Posts Tagged ‘Urban Planning’

home, safe, home in York Region

Thursday, November 30th, 2017

If you want to live in a safe place, come to York Region. York Region is one of the safer places in Canada to call home, according to Maclean’s magazine list of Canada’s most dangerous places to live.

low crime rates

The Region is well down the list at #201, making it the 30th safest area to live in.

The rankings come from a crime severity index, calculated by the type and frequency of crime: violence, drugs, theft/property and youth crime. York Region falls below the national average on every front, often far below.

See the rankings

strong communities by design

Low crime is just one of the many reasons our region is a great place to live, along with the Region’s thriving economy, impressive job growth and strong sense of community. In the future, we hope our Region will also be known for the strength of its rapid transit network.

At vivaNext, we’re fortifying the future of our communities with rapidways. Having a transit network in place is the ticket for transit-oriented development — smart growth designed with the new urbanism in mind. The vision is one of compact, walkable communities served by transit, where people want to live.

We know we need to be ready for our Region’s future population – we’re expected to reach 1.79 million residents by 2041, up from today’s 1.2 million. But we also want to preserve the essence of our communities that made them desirable in the first place.

streets for everyone

VivaNext rapidways come with streets for everyone: pedestrians, cyclists, drivers and transit riders. Attractive streetscapes and landscaping enhance the allure. The rapid transit projects foster mixed-use land development, increasing population density while reducing urban sprawl. These are the kind of communities that go the distance, designed to be strong, caring and safe for the long-haul.


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.



Wednesday, April 26th, 2017


When building infrastructure and planning the future of cities, professionals in the industry use their years of education and experience to come up with ways for towns and cities to grow. Sometimes though, we benefit from the innovative ideas that those outside the industry can bring.

New ideas in transportation and streetscape planning can come from people who, on their daily commute to school or work, think of better ways to do things. Whether it’s walking, taking transit, cycling or driving, taking note of how people use their streets can bring about new ideas.

Recently, 8 80 Cities hosted 1UPToronto, a youth conference to inspire students in the GTA to be changemakers. Students were asked to suggest solutions to real-life problems in Toronto, and then were tasked to build a prototype using basic supplies. The goal was to get students more involved in their city’s future, but the students’ ideas were impressive, showing that different perspectives can bring about innovative ideas.

We love to see the creative ideas out there, and more than that, we like to be involved in the communities where we’re building. Stay tuned for a youth colouring contest we’ll be launching next week in Vaughan, offering prizes and a chance to have some fun!

Follow us on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter to find out more about the contest.


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.

making corners work for everyone

Thursday, February 16th, 2017

making corners work for everyone

In civil engineering-speak, curb radius refers to the curve of the curb as it goes around a corner; sometimes it’s a wide gentle bend, and sometimes it’s a tight right angle. So here’s a question: when’s the last time you waited at an intersection for the light to change and actually even noticed the curb radius?  If you’re like pretty much everyone else, probably never.

And yet, believe it or not, the curb radius is one of the most important components of streetscaping, and has a profound influence on how drivers and pedestrians use a street.

As you already know, streetscaping refers to all the elements making up the public spaces along our streets. Because a key vivaNext goal is to make everyone feel welcome on our streets, whether they’re walking, biking, waiting to hop on Viva, or driving, we pay a lot of attention to streetscaping considerations. This includes the curb radii for every single intersection and entrance along our rapidways.

The curb radius describes the shape of a corner, such as when two perpendicular streets come together at an intersection, for example. The curb radius is expressed as a number, taken from the radius of the curve connecting the curbs of the two streets. On a wide suburban corner, the curb radius might be as high as 35, whereas on an urban street corner, it might only be 2.

Most urban settings, including along our vivaNext rapidways, aim for a smaller curb radius wherever possible.  That’s because the smaller the curb radius, the shorter the distance a pedestrian has to walk to get to the other side of the road. A smaller curb radius has other impacts too. It results in more space at the corner, including more space for accessible ramps. It makes it easier to line up crosswalks with connecting sidewalks.  It improves the sightlines for pedestrians and makes pedestrians more visible to drivers. And it slows down turning movements for vehicles going around corners, which is safer for pedestrians.

Of course, curb radius design also considers the needs of drivers, including traffic volume, vehicle size, and their desired speed going around corners. It also has to take into account bike lanes, on-street parking, bus stops, emergency vehicles, and other design requirements.  Whether or not the road is part of a truck route may affect the curb radius, because trucks need a larger turning radius to be able to navigate turns while staying within their lane.

Our final curb radius design isn’t up to us alone, of course.  Our designs reflect standards and requirements set by York Region and the municipalities as part of their broader planning for their regional and local road networks. Those requirements in turn reflect the design standards from a variety of authorities including guidelines from the Transportation Association of Canada and the Ontario Ministry of Transportation.

There’s a lot involved in the design of a simple concrete curb than you probably would have guessed. But the final result is for a more welcoming, safe and accessible streetscape for all users.


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.

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