Posts Tagged ‘BRT’

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!

the utility bonus

Wednesday, May 31st, 2017

click here to see our YouTube video about utilities!

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ve probably noticed how often we post a story on some aspect of utility infrastructure. That’s because, as much as our main focus is transit, relocating and upgrading utilities is a very significant  piece of our construction project just on its own, in terms of effort, time and money.

Most of our posts are about the complexities and challenges of utility relocation. But the most important story is about the bonus: at the same time as we’re building new transit, York Region residents and businesses are going to be getting new telecommunications, water, sewage, drainage, power and gas lines to power them into the future.

Unlike a single construction project with one overall manager, the utility project demands that many players work together collaboratively. Working within multiple agreements and relationships, our projects [funded by Metrolinx], the Regional and local municipalities, and the utility companies all work together to coordinate the utility construction.

Whereas York Region Rapid Transit Corporation leads the design decisions for the transit project, it’s the utility companies – including private companies and municipal utility companies – who determine what they need to meet the needs of their customers. Starting with our project’s alignment and overall design, it’s up to the utility companies to decide what infrastructure they’ll need as the population grows, and where it needs to go. For this, they need to take into account future development as well as current needs.

Because there’s not much room down there, and there’s a logical order to what goes in first, the utilities need to work out their plans in ways that work for everyone. In some cases they can jointly locate their services, but more often they need their own space within a separate trench or on an overhead line. Finally, they are responsible for carrying out their own construction, with only one crew able to work in a given area at a time.

Because we’re all equal players in this, coordinating activities requires us to work together, including our project team, the designers and construction experts working for the utility companies, and the various levels of government.

With every vivaNext corridor that gets completed, the end result is increased telecommunications capacity, upgraded water and sewage, better drainage, and new service connections to individual houses and businesses. That’s a future bonus that’s definitely worth the effort and a benefit for everyone.


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



matching the heights

Thursday, February 2nd, 2017

matching the heights

With the extraordinary maneuvering required to install the roof sections of the VMC BRT station in its location in the centre of Highway 7, you might think the most challenging part of this project has been its incredible glass and steel canopy.

It’s true that installing the canopy of the station required a lot of planning and meticulous engineering. But actually, the coordination of the underground subway station with the BRT station above has been – and still is – a much more complex logistical challenge.

the mechanics of it all

Building the actual physical connections between the two structures was involved but not unduly complicated, similar to any building that has a framed structure on top of a concrete slab. Because the top of the station is wider than the lower part and overhangs at the edges, we couldn’t use rebar dowels, which are the most common construction method. Instead, we used mechanical couplings that enabled us to essentially bolt the top to the bottom.

working together

What makes the project more challenging is that the subway station is being built by the TTC, while the above ground BRT station is being built by vivaNext. With two different owners, and two different contractors, the project demands an intensive degree of coordination and planning.

Joint planning work began long ago, starting with establishing the specific requirements for how the project needed to be built, both below and above ground, and inside and outside the subway station. With the TTC building the subway station up to the surface, and vivaNext building the BRT station from the ground up, the heights of floors and ceilings had to line up perfectly.

top to bottom, inside and out

The vertical elements between the lower and upper floors – including the stairs, escalators and elevators – had to be installed early, with no margin for error. Escalators are very rigid, designed to fit perfectly between floors. And because the rapidway runs right through the station, the top of the escalator, stairs and elevator also had to align precisely with the existing level of Highway 7 outside.

At the same time as the TTC was building the lower levels of the subway station, we were outside building the civil works – the roadway, curbs and gutters – that surround the BRT station. Again, because the rapidway runs through the station, the heights of the underground parts of these elements had to fit with the height of the subway box below.

The BRT station is well on its way and is already a head-turner. In the not-too-distant future, all of this engineering and coordination will make it possible for you to step off the escalator at VMC subway station and easily make your way to the BRT station on Highway 7 and beyond.

See an artist’s rendering of the VMC BRT station once complete.


so many different activities this year in Vaughan!

