Posts Tagged ‘Growth’

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

transformation >> made in York Region

Saturday, October 14th, 2017

Transformation >> made in York Region

York Region’s rapid rate of growth is increasing along with housing options in our downtown areas. Some of our communities look more like cities than towns, with Vaughan and Markham even changing their name from “Town” to “City.”

This increase in growth that York Region has experienced has influenced the ways in which our cities and towns are represented. Markham was named Canada’s most diverse city and is known as Canada’s high-tech capital, and Vaughan is one of York Region’s fastest-growing municipalities, and home to exciting achievements. Some of the fun ones: fastest roller-coaster in Canada, and tallest condominium building in York Region.

On Highway 7 just west of Jane Street is Vaughan’s new vibrant downtown, Vaughan Metropolitan Centre (VMC). The VMC is being built with live-work-play in mind – a mix of residential, business and retail, combined with transportation connections and planned greenspace.

Markham is well on its way, with Highway 7 East transformed from a car-focused highway to a complete street with sidewalks, bike lanes and rapid transit. Vaughan’s transformation is unfolding now, with new housing and transportation options to support the growing number of new residents and businesses. This is transformation >> made in York Region.

 

By Adrianna Damiano

live, work, play…and study in Markham!

Wednesday, June 14th, 2017

live, work, play…and study in Markham!

The City of Markham is growing quickly, and for some time now has been considered a major employment hub, especially in the tech sectors. According to Markham’s website, of the 10,400 companies in Markham, there are more than 400 Canadian head offices located there. This includes IBM, GE Digital Energy, Honeywell, Johnson & Johnson, Honda – you get the picture. As an article in Computer Dealer News points out, York Region and especially Markham, has the highest concentration of Information, Communication and Technology [ICT] firms in Canada. Given its role as a key employment centre, it’s no surprise Markham has a large population of residents – it’s the GTA’s fourth-largest city, and York Region’s biggest municipality.

GO, all day

So naturally, there are people travelling to and from work in Markham, and they’re going to need more options for getting there. GO trains are a popular choice, so it stands to reason that GO Transit’s Stouffville Line travelling through Markham should be expanded. Last week, MTO announced increased, all-day GO train service on weekdays, starting later this month. 17 new trains trips per weekday will double the number of weekly trips on the Stouffville line from 85 to 170. GO passengers connect to Viva and the Highway 7 rapidway at Unionville Station, and YRT at Centennial, Markham and Mount Joy Stations.

York U

Last Friday, the Province of Ontario announced $127 million in funding to help build the new York University campus in Markham. The campus has been in the plans since 2015, when the Province agreed the new campus should be located in Markham. Set to open in 2021, it will host 4,400 students – both graduate and undergraduate – and partner with Seneca Collage to offer some programs. Seneca’s Markham campus is already nearby, a stone’s throw from Allstate Station on the Highway 7 rapidway.

Markham is growing – with plans and transit in place to support that growth. Having more travel and education choices is a wonderful thing no matter where you are, and we’re excited to see it happening here in Markham!

smart growth is supported by transit

Thursday, May 11th, 2017

smart growth is supported by transit

Recently in the news, planners have been saying that there’s a “missing middle” in the GTA housing market. They’re talking about a lack of low-rise and mid-rise buildings, ranging from low-rise stacked condos and townhomes to mid-rise buildings four to 12 stories high. This “missing middle” is important because it gives buyers and renters more options in the middle ground between single family homes and high-rise condos and apartments. The good news is the formerly elusive low- and mid-rises have started to show up, right where they make sense – along rapid transit routes.

As this Globe and Mail article says, developers are choosing to build low- and mid-rise buildings outside the urban core, where growth is expected. They see the value in low- and mid-rise buildings, because they have a lower capital investment than high-rises, and more buyers/renters per square foot than single family homes.

Markham Centre has been developing for several years, and it is a good example of an area which includes low-rise townhomes and mid-rise business and residential buildings in close proximity to transit, retail and commercial buildings. Davis Drive in Newmarket is also following the trend and has its first mid-rise building being built. This new building will provide much-needed rental housing for local residents. Yonge Street in Richmond Hill already has some mid-rise buildings, with more on the way. Vaughan is a bit different because high-rises are already being built around transit in the urban core of the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre [VMC], with subway and bus rapid transit nearby the area can support more density and will be a popular location once all the new transit services are open. East and west of the VMC has everything from new streetscapes, Viva rapid transit, and a good variety of housing options from traditional single family homes, to mid-rise building.

