Archive for the ‘Studies’ Category

StatsCan commuting data highlights need for transit investment

Saturday, 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.


home, safe, home in York Region

Thursday, November 30th, 2017

If you want to live in a safe place, come to York Region. York Region is one of the safer places in Canada to call home, according to Maclean’s magazine list of Canada’s most dangerous places to live.

low crime rates

The Region is well down the list at #201, making it the 30th safest area to live in.

The rankings come from a crime severity index, calculated by the type and frequency of crime: violence, drugs, theft/property and youth crime. York Region falls below the national average on every front, often far below.

See the rankings

strong communities by design

Low crime is just one of the many reasons our region is a great place to live, along with the Region’s thriving economy, impressive job growth and strong sense of community. In the future, we hope our Region will also be known for the strength of its rapid transit network.

At vivaNext, we’re fortifying the future of our communities with rapidways. Having a transit network in place is the ticket for transit-oriented development — smart growth designed with the new urbanism in mind. The vision is one of compact, walkable communities served by transit, where people want to live.

We know we need to be ready for our Region’s future population – we’re expected to reach 1.79 million residents by 2041, up from today’s 1.2 million. But we also want to preserve the essence of our communities that made them desirable in the first place.

streets for everyone

VivaNext rapidways come with streets for everyone: pedestrians, cyclists, drivers and transit riders. Attractive streetscapes and landscaping enhance the allure. The rapid transit projects foster mixed-use land development, increasing population density while reducing urban sprawl. These are the kind of communities that go the distance, designed to be strong, caring and safe for the long-haul.


designing for the future

Thursday, October 20th, 2016

Who can remember? Not so long ago Highway 7 in Markham and Richmond Hill was a suburban highway: a few isolated developments, lots of parking lots and open fields, but no sidewalks, no plantings, no bike lanes–and certainly no dedicated rapid transit bus lanes. Just look at it now!

In only a few years from start to finish, construction begins and is completed on each of the rapidway projects. In the world of infrastructure renewal, vivaNext construction projects are known to be implemented very efficiently, and we’re doing everything we can to maintain that great reputation.

years of work are behind the design

What’s not so apparent to the public is the lengthy design process that happens long before construction starts. Design of the many engineering and architectural elements must take place stage by stage. Throughout, the designers need to balance staying true to the original vision with making it work in different conditions and geographical areas.

a variety of disciplines at work

VivaNext uses a multi-disciplined design team including: engineers who specialize in civil, traffic, structural, geotechnical, electrical and transit systems; architects; environmental consultants; landscape architects, security experts and more.

many stakeholders weigh in

At each stage, different options and features are reviewed, adjusted and improved with input from municipal staff, utility companies, local conservation authorities, property owners and others. Depending on the location of the project, specific design issues are addressed in conjunction with the owners of adjacent infrastructure including GO Transit, 407 ETR, CN, and the Ontario Ministry of Transportation.

the stages of each project

The process is not a fast one; the Environmental Assessment process, which established the conceptual design for vivaNext, was begun in 2002, and the whole process for any one segment from Preliminary Engineering to service start may take 6 or more years. Here’s an overview of the stages each of our projects go through, before shovels can hit the ground.

•    Environmental Assessment [EA]: The EA examines alternatives and identifies a preferred design. The vivaNext conceptual design shows the approach for individual segments like the number of rapidway and traffic lanes, boulevards and planting zones and the arrangement of stops and stations. The EA then identifies potential design impacts on the natural and built environment, traffic, noise, drainage, property, etc., and proposed strategies to avoid or mitigate and monitor them.

•    Preliminary Design: This stage takes design to approximately 30% completion and establishes the outlines of the project including its alignment and profile, what additional property is needed to build the project, development of major components like bridges or culverts for water crossings, entrances and intersections, utilities, and listing permits and approvals.

•    Detail Design: This stage fleshes out the preliminary design for all elements. For example, preliminary design may identify that a high retaining wall will be needed at a specific location; 60% design will show the kind of foundation needed and the wall’s general construction; 90% design will show the colour and design of the material to be used on the outside of the wall, and 100% will show all details and specifications required to construct the work.

•    Issued-for-Construction Drawings: These are the final design drawings to be used by the contractors, once all approvals are complete.

By the time vivaNext is complete, all our projects will share the original design vision, but their individual design will reflect local requirements and various conditions. Each segment is tailor-made to be functional, convenient and beautiful, with the primary goal of providing a rapid transit system for the future. Which is, and always has been, the ultimate vivaNext design objective.

trees do make you healthier!

