had more than 50 entries from people who chose to stop, shop and dine on Yonge, supporting the businesses that are the life of the community. With random draws, we gave away three weekly $100 prizes and three grand prize Yonge Street shopping sprees valued at $500, $750 and $1,000.

Scroll down to view some stories from our grand prize winners.

 

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Michelle’s Story – $750 Winner:

Wow! This is amazing! You have just made my day.

– Michelle

 

Kim’s Story – $500 Winner:

I am a single Mom of 2. [My] eldest is [an] independent/successful 23yr old who lives in Ottawa. My youngest, 20yr [old], with Down Syndrome, lives with me.  When I’m at work, I’ll often have my son hang out in [the] clinic so he isn’t home alone.  Lately, he’s [wanted] to visit the All Star Sports, which is close to where I work.

My youngest son walks over with a pad and paper and wanders around to write his Christmas Wish List.  My son is a Special Olympian for Aurora (baseball, basketball and golf), [and] is a collector of anything sports related.  He has quite a collection of jerseys/t-shirts ([and] proudly wears them daily).

I noticed a couple weeks ago while in All Star Sports […], the contest from viva[Next] to help support local business during the Viva construction on Yonge St., between Sawmill and Davis.

A fun contest – submit a selfie at the store affected by construction – was a creative way to say thank you to business owners.  So, I snapped a picture of [my son] with his new Chicago Black Hawks t-[shirt] purchased at All Star Sports, and for fun, submitted his picture.

I was super excited to find out that we were selected a winner in the contest.  Sweet! $500 goes a long way in these shops and so I wanted to get my youngest son his desired jersey from All Star Sport. A sweet treat for me at Beautiful Boutique and a massage certificate for my eldest son when he comes home for a visit – a wonderful massage with at Daylyn Wellness.

I’m grateful and blessed – thank you viva[Next] for the surprise win!

– Kimberly

 

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Thank you to everyone who took part in the contest and to businesses along Yonge Street in Newmarket for supporting it.  Your patience and support has been much appreciated!

To sign-up for construction updates, visit vivanext.com/subscribe.

bridge expansion >> driving piles and pouring piers

Friday, August 25th, 2017

When you go under a bridge, what do you see? Huge concrete columns – piers – that support it. The five-metre expansion of the bridge on Highway 7 West over Highway 400 is becoming fully visible as the new piers are completed. In the photo above you can see the three completed piers and crews pouring the concrete cap for the fourth.

Each one of these piers is held up with a set of nine piles. Piles are long poles driven straight down, until they reach a surface solid enough to hold everything above. In this case, the piles are each nine metres long.

In the photo, the tall piece of equipment beside the west abutment wall is the pile driver, which is – as you’d expect – used to drive the piles into the ground.

On top of the pile-supported-piers, there will be bridge footings, girders, and a wider deck to make room for cars and trucks – as well as buses on new vivaNext dedicated rapidway lanes and a multi-use path for pedestrians and cyclists.

While it’s true that piers are just a part of the bridge, the bridge is part of a road, which is part of a rapid transit system, which connects people to where they need to go.

Next time you go under a bridge, look at the piers that support it, and the engineering and construction that went into them.

We’re building rapid transit, and along the way making infrastructure – built to last.

 

For information on ongoing vivaNext projects, be sure to subscribe to email updates, and follow us on Twitter. Questions or comments? Comment below or email us at contactus@vivanext.com.

 

what’s gravity & slope got to do with it?

Wednesday, August 16th, 2017

While we’re building the rapidway projects, it’s not unusual for us to be talking a lot about retaining walls. If you’ve ever wondered why so much of our work seems to involve retaining walls, the answer can be summed up in two words: gravity and slope.

Simply put, retaining walls prevent soil from sliding down a slope. If a slope is very gradual as you might see on a lawn or wide flowerbed, for the most part the soil and earth pretty much stays put. But where there is a slope over a short distance that creates even a difference in grade, the force of gravity will make the soil slide downwards.

stopping soil slippage

The steeper the slope, the more likely it is that the soil will slide. If you have a lawn that’s even a few centimetres higher than an adjacent driveway or sidewalk, you’ll know that without some kind of edging, eventually the dirt will flow down onto the pavement.