Thursday, December 22nd, 2016

Vaughan 2016 year in review

So much has happened this year along Bathurst and Centre and on Highway 7 West. Just take a look!

In this video, you can check out some of this year’s behind-the-scenes activity – like trees being transplanted to parks, and pre-construction work – as well as the very visible work you saw, like water main and gas main construction.

It was a big year for rapidway work as well, with boulevard and planting on Highway 7, red asphalt in the rapidway and the big vivastation canopy going up in the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre area.

New utilities, wide pedestrian-friendly sidewalks, shade-giving trees – and smooth rapidway are all part of the vivaNext projects, creating new infrastructure that will serve generations to come, and leave a lasting legacy for the Highway 7 West and Bathurst & Centre communities in Vaughan.

As the year comes to an end, it is great to reflect on our accomplishments. We look forward to more progress in 2017.

For more information on ongoing work be sure to sign up for email updates, and follow us on Twitter. Questions or comments? Comment below or email us at

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.

going where the action is

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

going where the action is

In York Region, there are over 120 bus routes travelled by Viva and YRT buses, and some are busier than others. Some of the busiest routes are on Yonge, Highway 7, Bathurst and Centre Streets, Bayview Avenue and Leslie Street. If you live or work in York Region, there’s a good chance that you travel one of these roads regularly, so it’s no surprise that other people want to go there too.

When building transit, planners have a few goals in mind: ensure most people have access to transportation; have transit where people want to get on and off; and be prepared for future growth and development.

Ensuring most people have access to transportation allows people to get where they want to go, even if they have a specific need or live in a less populated area. In York Region, Dial-a-Ride, community buses and seasonal services [like Canada’s Wonderland!] are examples of this. Community buses take people to places where there’s a special interest, like hospitals, plazas and schools.

The most popular transit routes go where people want to get on and off. People want to go where the action is, so routes are planned where shopping, services, jobs, and higher-density housing is already along the way. One example of this is the area around Bathurst and Centre Streets, where shops and amenities are walking distance to a transit terminal and multi-story condo buildings. Connections to other transit are a big draw too – so routes are planned near bus terminals, GO stations, and future subway stations.

In some cases, we’re preparing for future growth by building transit before development. Enterprise Boulevard in Markham is a planned downtown area near the Unionville GO Train Station that only seven years ago was mostly vacant fields. We opened the first segment of rapidway there in 2011, and since then condo buildings, a sports facility, shops, restaurants and entertainment have all been built, and hotels and a York University campus are on the way.

Whether development is already there or on the way, transit planning means making sure transit is easy to access, and goes where people want to go – an important element in building great communities.


Yonge at heart

Wednesday, June 15th, 2016

Yonge at heart

At 220 years old, Yonge Street is one of the GTA’s oldest roads, and before it was a road it was likely a trail. Since the beginning, it’s been improved upon and extended. Transit has always been a component of the street, starting with horse-drawn stagecoaches, then streetcars, trains and buses. It’s always been a local road that people walk and bike along, as well as a commuting road for longer distances.

Today, Yonge Street is changing again. We’re building dedicated lanes for transit – rapidways – in Richmond Hill from Highway 7 to 19th/Gamble and in Newmarket from Savage Road/Sawmill Valley Drive to Davis Drive. It’s part of a big plan for a seamless transit system in York Region and the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area. The Yonge Street rapidway will connect to the Highway 7 rapidways leading to Markham and Vaughan, and to the future Spadina Subway Extension and Yonge Subway Extension.

Once complete, Viva service along Yonge will have faster and more reliable travel times, and traffic congestion will be reduced. Modern transit will be on the doorsteps of people living and working along Yonge Street, and the tree-lined sidewalks and bike lanes will make Yonge an even more attractive, vibrant place to walk, shop and ride.  With people at all stages of life using this important street, transit continues to play a key role.

