Posts Tagged ‘Rapidway’

the critical role of spiders in building Vaughan Metropolitan Centre Station

Wednesday, January 10th, 2018

Now, before you think we’ve imported some exotic tropical arachnids, what we call “spiders” are actually the stainless steel fittings that hold together the glass pieces on our stations. They’re called spiders due to their shape, and they play a critical role in the architectural and structural design of our stations.

For the new Vaughan Metropolitan Centre [VMC] rapidway station, the main structural support comes from the welded steel superstructure that forms the distinctive curved shape. Over top of that, steel, custom-made spider fittings are bolted to each steel intersection. The spider fittings support the individual glass panels on the station’s sides and skylight.

410 panels of glass

Each triangular-shaped panel of glass is attached by brackets on the legs of the spiders. Because each piece of glass is a unique size and shape, the job of attaching the glass to the spiders is very fiddly. The extra-large 50 by 24 metre VMC canopy has an eye-popping 410 panels, each equally spaced and slightly different due to the station’s curved planes. The tempered glass can’t be cut or drilled on site without shattering, so holes for the brackets were made during the fabrication process.

beautiful precision

We knew if the holes in the glass didn’t line up exactly to the spider brackets, the glass pieces wouldn’t fit. Since glass fabrication is a fairly slow process, we didn’t want to risk having to go back and remake a piece. Rather than making the glass in advance, we installed the spiders, then measured them with a 3-D laser scanner that registered the targets as multiple cloud points; essentially the same process used to make a 3-D model.

The last step was the installation of the glass panels to the station roof, and seeing all this precision and planning come together for beautiful results. Now if you visit the VMC rapidway station, you can take shelter under a strong and stunning glass canopy reminiscent of the great European architectural traditions, right here in York Region.

 

StatsCan commuting data highlights need for transit investment

Saturday, December 30th, 2017

The latest Statistics Canada census numbers on commuting confirm what many of us already know, experiencing it firsthand as we head to work each day. The commute is only getting busier. There are more commuters in Canada than ever, 15.9 million, up 30% from 1996. Not only that, but the journey is taking longer. The average commute now lasts 26.2 minutes, up from 25.4 minutes in 2011.

room to grow

These long-term trends shine a spotlight on why continued investment in bus rapid transit and subway projects is so important. We know growth will continue, and we should do our best to be ready. Here in York Region, we’re expected to have 300,000 more jobs and 590,000 more residents by 2041. Imagine the toll that could take on our already busy roads.

transit commuting on the rise

Over 20 years, transit commuting in Canada increased at a higher rate than driving to work – up 60% compared to a 28% increase. However, before people can ride transit, someone has to build it.

While StatsCan found transit commutes were taking longer as of 2016, the beauty of our rapidway system is that commutes generally won’t get longer. As traffic increases with our Region’s growing population, the buses can bypass congestion in the dedicated rapidway lanes and continue to provide consistent travel times.

the suburban work shift

The Toronto CMA alone, which includes York Region, added 191,450 more commuters over 20 years. As of 2016, a greater proportion of these commuters were working in the municipalities surrounding the City of Toronto. Statistics Canada says this indicates a slow shift of workplace locations from Toronto to outlying communities. Markham with its booming tech sector, and Vaughan with its new developments, are prime examples

With the suburbs attracting more businesses and jobs, investing in transit infrastructure now is the ticket to keeping our economies moving well into the future.

 

beautiful curves of glass

Wednesday, December 27th, 2017

If you’ve ever had to replace a window in your house, you know that working with glass is fiddly, exacting work. It needs to fit perfectly or you’ll get drafts and leaks. Glass has no tolerance for being the wrong shape or size. And dropping a pane from a window: well, that means another trip back to the store.

Now, imagine the challenges of installing the glass on the curves of our new Vaughan Metropolitan Centre [VMC] rapidway station. As you can guess, it was a long, multi-stage process, done with great care and precision.

strength and safety

As with all our vivastations, the VMC glass was laminated and tempered for strength and safety. First the glass was cut into panes, and then it went through a special process to make it extra strong. This way, if it breaks, it crumbles into small granular chunks instead of sharp pieces.

