Posts Tagged ‘rapid transit’

a year on Yonge

Wednesday, December 21st, 2016

a year on Yonge

‘Tis the season when we sit back and reflect on the year which has passed and prepare for the year ahead.

2016 was a big year for utility work on Yonge Street in both Newmarket and Richmond Hill. Gas and telecommunications installations were completed in Newmarket and water main and gas work made significant progress in Richmond Hill.

Through all of the construction barrels, mud, noise and mess on Yonge Street, we took pictures every step of the way and put together a video which captures the progress of rapidway construction in both Newmarket and Richmond Hill.

It is amazing to look back and remember all that can be achieved in just one short year. We look forward to another productive year in 2017!

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.


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.


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.


2015 >> what a year!

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2015

click here to see the Year In Review video

This was a landmark year, including opening an operations, maintenance and storage facility, the Davis Drive rapidway, and a park and ride lot in Newmarket. We’re at an important point with our rapid transit projects in York Region. All our funded projects are happening, and the results of the transformation are noticeable.

In November, the Davis Drive rapidway opened, connecting Newmarket east and west. Once sidewalks and landscaping are completed in 2016, Davis will have sidewalks lined with 470 trees and more than 21,000 shrubs and perennial plants.

Vaughan’s vibrant, new downtown is taking shape along Highway 7, with work continuing at a fast pace east of Jane Street on sidewalks, vivastations and landscaping. West of Jane Street, lanes have been shifted to their final configuration and work is being coordinated with the opening of the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension. The contract for the remaining rapidway along Highway 7 West in Vaughan was awarded in September, and utility relocations will begin in 2016.

On Yonge Street in Richmond Hill and Newmarket, utility work has begun and major road work will start in 2016.

The Highway 7 East project is now considered 100% complete, and has won multiple awards, including being listed as #2 in Road and Bridges Magazine’s Top 10 Roads list. Commute times are shorter on average, and the street is completely transformed from a highway with gravel shoulders, to a tree-lined street with wide sidewalks and accessible transit, welcoming to everyone.

In Richmond Hill, we opened an Operations, Maintenance and Storage Facility to support the growing fleet of Viva vehicles, and this massive facility was built to LEED Silver standards. A park and ride facility also opened in Newmarket at Highway 404, with the launch of the Davis Drive rapidway.

It’s been a landmark year, and there is more rapid transit and more connections to come, in 2016 and beyond.


subways? yes, our network will include subways

Thursday, December 17th, 2015

subways? yes, our network will include subways

Rapid transit plans in York Region have always included subways, along with aboveground bus and rail. Each of these has different passenger capacities, construction costs, and impacts on surrounding communities, so plans include a combination of transit types, with a focus on having a seamless network.

As far as subway is concerned, we’ve been planning for the Yonge North Subway Extension [YNSE] from Finch Station to the Richmond Hill/Langstaff Urban Growth Centre at Highway 7. The YNSE is the missing link in terms of transit for the GTHA, because Yonge Street is the central transportation artery, and has been for generations.

Because it’s the missing link, we’ve been doing critical planning and engineering studies to ensure that we’re shovel-ready. The Environmental Project Report and Conceptual Design Study are complete, and in partnership with Metrolinx, TTC and City of Toronto, we completed a Yonge Relief Network Study [YRNS] to determine Yonge Subway capacity.

The YRNS concluded that the number of already committed/funded initiatives underway will increase the capacity of Yonge subway and divert existing and future riders to other corridors. These increases in capacity will accommodate growth until 2031, and offset the immediate need for the Downtown Relief Line until after 2031.

Metrolinx has recently recommended that we move ahead with completing 15% preliminary design for the Yonge Subway extension, so we’re working very hard on that. To advance the project even more, we’re advocating to the new federal government about their recent commitment to double infrastructure investments and transform transit and transportation systems ($60 billion in additional investments over 10 years).  With our shovel-ready projects in hand, we’re looking forward to the next wave of projects.

Combined with the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension, Regional Express Rail, new GO Train stations at Gormley and Bloomington and other transit projects, the YNSE will vastly improve the overall network for those who live, work and travel in York Region.


bringing a rapid transit plan to life

Friday, October 23rd, 2015

bringing a rapid transit plan to life

Crews are finishing up paving on Davis Drive, which means we’re getting closer to opening the rapidway. As much as we’re looking forward to celebrating this milestone, it’s important to know that this is only one [very exciting] step in a plan for a connected transit system.

Over the past few years there’s been a lot of media coverage of transit needs across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area [GTHA]. We’re proud that York Region is actively working to meet those needs by bringing rapid transit to our region. In 2002, the Region produced the York Region Transportation Master Plan and the follow-up Rapid Transit Plan, committing the Region to a blueprint of multiple transportation initiatives to be built over the next 30 years.

With the Rapid Transit Plan approved, we got to work. In 2005 the Viva team launched “QuickStart,” the first phase of Viva service, offering enhanced features that made transit more comfortable and convenient, and put the customer first. With this service upgrade, Viva changed the way people in York Region thought of transit. The public appreciated the enhanced features and frequencies, and it wasn’t long before ridership began increasing steadily.

