Archive for the ‘Urban Planning’ Category

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.

Transit gets epic in Vaughan this Sunday

Monday, December 11th, 2017

Get ready for the game-changer. Transit is about to get epic at the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre [VMC], and you’re invited. On Sunday, December 17, this public launch event is set to change the face of transit forever in York Region.

The public opening of the TTC Line 1 Subway Extension will make history, as the first subway ever in York Region brings transit customers up to Vaughan Metropolitan Centre.

Today was another great day for integrated transit connections in the York Region and the GTHA – as we celebrated the official opening of the newest bus rapid transit [BRT] rapidway segment and Vaughan Metropolitan Centre [VMC] Station on Highway 7 West. This new vivastation will be fully connected to the new VMC subway station.

Bus rapid transit meets subway for the first time!

you’ll be moved!

The new rapidway section runs west of Jane Street to Edgeley Boulevard, with dedicated centre lanes that will whisk riders to the VMC with faster and more consistent travel times. Including the previously completed section, the rapidway will run the full 3.6 kilometres from Bowes Road to Edgeley, the bus-only lanes clearly marked for drivers with red asphalt.

Coming in 2018, SmartCentres Place Bus Terminal will complete the transit powerhouse at VMC, as YRT buses begin providing services from this stunning new bus terminal.

an extraordinary station

Along with the rapidway comes an extraordinary vivastation for a new downtown destination – the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre rapidway station. The design supersized our traditional vivastation arched glass canopies, inspired by historic and modern European transportation architecture. The open, airy, domed glass canopy shelters the road and station.

the future is now

It’s only 43 minutes via subway to downtown from the VMC, but there’s no need to go anywhere. If you’re at Vaughan Metropolitan Centre, you’ve already arrived!

Welcome to the brilliant future of transit-oriented development, right here, right now in York Region. The VMC shows what it’s all been about: rapid transit connections that fuel livable, walkable, desirable communities, spur jobs and economic growth, creating places where we all want to live, work and play.

 

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.

 

be ready… 30 days to subway

Friday, November 17th, 2017

The countdown is on, and we can hardly wait! The first subway in York Region will arrive in just 30 days. The TTC Line 1 subway extension is a game-changer for transit in Vaughan Metropolitan Centre [VMC], York Region, and beyond.

Changes of this magnitude are fueled by the power of collaboration and funding partnerships. Today, vivaNext participated in a media event to kick off the countdown in earnest, along with the Government of Canada, the Province of Ontario, the City of Toronto and the TTC.

Read the news release

mega-connections at VMC

The TTC Line 1 extension isn’t the only connection coming your way. Everything’s changing, and that makes for better, faster transit service.

  • The Highway 7 West rapidway between Edgeley Boulevard and Jane Street, including Vaughan Metropolitan Centre Station in the centre of Highway 7, will open for service.
  • SmartCentres Place Bus Terminal will begin hosting YRT/Viva soon after.

Imagine, hopping on Line 1 at VMC Station and arriving downtown in just 45 minutes. Or from the subway, connecting directly to our Highway 7 West rapidway, or walking two minutes to the SmartCentres Place Bus Terminal, where YRT/Viva routes branch out across York Region. Soon you won’t have to imagine!

Today’s event was a warm-up for the big celebration on December 17, and you’re invited to share the celebration. Check vivaNext.com/VMCopening for links to detailed information.

award-winning design

In other news, our rapidway in Vaughan is already getting noticed, for the quality of the design and also for the collaboration behind the scenes that makes it all come together.

Earlier this week, we were honoured to receive an Award of Merit from the Vaughan Urban Design Awards for the first phase of our Highway 7 West rapidway. The awards celebrate excellence in architecture, urban design, landscape architecture and environmental stewardship.

The rapidway, running from Jane Street to Bowes Road, was unanimously praised by the jury as “A great example of collaboration and investment between multiple levels of government to demonstrate significance on a city-wide scale.”

The jury also called the rapidway “a catalyst to knit communities together”, noting that the project “presents public transit as a ‘cool and hip’ mode of transportation” and “makes the everyday experience of transit a beautiful one.”

We hope you agree. Riding transit can be a beautiful experience.

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.

our plants are born survivors

Friday, November 10th, 2017

City living in York Region provides lots of advantages, from all the great places to shop, eat and live, to entertainment options, and of course the increasing number of employers choosing to locate here. But one advantage country living usually has over city life is the abundance of green, natural spaces.

Fortunately, we’ve all come to understand and appreciate the value of trees and landscaping in our urban spaces. More greenery is good for our air quality, increases property values, and can lower energy costs. It makes our urban spaces feel more welcoming and human-scaled. Plus, it just looks good.

greenery a vivaNext priority

For all those reasons, introducing more greenery and landscaping to the communities where we build our projects has always been a vivaNext priority. Plants are chosen largely for their practicality. Median and boulevard planters filled with lovely, healthy blooms and foliage look gorgeous. Median planters filled with sad, struggling plants? Not so much.

roadside plantings face tough ride

The challenge in getting more of the former and less of the latter, is finding plants that can cope with the often-inhospitable environment associated with roadside plantings. Roadside plantings have to cope with heavy doses of wind, pollution, and winter road salt spray. We’ve made an incredible effort to give our plantings every possible advantage, from the design of the planters, to the amount and type of soil, to the actual choices of trees and plants.

Some of the plants selected for our first projects didn’t thrive as well as we hoped, so we redesigned our plant selections for the rapidways. Now we’re using an even tougher group of plants with a built-in advantage: they already grow wild in this area. Many of the new plants are those you’ll find in rural York Region, growing happily along roadsides and around old farmhouses.

going wild at the VMC

Some, like sumacs, grasses and Kentucky Coffee trees [which isn’t really a coffee tree, but has pods with seeds inside that early settlers used to make a coffee-like drink], are native to parts of Ontario. Others, such as rugosa roses and daylilies, might have been planted many years ago by humans, but they’re so tough, they don’t need any help once they get established and are happy growing wild.

The new flowers, grasses, shrubs and trees, including those we’ve planted in Vaughan Metropolitan Centre, will add a beautiful green note to the Viva rapidways and stations. And because we’ve chosen these natural-born survivors, they should be green and blooming for years to come.

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

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!

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.

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.