We’re excited to see these transformations around the Viva rapidway routes in York Region. New buildings are located near the road so that tree-lined sidewalks, transit, shops and restaurants are right on the doorstep for everyone to enjoy.  It is inevitable that areas will continue to grow as populations increase but creating sustainable buildings located near transit is really “smart growth”. And, from a housing option, variety is good for both young and old.

 

the roads ahead

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017

the roads ahead

By now, our projects may be familiar to you if you’ve travelled through our rapidway construction areas, or seen the vision come to life on Highway 7 and Davis Drive. Curious about where the next projects will be? Well, future transit plans are always guided by many factors, including York Region’s priorities and the other changes happening in the GTA.

York Region’s overall priorities for roads, transit, cycling and walking are set out in the Transportation Master Plan [TMP]. From this, the region’s transit operations branch, YRT/Viva, creates annual Service Plans. Within the Service Plans, changes are proposed to routes where there appears to be demand, future development or transit connections. There are plans to complete the remaining rapidway segments along the existing Viva routes on Highway 7 and Yonge Street, and Viva routes will expand in the coming years along sections of Jane Street, Major Mackenzie Drive, and Leslie Street. Typically, new Viva routes begin with service at enhanced curbside stations. Then, once funding is in place, vivaNext takes Viva out of mixed traffic by building dedicated rapidway lanes, making it truly “rapid” transit.

As always, bringing subways to York Region is a top priority, including the Yonge Subway Extension and the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension [TYSSE]. The TYSSE will be generating excitement in the final year of construction as it makes history as the first TTC subway to cross regional boundaries. In the 2018 Service Plan there are changes being proposed as part of the Spadina Subway Transit Strategy [SSTS], helping Viva riders connect to the new subway.

So what can we expect to see on the roads ahead? We’re certain to see transformations – ones that connect transit and people – that we made together with you. And now, it’s back to building what’s next as spring construction is ramping up with better weather on the horizon.

 

 

 

change that works

Friday, February 17th, 2017

change that works

Cities around the world are searching for safe, sustainable ways to provide mobility to residents across towns and cities. VivaNext, a leader in rapid transit, has risen to the challenge. We pride ourselves on designing a great transportation system that has social significance and measurable benefits.

VivaNext is proud to support the triple bottom line. This business principle holds that business activities should result in financial, social and environmental benefits. The benefits of rapidways are easy to see. For example, the dedicated bus lanes not only allow for fast, convenient service across the region, but they also help facilitate a safer road for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists alike. In addition, emergency service vehicles are able to access the rapidways and cross the median at designated intervals, which improves their response time and bypasses congestion.

What may not be immediately visible, however, are some of the positive economic and environmental impacts rapidways create for communities.

economic development & impact

  • Well thought-out and well-designed transit attracts sustainable, mixed-use development, including new businesses, jobs and a variety of housing options
  • Easy access to transit creates a more desirable mixed-use neighbourhood, and allows for money to be reinvested into the community (through businesses or reinvesting in local infrastructure)
  • Based on other rapid transit projects across North America, property values increase for land within walking distance to transit stations
  • As the Region’s urban transit corridors evolve and attract new retail and restaurants, other new employers wanting to be near transit will follow, continuing to support future economic and social growth

environmental responsibility

  • Every busload replaces approximately 70 vehicles on the road, which means a reduced carbon footprint
  • Rapid transit systems create a safer, more accessible and walkable city

With so many positive benefits of rapid transit, it’s no wonder York Region is a leader in transforming our communities by providing safe, convenient rapid transit. Join us and be moved.

building sustainable communities

Wednesday, November 30th, 2016

YouTube video: Building Sustainable Communities

As our towns and cities grow, we need to prepare for the future. Long term planning means that everything we need is all in the right place ahead of time. That means all the major necessities: transportation, utilities, community services and more.

In York Region, we know our population is continuing to grow – by 64% by 2031. Employment is also expected to increase by a whopping 59%, and all this will mean more demands on our roads in general [50% more demand in the morning peak], and especially an increased need for fast, convenient transit.

That’s why rapid transit systems are part of the plans in York Region. Bus Rapid Transit systems are supplying current and future demand with Viva rapidways that offer time savings. On the Highway 7 rapidway in Richmond Hill and Markham, travel times are 42% faster than in mixed traffic.

