Posts Tagged ‘environmentally friendly’

as technology advances, every little step counts

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017

as technology advances, every little step counts

We are always amazed to see examples of technology that depart from the norm. Like this driverless drone “sky taxi” that will begin flying customers in Dubai, United Arab Emirates this summer. If everyone had their own personal drone it would certainly change the daily commute!

Sometimes though, it’s smaller innovations that change transportation for the better for people. Bus rapid transit that rides in dedicated bus lanes is now part of the landscape in Markham, Richmond Hill, Vaughan and Newmarket. At the end of this year in Vaughan, the Toronto-York Spadina Subway will change how many people commute.

Within a transit service there can also be improvements and innovations. YRT/Viva’s goal is to be emissions free by 2051, and their 2017 Annual Service Plan notes several pilot and trial programs underway, including:

  • Electric Bus Demonstration and Integration Trial
  • Alternative Fuel Study
  • Small bus strategy

Over time, these smaller changes can make a big difference. Just fifteen years ago, few people would have predicted that bus customers would be able to zip past congested traffic on Highway 7. And while subway extensions have been a priority for a long time, it’s pretty amazing that residents of Vaughan will soon be living so close to a subway line.

Dreaming about new innovations for the future is one thing; making it happen is definitely another. And in York Region we’ve made these changes together. The future looks bright with more innovation to come!

 

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.

sowing the seeds on Davis Drive

Wednesday, May 11th, 2016

sowing the seeds on Davis Drive

Trees are coming to Davis Drive! Crews are out making their way along the rapidway medians planting trees, shrubs and perennials to create a more attractive, welcoming streetscape. We hope to see buds and shoots blooming all around us in the coming weeks.

To give them the best chance for survival, we carefully choose the species of trees and plants, and plant them in a special planting mix developed by the Region’s Forestry Department, rooted in special soil cells. Even with this great care, nature is unpredictable and sometimes a few don’t make it through the winter. In this case our contractor replaces them under the two-year warranty we have for all of our trees, shrubs and plants. Trees and other green spaces have been shown in studies to have health benefits, build prosperity and increase safety, so they’re an important addition to streets in York Region.

The vivaNext project delivers more than just great transit. With all the plantings on Davis Drive it also reinforces York Region’s Greening Strategy as part of great community design. The strategy promotes actions that support healthy natural environments, and it plants the seeds of inspiration for cultivating sustainable communities.

#ThanksDavisDr!

Keeping with the green theme, May 7 was the Town of Newmarket’s Community Cleanup & Fun Day, and it was a stellar community event! People from all over Newmarket gathered together to pick up garbage and brighten their community by getting involved and getting their hands dirty [gloves were provided!].

We were there to do our part, participating in the morning cleanup and crushing icy snocones for everyone to enjoy. It was our opportunity to say thank you to the people of Newmarket for all their patience, understanding and feedback during construction.

There’s just a little bit left to do before we can call it done, and have a rapid transit system we can all be proud of. Thanks Davis Drive!

 

it’s all about trees >> and numbers >> on Earth Day 2016

Friday, April 22nd, 2016

Lad with earth day tree

Today, Earth Day turns 46. What does middle age mean for this global environmental event? An exciting theme and an ambitious goal: the Global 2016 theme is “Trees for the Earth”.

And as Earth Day edges closer to celebrating its half-century anniversary, Earthday.org is asking people around the world to plant trees, with the hope of reaching 7.8 billion trees planted by Earth Day 2020.

That’s one tree for every person on the planet!

In Canada, it’s the celebration of the 25th anniversary of Earth Day Canada, and citizens in this country are invited to participate in the #Rooting4Trees ‘pledge and plant’ campaign. The goal is to help grow a forest of 25,000 trees.

For our part here at vivaNext, we enthusiastically embrace and support the goals of Earth Day. Earth Day serves as our annual springtime reminder that we’re on the right track, as we continue building transit treasuring and protecting the natural environment, promoting smart growth, and building vibrant, livable cities, and healthy communities.

Following the theme of trees, very soon, you’ll see crews planting trees, shrubs and greenery along the Davis Drive rapidway and along Highway 7 West in Vaughan.