To add more strength and make it even safer, we then laminated the tempered glass by sandwiching two glass sheets together around an interlayer. If the glass is broken, the interlayer holds the small pieces together instead of breaking into many little shards, the same way a car windshield stays together in an accident. The interlayer on the blue skylight glass is actually a different, stronger material than the interlayer used for the clear side glass, since the top skylight needs to support heavier loads from snow and maintenance workers.

creating curves

Fitting flat glass to the curved shape of the station was a challenge, because every surface of the steel roof curved over two dimensions, much like the outside of a ball. The first step was to divide the glass into a series of triangles. Three-sided shapes are easier to work with compared to four-sided shapes, the same way a tripod is more stable on uneven ground compared to a four-legged chair.

But this still left the challenge of fitting flat pieces of glass over a curved frame. The solution here was to adjust the bolts on the corners of the spiders [the stainless steel fittings that hold  the glass pieces onto the frame] so they’re each set at a different height. We knew how high each bolt needed to be from 3D scans, so we adjusted them before we installed the glass. By installing each corner of glass at a slightly different height, we recreated the curves of the tubular steel frame.

intricate jigsaw puzzle

The last step was putting the glass panels in place, one by one. Although they were all triangles, every piece was unique like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, so to avoid mix-ups they were carefully numbered before they were delivered. Once the glass panels were bolted onto the spiders and the final adjustments made to perfect the curve of the glass, we sealed the gaps with caulking to make the structure weather-tight.

Building this strong and beautiful glass-covered station took precision, but look at the stunning results! This landmark station helps set the architectural stage for future development at the VMC and makes the everyday experience of transit a beautiful one for our customers.

amazing team, extraordinary results

Wednesday, December 20th, 2017

What a week it has been! The launch of the TTC Line 1 subway extension with the Highway 7 West rapidway and vivastation on Sunday in Vaughan is one of those lifetime moments. We’re going to remember this day for the rest of our lives. This is the day everything became a little closer, and a lot faster for York Region and the City of Vaughan.

unwavering dedication

For everyone involved, including us at York Region Rapid Transit Corporation, it was an exhilarating and emotional weekend, the culmination of years of incredible challenges and unwavering dedication, everything we’ve been working toward for a very long time! Many of us shouted and cheered as the first train pulled into the new subway station.

Then, seeing that Viva bus roll down the red asphalt rapidway into the open, airy Vaughan Metropolitan Centre vivastation and pick up actual passengers who came up the stairs from the subway – well, it’s hard to describe the feeling, except to say that more than a few grew a little misty-eyed! So many people came out to mark this milestone day for transit in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, we know how much these new transit connections matter and we thank you for your patience during the long construction period.

#AnEngineerWasHere

Kudos goes out to the engineers, planners and project team, whose tireless drive moved the VMC station and rapidway project forward every step of the way: from the environmental assessments to the design to breaking ground, from utility relocations to storm sewer work and road widening. Along with the many contractors, they pushed though good and bad weather, scalding heat, freezing cold and everything in between. They worked through paving and bridge reconstructions, to timelines off schedule and on again, to the construction of our vivastations and our landmark Vaughan Metropolitan Centre vivastation. Experts from many agencies, cities and private companies all came together to make this day happen.

Now we have incredible, tangible results with the first subway-BRT connection, a legacy that will keep our Region moving for years to come. Just goes to prove anything is possible with extraordinary teamwork, unwavering dedication and an eye to the future. Again, thank you for supporting this project and we hope you get out and try the new system!

the crowning touch

Wednesday, December 6th, 2017

Ready for the crowning touch? The new SmartCentres Place Bus Terminal comes with a mesmerizing pièce de résistance – a sweeping, curved wooden roof, as beautiful as it is functional.

Reminiscent of West Coast style, the horseshoe-shaped roof shelters the outdoor bus stations in beautiful elegance. A fluidity breathes life into the design, curving in a slight v-shape from the outside in, and rising up at the wingtips and the saddle. You can almost feel the motion, very fitting for a bus terminal with YRT/Viva services branching out across York Region.

an intricate jigsaw puzzle

The simple elegance of the roof belies the complexity of its creation. The wood pieces need to look curved, but they are flat. Custom-cut to the architect’s design, they fit together with the steel substructure, which was also designed in custom pieces.