But while “QuickStart” was a major success and an important first step in encouraging people to try transit, designing the vivaNext rapid transit system was the Region’s long-term vision. Ontario municipalities are mandated to plan sustainable, more intensive land-use as part of the provincial government policy, and rapid transit is a key component in achieving that goal.  Anticipating this, the York Region Transportation Master Plan directed that future growth in York Region would be concentrated in new downtown urban centres in Markham, Newmarket, Richmond Hill and Vaughan. By building more intensively in these areas there would be less pressure for growth in other neighbourhoods.

The urban centres would be connected by transportation “corridors,” making it easier for people to get around the region, and providing transportation options with regular transit service. The vivaNext rapidways are currently being built along these corridors, creating connections across York Region and into the rest of the GTHA.

Much of the new development around vivastations is compact and mixed-use, providing housing, employment, retail, dining, services and recreation – all within walking distance of transit. Developments include welcoming public spaces, attractive landscaping and other amenities that contribute to the centres becoming dynamic destinations.

Our vision for the future is well on its way to becoming reality: a rapidway has been built on Highway 7 East; Davis Drive is opening soon; the first section of rapidway in Vaughan will open on Highway 7 West in 2016; the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension is under construction; utility work is underway for the Yonge Street rapidway north of Highway 7, and design work continues for the planned Yonge Subway Extension.

So when the rapidway on Davis Drive opens for service this winter, we can celebrate the progress of transit infrastructure in York Region, not to mention the end of major construction!


signs of progress: staff and operator training has begun

Thursday, October 22nd, 2015

signs of progress: staff and operator training has begun

We’re really counting down the days to the opening of the vivaNext rapidway service on Davis Drive from Yonge Street to Roxborough, and we bet you are too! You’ll know we’re in the final stages of construction once you see Viva buses out on the new rapidway.

Starting today, we will be doing systems testing on the new Davis Drive rapidway, in the Town of Newmarket, followed by driver training in November.

Training will be provided not only for Viva bus operators, but also for everyone who will need to be familiar with the rapidways, the stations and the equipment. Viva vehicles will be out on Davis Drive, taking customer service staff and other YRT/Viva staff along the rapidways to test and familiarize them with the new setup. Regular YRT transit service will continue to pick up passengers at curbside stops until testing and training is completed, and paving is fully finished. Signs directing passengers will be posted at the curbside stops.

Operator training will run from 7am to as late as 9pm on some nights, seven days per week.  During this time you can expect to see Viva buses driving up and down the rapidway, stopping at the vivastations. The training will focus on entering and exiting the rapidway, with an emphasis on safely merging back into mixed traffic past Yonge Street and Roxborough.

Operator training will also focus on the new transit signals at intersections, which will display a single green arrow for Viva buses. This signal will be clearly marked as transit only, but Viva operators will be trained to be cautious and on the lookout to make sure members of the driving public are following the signals correctly and not turning into the rapidway lanes.

The trainees are all experienced Viva operators, so they know the route and the vehicle. They’re really excited to get going!


rolling out a new phase of rapid transit in Vaughan

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

rolling out a new phase of rapid transit in Vaughan

The next phase of Viva is extending both east and west in Vaughan and Richmond Hill. We were excited to announce this week that EDCO has been awarded the $333.2 million contract to design, build and finance the second phase of the Highway 7 West rapidway.

The first phase of rapidway is well underway in the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre [VMC], with the vivaNext rapidway between Jane Street and Bowes Road scheduled to open in Fall 2016, and the section west of Jane being coordinated with the opening of the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension [TYSSE].

phase two

Phase two of the Highway 7 West rapidway will emerge from both sides of the current construction. It will extend west from the VMC, over Highway 400 all the way out to Helen Street, and it will expand east to Yonge Street along the existing Centre Street and Bathurst Street Viva route.

making connections

Extending the rapidway will connect riders from Woodbridge, Concord and Thornhill to the Spadina/University Subway line at the new VMC subway station, and will also connect riders to the rest of York Region via the Richmond Hill Terminal at Yonge Street.

The project involves widening Highway 7, Bathurst Street and Centre Street to add 12 kilometres of dedicated rapidway lanes for Viva rapid transit vehicles PLUS 10 new vivastations, PLUS new bike lanes PLUS pedestrian walkways and sidewalks.

partnering with contractors

As with our previous rapidway projects, this is a public-private partnership. One key difference is that along with the design and build requirements, the contractor is required to finance this project. YRRTC will be the project manager, controlling and approving the design and construction, financial management, and community relations. Metrolinx will own the assets of the rapidway infrastructure, and YRT/Viva will operate transit on the rapidways, and maintain the stations. On regional roads like Highway 7, Centre Street and Bathurst Street, York Region will maintain the road and rapidway.

more than a third of York Region’s rapidways

This project represents more than a third of the total 34 kilometres of rapidways being built, and with this contract awarded, all of our rapidway projects are on the way, except Highway 7 East, which is done!

To learn more about the Highway 7 West, phase two rapidway project, and to sign up for updates, visit