And in support of the movement to care for the earth – and to thank the Newmarket community for their patience during construction – watch for vivaNext at the Town of Newmarket’s upcoming Community Cleanup & Fun Day on Saturday, May 7.  We hope you stop in and see the vivaNext team.

Happy Earth Day, everyone!

a touch of nature…

Friday, March 18th, 2016

a touch of nature…

…makes the whole world kin. At least that’s what Shakespeare wrote. Everyone wants to help out the environment, even just a little. And the key to making that happen is to weave it into what you do. At vivaNext, we do what we can to help out by incorporating environmental and sustainable standards into what we do.

saving…

When we built a transit facility in Richmond Hill, more than 95% of construction waste was diverted from landfills by recycling. This equals about 582 tonnes, or enough to fill 32 city buses. The facility was built to LEED Silver standards, and includes a rainwater recycling system for the bus wash, which saves about 5.5 million litres each year. When we build rapidways, the old asphalt is taken to local recycling centres, saving valuable construction material for re-use.

planting…

Every rapidway project includes tree-lined sidewalks with special under-sidewalk root systems and tree and shrub species chosen to best suit their location. Including greenery in our communities has important side benefits, including improved health for residents, increased property values, better business outcomes, and reduced energy costs. Each project is unique, and where there are creeks and culverts, our work includes natural restoration, which creates better conditions for wildlife and aquatic species. For a peek at how we connect with nature, check out our video.

building!

And don’t forget the most important thing we’re doing – building rapid transit! Adding sustainable travel choices to our landscape is the most important thing we can do to help our communities thrive. Each bus can replace up to 70 cars and during peak hours along rapidway routes, can be up to 42% faster and certainly reduces emissions. Having fast, reliable transit within walking distance helps support the growth coming to our downtowns in Markham, Newmarket, Vaughan and Richmond Hill – and this central growth helps prevent suburban sprawl.

We’re doing what we can to help the environment and making it part of what we do. Earth Hour is 8:30-9:30pm this Saturday, and we’ll do that little bit extra by powering down and we hope you will too.

 

farms need cities

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2016

farms need cities

Most people would agree that outside the city limits, there should be rural, green space. It’s important for agriculture, for wildlife, and for us to experience our natural landscape.

The Oak Ridges Moraine Act [2001] and the Greenbelt Act [2005] together protect 69% of York Region’s land. Considering York Region’s fast growth, the remaining 31% needs to be carefully planned, with higher density in the cities.

Farmland has changed in Ontario over the last several decades, with fewer, larger farms and more technology used for efficient production. Wildlife has changed too, with York Regional Forests in place and more awareness of our impact on nature. But one thing that hasn’t, and likely won’t, change is that wildlife and farms need cities to grow in place, without expanding into the countryside.

This is where new urbanism and transit-oriented development come in. They’re about planning the best ways for a city to grow, and ensuring there’s a variety of housing and employment, and transportation options like bus rapid transit and subway. Building where we already have development makes a lot of sense. It keeps urban, urban and protects rural from becoming suburban. It also creates a focused city centre that attracts people to do business or shop, all of which is supported by great transit to get around.

Using the land we already have in York Region’s cities and towns is smart and it’s sustainable. If we stick to this plan we’ll be watching population grow in our vibrant cities, and trees and crops thrive in the country.

 

one with nature

Friday, October 2nd, 2015

see video: one with nature

As York Region transforms our key development areas from suburban locations to more urban one it’s important that we create attractive and welcoming public spaces. This means designing buildings with aesthetics in mind, considering the accessibility of civic spaces, public transit and incorporating the natural environment into the urban landscape.

It’s important to create urban settings that integrate natural elements for a number of reasons. It beautifies public spaces, and also provides health and economic benefits to the community. One way to ensure that York Region’s urban centres are one with nature is to invest in green infrastructure. This includes trees, shrubs, grasses, and other plants that will become a part of our urban forest.

Mature trees absorb large quantities of carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide, ozone and particulates, cleaning polluted urban air. In addition, research suggests that investing in green infrastructure will result in improved health for residents; People living on Toronto blocks with 10 or more trees are less likely than other residents to report conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure or obesity. There is also documented evidence that investing in green infrastructure will result in increased property values, better business outcomes, and reduced energy costs [read our previous blog on the topic].