It’s like a very complicated jigsaw puzzle. Every section is numbered and assembled with exact precision. When the flat pieces fit together, they create the appearance of a curved roof. High-strength glued-laminated timber beams support the roof, running vertically and also lengthwise.

Not only does the wood look stunning, it was a cost-effective choice and is Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified to York Region standards. When it’s finished, it will be stain-coated with intumescent fire-retardant material.

 a showstopper for a new downtown

The result is an eye-catching landmark – a roof that draws the eye and a terminal where you can pass the time in style. After all, SmartCentres Place Bus Terminal is not your run-of-the-mill bus station. As part of the vibrant, new downtown flourishing at Vaughan Metropolitan Centre, this bus station needs to look the part.

Set to open in 2018, the Terminal will complete the transit powerhouse at the VMC: subway, rapidway and YRT/Viva terminal, working together to move you, faster and easier than ever before.

the concrete choice

Monday, December 4th, 2017

If you’ve ever renovated your home, you know about the endless options for flooring: tile, wood, carpet, stone. Once you select your material, you have to make more choices about colour, finish, how it should be arranged, even the kind and colour of grout. So many decisions! Of course, as with all design questions, your choices are shaped first and foremost by the space and its function: wet or dry? Formal or casual? How much wear will it get?

the floor dilemma

Our design teams faced similar quandaries when working out the details for the rapidway platform floor of the new Vaughan Metropolitan Centre Station [Viva bus rapid transit].

All of our other open air vivastations have tiled platform floors, so the obvious choice would be to use that in the new VMC Station. But this station faced an additional level of complexity, being built above the subway extension.

The top of the subway station extends to just under the vivastation foundation, providing limited depth to work with. Installing the tiles with concrete underneath as required would use up space needed for essential power and communications cables. A concrete floor became the ideal alternative.

durable by nature

Concrete flooring for the platform works better in the space we have, and the durability means less maintenance is required, saving money down the road. The VMC Station floor will be getting a lot of use in a relatively small space. We know concrete will perform.

But, we also want great aesthetics. Fortunately, concrete is also versatile.

Outside the station along the sidewalks of Highway 7 are paver stones laid in a distinctive pattern. Inside the station, we’re re-creating that look with concrete. First, we built the concrete molds to match the sidewalk, then poured each section with matching colours of concrete.

functions like concrete, looks like tile

Because the platform floor continues beyond the shelter of the vivastation canopy, we needed to ensure it’s not slippery. Before the concrete set, every concrete slab was given a hand-applied swirl finish to provide a measure of slip-resistance. We have also done decorative work on each section to create the appearance of tile.

Just like you’d want for your own home, the final result will meet design goals in every way: strong, durable, easy-to-maintain, and functional. And nice to look at, too.

 

taming the wind

Friday, November 24th, 2017

One of the design considerations behind the new rapidway station at Vaughan Metropolitan Centre are the heavy traffic volumes on that stretch of Highway 7. It’s a busy area, and with all the exciting new development coming to the VMC, it’s only getting busier.

As we’ve talked about here, making people feel safe and secure while they wait in the vivastation in the middle of Highway 7 is one of our top priorities. But beyond providing a physically safe waiting place, we also want to provide a comfortable experience for transit users. So the new vivastation offers lots of options, whether people want to wait inside the glass enclosures, on the platform under the high roof, or on the outside platforms.

fresh air, no wind!

For those who prefer being out in the fresh air while they await their YRT/Viva bus, there will be planters of greenery and trees to enjoy, but with all that traffic whizzing by, some might have found it a bit blustery. That’s why we’ve installed special windscreens, on the north platform where the traffic comes closest.

windscreens as art

The seven windscreens are located just to the west of the station on the road-side edge of the north platform. At first glance, they appear to be art.  We certainly designed them to be attractive in their own right, although they are also capable of mounting outdoor art displays.  Curved like the sails on a boat, they’re framed in glass, with posts made of aluminum.

a peaceful wait

Although they look so decorative, they’re actually designed to be functional, and to make waiting on the outside platform a more peaceful experience.