These improvements to our infrastructure are appreciated. On Davis Drive in Newmarket – the newest rapidway to open – YRT/Viva ridership increased by 39% between February 2016 and February 2015. According to a 2015 survey, 80% of residents living near an opened rapidway believe the project added value to their community.

From Markham to Newmarket to Richmond Hill and Vaughan, it’s about maintaining vibrant, welcoming communities that are prepared for growth and sustainable for many years to come.

 

when urbanism comes to a small city, the impact is big

Friday, November 25th, 2016

when urbanism comes to a small city, the impact is big

When urban projects that bring complete streets happen in a big city, they have an impact. A recent big-city example is Simcoe Street in Toronto, which increased pedestrian space and added bike lanes. But to be honest, these projects don’t create the same splash as they do in small cities. In fact, they can get a bit lost in amongst the city as a whole.

When urbanism comes to small or even medium-sized cities, the effect can be huge – even transformative – creating  a new downtown. And the vivaNext and subway project in Vaughan is doing just that.

A recent article, called “New Urbanism’s impact on small-to-midsize cities”, from the American journal Public Square, lays out several remarkable examples of the effects of complete streets’ on smaller centres.

The article describes the positive impacts urban projects have had on a selection of small U.S. cities:

  • Positive impacts in Birmingham, Michigan. Since urbanism came to Birmingham the city now attracts more shoppers and visitors. In fact, in the wake of the urbanism projects, Birmingham has changed its motto to “a walkable community”.
  • Revitalized Albuquerque, New Mexico. Urban changes to land use in Albuquerque have created “a lively mix of entertainment, shopping, office and houses in place of cheap surface parking and underused buildings.”
  • Formerly forlorn Providence, Rhode Island. Before the urbanism project in Providence, the city had a deserted, empty yet heritage-rich downtown. Urbanism has brought the area back to life “with a vengeance”.

Closer to home, the Highway 7 East vivaNext project in Markham has transformed the street from being a highway with gravel shoulders, to being an attractive place to walk, cycle, drive and shop with convenient rapid transit Viva buses along the route. The project has helped set the stage for new development in Markham, such as York University’s new campus.

In Vaughan, people are starting to flock to the new urbanized area known as Vaughan Metropolitan Centre, which is seeing new urban development in Vaughan and includes design elements such as pedestrian-friendly boulevards, wider sidewalks, attractive landscaping, bicycle lanes, upcoming bus rapid transit and the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension [TYSSE]. New developments are coming to this new mobility hub, transforming the area.

Urbanism in York Region is part of the exciting movement for smaller cities to grow right, serving the Region’s communities for generations to come.

For more information on the vivaNext projects, be sure to sign up for email updates and follow us on Twitter. Questions or comments? Comment below or email us at contactus@vivanext.com.

 

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.

building in place >> the best of both worlds

Wednesday, May 25th, 2016

building in place >> the best of both worlds

Earlier this month, the Province of Ontario proposed changes to the four provincial plans that shape how land is used in the Greater Golden Horseshoe: Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, the Greenbelt Plan, the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan and the Niagara Escarpment Plan. They’re gathering feedback from the public on all their recommended changes to help protect green spaces and farmland.

One of the key changes proposed is an increase in the minimum Intensification Rate from 40% to 60%, to encourage growth in central areas and reduce suburban sprawl. “Intensification” may sound unfriendly but really it’s just re-using space that we already have. We’ve been building on land in York Region for many decades and our population continues to grow, so when a building comes to the end of its life, there’s a good chance the next building on that land will need to serve more people – whether for housing, business or entertainment.

For example, if a one-level plaza has 10 businesses, when it’s time to rebuild it might be replaced with a five-story building with 15 retail and restaurants on the ground level and 15 apartments above. Because there are more business and residential units than there were before, this contributes to an increased Intensification Rate in the area.

By building in place, adding five business units and 15 residential units to this property instead of building 10-20 detached subdivision houses elsewhere, an acre of green space could be saved. If this new development hosts 80 or more residents and jobs per hectare [2.5 acres], then it also helps support frequent transit service [like a Viva rapidway!].

One proposed change from the Province is to require zoning along transit corridors that supports a higher population and walkable communities. This is important to keep the relationship between people and transit on track. Transit systems need lots of people to jump on board, and people living in downtown areas need the option of transit.

By continuing to build in place, our biggest towns and cities will have everything on their doorstep, and green space nearby. Doesn’t that sound like the best of both worlds?