On top of our commitment to green infrastructure, vivaNext is committed to respecting the natural environment that already exists in York Region. Our work to extend bridges and culverts along the Region’s corridors includes natural restoration plans, which will create better conditions for wildlife and aquatic species. Intensification of the urban centres and corridors means that municipalities will be building up instead of out. With population densities increasing in these areas there will be less pressure for sprawl to reach farmlands and green spaces. Greenery of the future York Region will be a harmonious mix of urban forest and open green space – providing something for everyone!

Along the Highway 7 East rapidway, vivaNext has already planted 1,250 new trees and 10,000 new shrubs. To watch how this investment, and future investments, will benefit York Region check out our video.

 

realizing the vision of leafy, tree-lined streets

Friday, June 19th, 2015

realizing the vision of leafy, tree-lined streets

Planter boxes and trees are coming to Highway 7 in Vaughan! Along with the paving [have you heard about all the paving?] activity that’s been happening along the rapidway construction, you’ll soon be seeing crews building planter boxes between Jane Street and the CN Bridge.

The arrival of the planters is a big deal – to us and to the neighbourhood – because these structures will be housing trees and plants.

One of the most desirable qualities of a livable neighbourhood is the presence of trees. And at vivaNext, we have very deliberately designed the rapidways with this vision of a tree-lined, livable neighbourhood in mind. Part of our goal with the new boulevards is to bring to life the “complete street” concept – the guiding philosophy for our streetscape design.

As development continues and the population in York Region grows, it means that there will be more people walking and riding along the rapidway routes. So we’ve made sure that our boulevard design is going to be visually appealing as well as functional. And the trees and plants we’ve planted will grow to shade the area for everyone to enjoy.

If you want to see how green the Vaughan area of the rapidway will eventually become, take a look at Highway 7 East. The Markham section of the vivaNext rapidway is bursting with growing, thriving trees and greenery, thanks in part to all the sunshine and large amount of rain we’ve had.

However, most of you will probably notice that Mother Nature is getting quite a bit of help along the way. Landscaping crews are currently out there every day, installing planter boxes, planting flowers, bushes, and grasses, topping up topsoil and distributing mulch, planting new trees and replacing the few that didn’t survive the winter.

As you go for a stroll, ride your bike, drive, or take a bus ride along the rapidway[!], be sure to look around you and take in the newly tree-lined greenery-filled boulevard on Highway 7 East.

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 vivaNext.com and scroll down to “subscribe.”

 

greenery all around us

Wednesday, May 13th, 2015

greenery all around us

Most people see the environmental benefits of having greenery around us. Trees and shrubs help to filter the air and water, and provide shade and habitat for animals and birds. But when you look at a tree, shrub or plant, it doesn’t bring to mind the economy. Last year, a report from TD Economics calculated that in Toronto, a single tree returns from $1.35 to $3.20 per every dollar spent on maintaining the “urban forest,” and the returns for Halifax and Vancouver were even higher. It also noted the higher value of real estate in neighbourhoods with mature tree canopies.

There are environmental benefits and economic value, and then there’s the intangible – the way we feel when we’re on a tree-lined street and the satisfaction we get from watching the seasons change. We may not look forward to snow, but you can’t deny it looks nice on tree branches.

If you’ve ever planted a garden, you know that every plant isn’t always successful, especially after a harsh winter. Along the new Highway 7 East rapidway in Markham and Richmond Hill, we’ve planted almost 300 trees and thousands of perennials and grasses. We use soil cell technology to ensure trees have the best chance at survival, and the types of trees and shrubs are selected carefully. Even so, sometimes a few don’t make it through the winter, in which case we replace them under the two-year warranty we have for all of our trees, shrubs and plants.

In the next couple of weeks, our landscaping crews will be out on Highway 7 to help the new greenery on Highway 7 East thrive for many years to come. Whether you’re walking through a forest or travelling Highway 7 East, we hope you connect with nature now that spring is finally, [finally!] here.