So when you get a chance to visit the north YRT/Viva platform at the VMC, go stand near the windscreens, and see for yourself how we’ve been able to make standing outside a nicer experience, even in a breezy place like the middle of Highway 7.

 

rain, rain, go away

Monday, November 13th, 2017

Our new rapidway station at Vaughan Metropolitan Centre is ready for the rain, innately designed to handle a downpour and keep those pesky puddles off the road.

Large structures like the new bus rapid transit station shed a lot of rain during storms. With the size of the station’s roof, the volume of water collecting from even light rain storms would be enough to create some pretty major puddles.

Water management has been a key design consideration for the station since day 1. Letting runoff drain freely onto the roads isn’t an option since the station is right in the middle of Highway 7. Here’s the rundown on how we’re managing runoff.

Water management strategy includes features built into the station’s design, and the design of the road and storm water management systems around the station.

Gutters run along the curved station roof between the skylight and the roof panels, designed to collect and funnel water to the ends of the station. At that point, brow gutters – shaped like eye-brows – will drain the water into downspouts on the sides of the station, which then drain safely into underground catchbasins connected to the storm water management system.

But that’s not all! Water from the middle portion of the roof, below the roof gutters, will drain off the roof onto the road. Generally at our vivastations, the road design ensures water doesn’t become puddles.  A very gradual slope away from the station to the curb lane directs the water into a series of curbside storm sewers and catch basins.

However, the VMC station is so much larger than the other stations, there’s simply too much water to direct across the road. Instead, we drain the water closer to the station.

We’ve built up the road surface so that its highest point is 1.2 metres away from the station.  Water draining off the station will be naturally directed back towards the station, running along the curb into a series of catchbasins and into the storm sewers.

We know that rain gutters and catchbasins aren’t the most glamourous features of the new station, but on a rainy day, we’ll all be glad they’re there.

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!

what’s gravity & slope got to do with it?

Wednesday, August 16th, 2017

While we’re building the rapidway projects, it’s not unusual for us to be talking a lot about retaining walls. If you’ve ever wondered why so much of our work seems to involve retaining walls, the answer can be summed up in two words: gravity and slope.

Simply put, retaining walls prevent soil from sliding down a slope. If a slope is very gradual as you might see on a lawn or wide flowerbed, for the most part the soil and earth pretty much stays put. But where there is a slope over a short distance that creates even a difference in grade, the force of gravity will make the soil slide downwards.

stopping soil slippage

The steeper the slope, the more likely it is that the soil will slide. If you have a lawn that’s even a few centimetres higher than an adjacent driveway or sidewalk, you’ll know that without some kind of edging, eventually the dirt will flow down onto the pavement.

Retaining walls are like edging; they’re structures that keep the soil in place where grades need to change within a short distance. And retaining walls can be short or high. For example, a curb is essentially a very short retaining wall.

where retaining walls fit in on the rapidway

In many stretches along our rapidway construction zones, the adjacent land is either higher or lower than the roadway – in some cases the difference is only a few centimetres, in others it’s a metre or more.

Because we’re widening the road, that difference in grade level now has to be made up over a shorter horizontal distance, making the slope steeper than it was before. In areas where the resulting grade difference between the road and the land slope is very steep, a retaining wall is needed to keep the soil in place.

where design is king

Some of our retaining walls are essentially high curbs; others are high structures requiring handrails and complex foundations.

Every one of our rapidway segments has a significant number of retaining walls, each requiring its own design, approvals and construction process. In all cases, retaining wall construction takes place once utilities have been moved out of the way, and needs to be finished before road widening can be started.

With so many retaining walls forming part of the new streetscape, design considerations are of major importance. A lot of effort goes into ensuring that the new retaining walls contribute to the aesthetics of the streetscape as well as be functional.

Different materials and finishes are used for different walls, from pre-formed wall blocks similar to what you’d use in your own garden, to poured concrete with decorative exterior designs.  Design approaches vary depending on how high the wall is, what kind of foundation it requires, and what it is adjacent to. And if the wall or adjacent slope is especially steep and the wall is next to a sidewalk, it will also get a specially designed handrail.

So the next time you see a bulletin advising about retaining wall work, think of gravity and slopes, and you’ll know that’s why we’re building these additional structures.

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