Wednesday, July 15th, 2015

Trees July16

As transit riders, most of you already know that taking transit can make you healthier. But now there’s a study reported by the Toronto Star that tells us that having trees on your street can not only make you healthier –but make you feel healthier.

As we continue to build new segments of rapid transit, we at vivaNext feel strongly that tree-lined streets help to make the new spaces more enjoyable to live and work in. They certainly create a welcoming, inviting environment that we can all feel proud of.

Click to read this fascinating article.

If you’d like to subscribe to email updates about the progress of the vivaNext project, click on this subscriber link, or go to our homepage at and scroll down to “subscribe”.

bus rapid transit is a global phenomenon, up nearly 400% in over 10 years

Monday, June 29th, 2015

BRT system is a global phenomenon

At vivaNext, we’re working hard to build a Bus Rapid Transit [BRT] system. And we’re not alone! Our vision of fast, reliable and convenient BRT service is shared by many cities and regions, all over the world.

Bus Rapid Transit is a global phenomenon that has nearly quadrupled over the last 10 years, growing 383% worldwide from 2004 to 2014, according to data compiled by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy.


buses! buses!

Former mayor of Bogotá, Colombia, Enrique Peñalosa, said it best with his rally cry: “Buses! Buses! Buses! Buses!” That was his response to a suggestion that some municipalities might benefit from a subway.

Indeed, for many cities and regions, BRT simply makes sense. A BRT system can be built at a fraction of the cost and time of a rail system – in the span of a few years instead of a decade or more – and still provide service that can be just as reliable, fast and frequent as a train.

More cities and regions are turning to BRT as their transportation solution, with 1,849 kilometres of new lines added globally in the last decade. In York Region, our contribution was the six- kilometre stretch of rapidway on Highway 7 East! And that’s just the beginning.


32 million global BRT riders every day

Around the world, 32 million people ride BRT every day, according to the global database  That’s 5,087 kilometres of BRT lines in 193 cities.

The undisputed global leader of the movement is Latin America with nearly 20 million passengers, followed by Asia with 8.7 million. Brazil is the birthplace of BRT, and the country with the largest network of systems; nearly 12 million passengers a day in 34 cities!

Bus Rapid Transit grew the most in China with construction of 552 new kilometres over the last decade, followed by Brazil with 345 kilometres, and Mexico with 234 kilometres, according to the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy.

Closer to home in North America, BRT is a small but growing phenomenon with one million passengers in 27 cities. The United States was fourth worldwide in terms of growth, with 104 kilometres of new lanes built in the last 10 years.


9.6 million annual riders on Highway 7 East rapidway

Here in York Region, we’re working hard to bring the vivaNext vision to life. Our current plan will include 34 kilometres of rapidway once construction is complete, connecting the communities of Markham, Vaughan, Richmond Hill and Newmarket. That includes the six kilometres already running in Markham. We’re also forging connections with the Spadina Subway Extension, and advancing plans for the Yonge North Subway Extension. In 2014, our Highway 7 East rapidway in Markham had 9.6 million riders, so we’re well on our way.

We’re building rapidways but the true end product is something much greater – mobility. Mobility makes everything possible. Because BRT runs in designated lanes it’s not subject to the whims of traffic. When our rapidways are complete, people will know they can rely on Viva service to get where they need to go – to work, to school, and to life.  As our communities grow and roads get more congested, our rapidway system will be ready to meet the growing demands of our region – part of a global movement moving people forward into the future


how transit and city planning work together

Monday, May 4th, 2015

how transit and city planning work together

An exciting new urban planning report — Make Way for Mid-Rise: How to build more homes in walkable, transit-connected neighbourhoods proposes actions that would help increase density along transit lines in the Greater Toronto Area. The report was released by the Pembina Institute and the Ontario Home Builders’ Association on Monday, May 4.

The nugget of this report is that the range of affordable housing choices for families would increase by building mid-rise, mixed-use buildings along transit lines. The report argues that mid-rise development supports “healthy lifestyles and local economies, since it can help increase walkability and put more people close to transit, while also supporting local business.”

So, should our communities “make way for mid-rise”? If we want our cities to have a better chance of developing the type of population density that supports a healthy neighbourhood with street life, walkability, and good transit, then, yes!

As the populations of York Region and the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area increase, it’s the job of government, urban planners, and developers to ensure that the community infrastructure is properly accommodated, and resources like farmland and clean water are protected.