There is a lot of work happening in 2016, and we’re keeping everyone informed. You can find facts and maps on the project page on our website, and we’ll be at some local community events this summer. We’re also on Twitter and Facebook, and we have some project videos on YouTube. If you would like to contact us directly, our Community Liaisons are available to talk. If you sign up for email updates, we’ll let you know when work is happening and you’ll receive announcements, project newsletters, and an invitation to an open house we’ll be hosting later this year.


in continuous motion

Wednesday, February 17th, 2016

in continuous motion

At this point in building York Region’s rapid transit system, we can officially say there are projects at every stage. A few rapidway projects and transit facilities are open for service, some are well underway and some are just getting started.

Having projects at different stages can be beneficial. We learn from every project and fine-tune important processes like procurement, financial management and construction scheduling. Special attention is paid to tailoring detailed designs to ensure quality, and scheduling construction to keep impacts to a minimum. Project management is what we do, and to get everything done, we stack the deck with technical knowledge and lots of experience.

Bus Rapid Transit

With 34.6 kilometres of dedicated lanes for Bus Rapid Transit [rapidways] completed or underway we have lots on the go, but there is also much more to do. The remaining half of rapidway projects – 34.2 kilometres – have Environmental Assessments completed and are ready to move forward once funding is in place. This includes completing Highway 7 rapidways in eastern Markham and western Vaughan, and Yonge Street rapidways between Richmond Hill and Newmarket, and north of Davis Drive.

Yonge North Subway Extension

York Region’s highest priority, the Yonge North Subway Extension, is ready to move to full engineering and construction. This 7.4-kilometre extension from Finch subway station to Highway 7 in Richmond Hill will include five stations and will complete a missing link in the GTA transit system. The Yonge Subway Extension has been identified by Metrolinx as a priority project, and the Environmental Assessments and some important studies are complete, so once Provincial funding is confirmed for preliminary engineering this project will be moving forward to this important next step.

As with any great transit system, our projects are in continuous motion. Our experience allows us to think ahead, in planning for each project, and in building a connected transit system for those who live, work or commute in York Region. To help plan the transit system in the GTA, Metrolinx is hosting a series of public meetings in York Region and Toronto in the next five weeks. We’ll be there too, so be sure to drop by our booth.


Yonge Street >> the route to change

Wednesday, January 13th, 2016

Yonge Street >> the route to change

Yonge Street has a long and storied past as a hub for shopping, entertainment and culture along its full length. There are many examples of change and transition as you follow its route from the shores of Lake Ontario all the way north to York Region.

You’ll start to see another transformation this year in Richmond Hill and Newmarket as we begin work on a rapidway – dedicated lanes for Viva – along key segments of Yonge Street.

But how did we arrive at this plan? How does it fit in with the existing network?

There are many layers of planning that have helped develop our approach to meeting the transit needs of York Region and ensuring we’re ready for the increasing demand that comes with population growth.

It all stems from The Big Move, a plan by Metrolinx [a provincial agency] that outlines a vision for a connected transportation network in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area [GTHA], one of the largest and fastest-growing urban regions in North America.

Following Metrolinx’s plans, York Region’s Transportation Master Plan lays out the blueprint for addressing transportation and mobility needs of those living and working in York Region over the next 25 years. It plans for region-wide infrastructure that is welcoming to everyone, including drivers, transit customers, cyclists and pedestrians.

Out of that blueprint comes York Region’s Centres and Corridors Program. This plan identifies the key urban centres and corridors in York Region where new growth and development will be focused. These key urban centres are located in Richmond Hill, Vaughan, Markham, and Newmarket – and each of these municipalities have a need for managed growth and a connected transportation network for the future.

That’s where vivaNext comes in. We’re where the rubber hits the road, connecting urban centres along key corridors with fast, efficient rapid transit. We’ve done all the ground work, completing the comprehensive environmental assessments, reaching out to the community for input on the design, coordinating with the utility companies to adjust their infrastructure, and awarding the contract to get the job done.

We’ve already opened 8.6 km of rapidways on Highway 7 and Davis Drive, and we’re looking forward to the future transformation of Yonge Street.

To learn more about the Yonge Street rapidway and the construction activities ahead, visit our project page and subscribe for email updates.