Retaining walls are like edging; they’re structures that keep the soil in place where grades need to change within a short distance. And retaining walls can be short or high. For example, a curb is essentially a very short retaining wall.

where retaining walls fit in on the rapidway

In many stretches along our rapidway construction zones, the adjacent land is either higher or lower than the roadway – in some cases the difference is only a few centimetres, in others it’s a metre or more.

Because we’re widening the road, that difference in grade level now has to be made up over a shorter horizontal distance, making the slope steeper than it was before. In areas where the resulting grade difference between the road and the land slope is very steep, a retaining wall is needed to keep the soil in place.

where design is king

Some of our retaining walls are essentially high curbs; others are high structures requiring handrails and complex foundations.

Every one of our rapidway segments has a significant number of retaining walls, each requiring its own design, approvals and construction process. In all cases, retaining wall construction takes place once utilities have been moved out of the way, and needs to be finished before road widening can be started.

With so many retaining walls forming part of the new streetscape, design considerations are of major importance. A lot of effort goes into ensuring that the new retaining walls contribute to the aesthetics of the streetscape as well as be functional.

Different materials and finishes are used for different walls, from pre-formed wall blocks similar to what you’d use in your own garden, to poured concrete with decorative exterior designs.  Design approaches vary depending on how high the wall is, what kind of foundation it requires, and what it is adjacent to. And if the wall or adjacent slope is especially steep and the wall is next to a sidewalk, it will also get a specially designed handrail.

So the next time you see a bulletin advising about retaining wall work, think of gravity and slopes, and you’ll know that’s why we’re building these additional structures.

For information on ongoing vivaNext projects, be sure to subscribe to email updates, and follow us on Twitter. Questions or comments? Comment below or email us at contactus@vivanext.com.

the unique challenge of working around business, residential and other private property

Wednesday, July 19th, 2017

When you’re talking about private property, chances are you’re picturing someone’s home or business, or maybe a piece of land with a fence around it. But did you realize that every square inch of York Region, as in every other jurisdiction in Canada, is actually owned by someone?

Typically, for projects like vivaNext, when work will be taking place on or near private property, we work with a range of property owners, whether it’s a private individual’s home or business or a different level of government. Here’s how it works:

During the earliest design phases, we map out the proposed design for the future roadway or facility, working with existing information about property ownership. For the most part, rapidways and facilities are intentionally designed to fit within property that is already owned by the future operators of our projects – for example, the Region of York or one of our local municipalities.

As the design process gets more detailed, we analyze how the proposed alignment will fit with the properties along the roadway. We also identify any impacts the project will have on each.

In some cases, such as where the road is being widened, the recommended design may show that we might need to encroach onto private property. Sometimes we may only need access onto private property during construction, and sometimes it’s permanent.

With the final design established, and depending on the nature and duration of the property impact for each property, we then follow a series of established procedures to come to an agreement with the owner.

The agreement will include clarification of how our work will affect their property, how long we’ll need access if it’s only temporary, and compensation if we’re acquiring some part of their property.

The options and arrangements will vary depending on the kind of property and what impact our project will have on it; for example, installing a rapidway across a bridge over a 400-series provincial highway will involve different issues and potential strategies with the property’s owner or representative. In this case, it’s the Ministry of Transportation on behalf of the Province of Ontario.

In all cases though, the process of working with property owners to work out access is a complex part of the design and pre-construction work, and involves many different team members including York Region Property Services, Legal Services, York Region Transit, our design builders as well as our project team.

But no matter who the owner is, being respectful of the rights of all our property-owning neighbours is a top priority for our project with dedicated staff like the Community Liaisons to help answer questions in the field.

 

pedestrian safety

Thursday, 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.

sneak peek >> what’s to come

Friday, 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’ ?

Wednesday, 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.