The Make Way for Mid-Rise report presents five ways to support increased density:

  1. Require minimum densities along rapid transit lines
  2. Eliminate minimum parking requirements
  3. Pre-approve mid-rise development along avenues and transit corridors
  4. Require retail planning before mid-rise is built
  5. Make parkland dedication rules more equitable

When transit planning and urban planning work together, the result can be what vivaNext is all about: great cities and great transit, hand in hand.

Take a few moments to check out the report, Make Way for Mid-Rise, and read more about the proposals in the Toronto Star.


taking care near our urban watercourses

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

If you’ve been at the corner of Jane Street and Highway 7 in Vaughan recently, you’ll have seen the work underway to build a 10 metre long retaining wall near where the Black Creek flows through a large culvert under the roadway.

We’re building the retaining wall to support the newly widened roadway. Ensuring that our project does not negatively affect any of the watercourses adjacent to or crossing our rapidway segments is a top priority for vivaNext, and we have made commitments through the Environmental Assessment phase of the project for how we will carry out that work to ensure there are no harmful effects.  In keeping with this commitment, we need to have the major work on the retaining wall finished this spring before April 1, completing the in-water work before the closing of the pre-established work window.

This “work window” is set by the provincial Ministry of Natural Resources, and is set out in timing guidelines that are applied to construction projects near or in watercourses that are home to any species of fish.  These timing guidelines are intended to protect fish from any impact from construction work being done in or around water, during the critical life stages for fish including spawning migrations, egg incubation and fry emergence.

Provincial guidelines are organized by region as well as by fish species within those regions.  Fish can be divided into those that spawn in cold water (i.e. in the spring) and those that spawn in warm water (i.e. in the fall), with the species in the Black Creek being in the cold-water group.  For that reason, the construction permits require that any work we do in or near the Black Creek be done outside of the period from April 1 to June 30, to ensure that the project doesn’t interfere with their spawning.

Once the work window closes April 1, we will not do any work in or around the water until the beginning of July.  So we go to great lengths to ensure the work on the Black Creek retaining wall is finished by the end of March, and that we won’t need to do any other activities involving in-water work until the summer.

Our commitment to ensuring our work has no adverse effects on the environment goes well beyond avoiding any in-water work at sensitive times.  On all our segments, we work closely with the local conservation authorities, who approve the final designs before we get their permission to work.  Our mutual goal is to ensure the project, at a minimum, avoids any harmful impacts, and in many cases actively enhances the natural environment. We also use various construction strategies to mitigate any potential impacts while we’re working, such as installing cofferdams from sheet piles or sand bags around our work zones within watercourses.   By using these methods, we’re able to work “in-the-dry”, thereby avoiding any risks to the watercourse and its fish, even if the in-water work window has closed.

We’re happy to know that the vivaNext project is going to ultimately enhance our shared environment for people and the other creatures that live in York.  So taking great care as we work near our creeks and rivers is just one example of how we’re committed to protecting and enhancing our natural surroundings, even in a fully-urbanized area like Highway 7 and Jane Street.

Please remember as the temperature heats up during spring thaw, water ways and creeks can been extremely dangerous, remember to keep a safe distance.


time is money: why gridlock hurts us all

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

How to reduce the gridlock in the Greater Toronto Area is a topic that is getting a lot of air-time from commentators of all descriptions.  And for good reason – gridlock has been described by the Toronto Board of Trade as costing the GTA’s economy more than $6 Billion a year.

How those numbers are calculated, and what lies behind them, isn’t always so clear.  One of the best breakdowns that I have read is the paper developed by the Toronto Board of Trade last year urging governments to invest more in transit. The paper, called Let’s Break the Gridlock provides this description of how gridlock costs us all time – and how that time costs money.

The biggest concern about gridlock in Toronto from an economic perspective is that the increasingly clogged roads slow down business, and therefore undermine profits.  These so-called “congestion costs” affect different industries in different ways, each with their own price tag.  For example, in an economy that is increasingly based on “just in time” strategies, businesses order extra stock or supplies or equipment as it is needed instead of warehousing it. But if the delivery is unreliable, businesses will need to order earlier, tying up money in extra goods and paying for warehousing.  That costs extra money, and those increased prices will be passed on to the customer.

Another huge price tag associated with gridlock is how long it takes businesses to actually move their goods around.  The congestion costs hurt businesses in many ways such as increased shipping and fuel costs, higher labour costs per shipment due to less productive drivers, and reduced travel speeds.  Big shippers who need to deliver their products to small businesses throughout the GTA, for example soft-drink bottlers who need to make deliveries to many small convenience stores and restaurants across the region, face significantly higher costs due to congestion, and the snarled roads their drivers travel.  They can make fewer deliveries per day, and each delivery costs more.

