Posts Tagged ‘mixed-use development’

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!

helping seniors stay connected with transit

Wednesday, June 7th, 2017

 

When we consider the need for transit, we often think about the students and workers on their daily rush-hour commute. But there’s a growing population that will be making more use of transit in the next 15+ years. By 2031, one in five people in York Region will be 65 or older.

Keeping seniors connected means having accessible, convenient transit nearby. In fact, York Region’s Seniors Strategy: Thinking Ahead [2016], points out transportation as one of the key priorities for seniors. Two of the Region’s four identified roles – enabling aging in place by supporting age-friendly, complete communities; and helping seniors stay safe and connected – are closely tied to the availability of transportation options.

aging in place and staying connected

The term, “aging in place”, essentially means helping to make it possible for seniors to live where they choose, and to get the supports they need for as long as possible.

Keeping seniors connected means having accessible, convenient transit nearby. Our senior population has different needs, depending on many factors including age. Younger seniors may still be working and very active, compared to the older senior population who may have more mobility issues and medical needs, and a less of a social network. Some may choose to live without a car, making other options such as transit or walking even more important.

accessibility and walkability

To help seniors age in place, complete communities need to be walkable, and include a mixture of different housing and amenities. The new vivaNext streetscapes and rapidway infrastructure we’re building in Markham, Richmond Hill, Newmarket and Vaughan are accessible and walkable, and set the stage for planned growth, including places to live, work, access services and medical care, shop and dine.

senior citizens rule!

Life continues to be active and fulfilling for seniors. In fact, the senior citizen population of York Region contributes significantly to their communities through volunteer work. And the history books are full of examples of seniors doing amazing things – like Ed Whitlock of Milton, Ontario, who at 69 became the oldest person to run a standard marathon in under three hours. At 77, John Glenn became the oldest person to go into space.

Whether it’s getting to the grocery store, going to the community centre to volunteer, attending medical appointments or just visiting with friends and family, we’re building the connections seniors will need.

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.

 

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.

connecting people to people

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

connecting people to people

Have you ever wondered why the central markets, main streets and train stations of old cities thrive for so many years? Whether it’s the Temple Street Market in Hong Kong, the piazzas of Italy, or Toronto’s Union Station, it’s important to have a place to gather and connect. Somewhere to meet a friend or someone new, wait for the next bus or train, or just people-watch.

We all want to be around people, at least some of the time – Aristotle once said “man is by nature a social animal.” So in York Region, we’re hard at work building attractive places to spend our “connecting” time. A warm area at the station while you wait for Viva [it won’t be long!]… a place to buy coffee at the SmartCentres Place Bus Terminal in Vaughan, tree-lined sidewalks in Newmarket for walking along Davis Drive, or a trellis-covered plaza with benches to meet a friend at Cornell Terminal in Markham.

In this world of internet and mobile devices it’s easy to find ourselves isolated from the general population, so we’re using smart design to make sure everything we build connects people – not just vehicles.

 

the last mile is the hardest

Wednesday, September 28th, 2016

the last mile is the hardest

The “last mile” has a reputation. It’s been known as the hardest and the greatest, the final step in getting somewhere, regardless of what that involves [or how far it actually is].

Earlier this month, Ryerson City Building Institute released a video trailer in advance of a Last Mile Meetup event they hosted. The video and meetup invited conversation about the #LastMile, and was the basis for a Toronto Star article. The GTA includes lots of suburban cities and towns. And where there are suburbs, there is that last mile challenge – the beginning and end of a commute to work or school. While most of the commute might be easily done with rapid transit, the last mile usually relies on driving, cycling, walking or taking local transit.

Driving that last mile to a commuter transit station might mean parking in a massive, overcrowded parking lot. Walking or cycling are natural choices as long as there are safe, accessible places to and from the station – this of course depends on weather and the distance travelled. Transit is a good option, but we understand that bus schedules don’t always fit in with the always-in-a-hurry commuter and routes may not get riders close enough to their final destination.

This last leg of the journey can make or break the commute. It’s often the deciding factor on whether the entire commute will be done by car or by transit. Everyone’s trip is unique, and might involve extra stops along the way, like picking up kids from a babysitter or stopping for groceries. So there need to be options, and each option needs to be flexible. To arrive at the right solutions for the last mile, most agree that new ideas need to be piloted, such as the dial-a-ride service in York Region, carpooling, ride-sharing, and safe and secure places for walking and cycling.

It comes down to mobility and quality of life. Mobility is about being able to get to and from where you live easily. Your daily quality of life may depend on how you travel that last leg of the journey – is your last mile the hardest… or the greatest?

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.