And for employers, employee recruitment is negatively impacted by the difficult commutes faced by so many in the GTA.  As the Board of Trade paper notes, the lack of transit is a serious barrier for employers in hiring skilled young professionals.  And nowhere is this problem more severe than in the 905 areas, where employers have realized that the lack of rapid transit actually adds to the cost of doing business in the suburbs.  In fact, employers are increasingly seeing the benefits of having nearby transit, so that they can attract the best employees.

With this last reason in mind, we’re fortunate that York Region is planning for the future with vivaNext.  We’re going to have great rapid transit when the construction is complete, so that people can move around our region and make convenient connections across the GTA.  And with every full viva vehicle, we can get 70 cars off the road, which will reduce congestion for everyone.

Defeating gridlock is going to take time, and vision, and money.  But given the huge price congestion is already costing, there’s really no alternative.


Having the right team for the job

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

viva influences come from around the world

As you follow our progress in building the vivaNext rapidways across the Region, a lot of our work will appear to be straightforward construction. But what you likely won’t know is how many other areas of expertise are needed to inform a project like vivaNext – and how many experts with specialized knowledge play key roles on our project team. As you might expect, our preliminary design and design-build teams include specialists in traffic, structural and electrical engineering, landscape architects and urban designers. But our team also includes a range of other experts – many of whom have worked on major projects around the world – in many more specialized fields.

Our vivaNext vision includes a complex systems undertaking, including both new hardware and software. So our team includes systems engineers to design the multiple information systems and other communications components involved in traffic signals, bus detection equipment, ticketing and many other IT elements of our system. To ensure our curved vivastation canopies provide a comfortable shelter from the elements, micro-climate specialists studied how the stations will be affected by wind, rain and snow. And the surprisingly complex questions related to “wayfinding” – the science of helping people find their way and get from A to B easily – have been assigned to wayfinding experts, who advise on all the elements that passengers will touch, see, read, feel or use. Look for more information about these specialties in future blogs.

One area where we’re drawing on very specialized knowledge is in our planning for construction in the vicinity of the Southlake Regional Health Centre in Newmarket. In this area, as is the case across our entire project, our highest priorities are the quality of our work, as well as safety for the public and our workers during construction. Near the hospital, we add in the need to ensure there is as little disruption as possible to patients and medical staff due to our construction activities. Fortunately, our design-build partner has a wealth of experience in actually designing and constructing additions to hospitals, as well as carrying out construction projects near other sensitive locations.

We know that from time to time, construction can be noisy, and wherever we’re working we try to keep the amount of noise, vibration and dust to a minimum. In the hospital zone, our expert advisors are working closely with the hospital’s administration to plan what we’ll be working on, how we’re going to work, and when it will happen. We will also make sure the public is kept well-informed as our work near the hospital progresses, with regular updates and communication.

As we move forward with our work, our team of experts are drawing on their years of experience – literally from around the globe. We’re fortunate to have their knowledge to help anticipate the issues that might arise, to minimize problems, and ultimately get the long-term results we’re committed to achieving for vivaNext.

Ridership across country to soar shows study

Friday, September 18th, 2009
Passengers wait to board Viva.

Passengers wait to board Viva. A new study shows that ridership will greatly increase in the coming decades.

Transit ridership is expected to nearly double in Canada over the next 30 years as the population rises to 42 million, with most of those people living in urban centres.

This is according to a report released recently by the Canadian Urban Transit Association, which represents public transit agencies across the country.

The report, titled Vision 2040, suggests all levels of government must work together to put transit at the centre of community planning and design. This will help create communities that reduce dependency on cars.

“Today, national transit ridership and investment are both at all-time highs,” states the report. “Transit is widely recognized as an important part of the solution to national challenges including economic prosperity, climate change, public health, safety and security.”

When factoring population growth, ridership will increase from 1.76 billion trips in 2007 to 3.28 billion trips in 2040.

To deal with this increase, CUTA says large cities and major metropolitan areas such as York Region and Toronto, must focus on integrating transit services and expanding rapid transit.

It sounds like vivaNext is on the right track with subway extensions that will be the backbone of a seamless transit system. The subway extensions and dedicated lanes will improve travel times throughout the Viva network and help to shape successful urban revitalization.

Read the final report.

Watch the video and see how transit will play a role in the future: Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on “Transit Vision 2040 Video”.

What do you think of this vision? What do you see as the role of transit in the future?