Posts Tagged ‘vivaNext’

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.

the utility bonus

Wednesday, May 31st, 2017

click here to see our YouTube video about utilities!

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ve probably noticed how often we post a story on some aspect of utility infrastructure. That’s because, as much as our main focus is transit, relocating and upgrading utilities is a very significant  piece of our construction project just on its own, in terms of effort, time and money.

Most of our posts are about the complexities and challenges of utility relocation. But the most important story is about the bonus: at the same time as we’re building new transit, York Region residents and businesses are going to be getting new telecommunications, water, sewage, drainage, power and gas lines to power them into the future.

Unlike a single construction project with one overall manager, the utility project demands that many players work together collaboratively. Working within multiple agreements and relationships, our projects [funded by Metrolinx], the Regional and local municipalities, and the utility companies all work together to coordinate the utility construction.

Whereas York Region Rapid Transit Corporation leads the design decisions for the transit project, it’s the utility companies – including private companies and municipal utility companies – who determine what they need to meet the needs of their customers. Starting with our project’s alignment and overall design, it’s up to the utility companies to decide what infrastructure they’ll need as the population grows, and where it needs to go. For this, they need to take into account future development as well as current needs.

Because there’s not much room down there, and there’s a logical order to what goes in first, the utilities need to work out their plans in ways that work for everyone. In some cases they can jointly locate their services, but more often they need their own space within a separate trench or on an overhead line. Finally, they are responsible for carrying out their own construction, with only one crew able to work in a given area at a time.

Because we’re all equal players in this, coordinating activities requires us to work together, including our project team, the designers and construction experts working for the utility companies, and the various levels of government.

With every vivaNext corridor that gets completed, the end result is increased telecommunications capacity, upgraded water and sewage, better drainage, and new service connections to individual houses and businesses. That’s a future bonus that’s definitely worth the effort and a benefit for everyone.

 

sneak peek >> what’s to come

Friday, May 26th, 2017

sneak peek >> what’s to come

Have you ever walked past those construction sites surrounded by wood walls, and wanted a peek inside to see what’s being built? Curiosity is good – it helps us to move forward and to try new things. In York Region right now, we have a chance to sneak a peek at what’s to come.

In some cases, it’s right out there in the middle of the road. Communities with rapidway construction underway can see how their street will look once it’s done, by looking at Highway 7 East in Markham and Richmond Hill or Davis Drive in Newmarket. It’s more than bus lanes – it’s new utilities and infrastructure like bridges, tree-lined sidewalks and where possible, bike lanes.

In Vaughan Metropolitan Centre [VMC], we can see the transit hub on the way in the next year that will include a super-sized vivastation in the centre of Highway 7, linking to a YRT bus terminal via an underground pathway and above ground plaza, and connecting directly to the new subway platform below via escalator and elevator.

We can even get a peek at the new subway stations that are part of the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension project. TTC is hosting a Doors Open Toronto event this Saturday only, at the new Downsview Park Station and York University Station, set to open for service at the end of 2017. Information about the event is available on the project website, and if you can’t go, be sure to take a look at the photos posted by project staff on their Flickr site. And check out this TTC video of the future subway ride from Downsview Park to VMC, recorded last year to celebrate the final tracks being laid.

So if you’re curious about the subway, be sure to visit Downsview or York University Stations this Saturday. And if you’re curious about transit in York Region, feel free to ask us a question or follow us on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.

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.

 

changemakers

Wednesday, April 26th, 2017

changemakers

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.

 

keeping our workers safe

Wednesday, March 29th, 2017

keeping our workers safe

2017 is a huge year for the vivaNext program, with rapidway and terminal construction projects under design or taking shape in Markham, Newmarket, Richmond Hill and Vaughan.

Underlying all this construction activity is one constant priority: keeping the construction crews safe.  Obviously, our contractors aren’t unique in their commitment to safe work practices – worker safety should be a top priority for any organization. This priority is backed up with the force of law. With a few limited exceptions, every worker and work space in Ontario is required to meet the requirements of the Occupational Health and Safety Act of Ontario [OHSA].

Under the OHSA, all companies have to develop a health and safety policy, setting out management’s commitment to providing a safe workplace. To ensure this commitment is then followed up by action, the OHSA requires employers to develop and implement a safety program to implement the policy. Safety programs are required to address general safety precautions such as worker training, fire prevention and first aid, as well as procedures and requirements addressing the specific workplace hazards company workers may face.

At a minimum, vivaNext contractors are required to follow the OHSA rules, and to take all possible steps to ensure the safety of their crews. Supervisors and crews involved in roadwork are trained in safe practices working around heavy equipment and active traffic lanes, and on the precautions needed for work involving trenching. There are multiple and stringent requirements for work around utilities.

Safety on structures like our new Bus Rapid Transit [BRT] station at Vaughan Metropolitan Centre [VMC] calls for very extensive safety training. Workers working up high, like the welders, painters and crews installing the steel frame and glass, are trained in and must follow rigorous safety procedures at every step of their work. Explicit requirements are established to manage multiple activities being carried out in one area, to prevent workers accidentally encroaching into the space where other activities are underway.

Safe work requires every step to be planned in advance, and supervisors and crew are all expected to look out for each other, and to immediately flag anything they think might be unsafe. Any incident, no matter how minor, is carefully analyzed to identify potential lessons learned, to avoid it happening again. Everyone working on our projects, including our contractors, trades and all of us at vivaNext, is encouraged to point out anything they think might be a potential risk.

By empowering everyone to make safety their own personal priority, from the individual worker to the members of the senior management teams of vivaNext and our contractors, we can know that we’re doing our best to keep the crews who are widening our roads and building our stations safe and sound.

 

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.

 

 

 

as technology advances, every little step counts

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017

as technology advances, every little step counts

We are always amazed to see examples of technology that depart from the norm. Like this driverless drone “sky taxi” that will begin flying customers in Dubai, United Arab Emirates this summer. If everyone had their own personal drone it would certainly change the daily commute!

Sometimes though, it’s smaller innovations that change transportation for the better for people. Bus rapid transit that rides in dedicated bus lanes is now part of the landscape in Markham, Richmond Hill, Vaughan and Newmarket. At the end of this year in Vaughan, the Toronto-York Spadina Subway will change how many people commute.

Within a transit service there can also be improvements and innovations. YRT/Viva’s goal is to be emissions free by 2051, and their 2017 Annual Service Plan notes several pilot and trial programs underway, including:

  • Electric Bus Demonstration and Integration Trial
  • Alternative Fuel Study
  • Small bus strategy

Over time, these smaller changes can make a big difference. Just fifteen years ago, few people would have predicted that bus customers would be able to zip past congested traffic on Highway 7. And while subway extensions have been a priority for a long time, it’s pretty amazing that residents of Vaughan will soon be living so close to a subway line.

Dreaming about new innovations for the future is one thing; making it happen is definitely another. And in York Region we’ve made these changes together. The future looks bright with more innovation to come!

 

want to know the difference between vivaNext and YRT/Viva?

Thursday, March 9th, 2017

the difference between vivaNext and YRT/Viva?

Every now and again, members of the community either see vivaNext and YRT/Viva as one and the same, or take one of us for the other. We thought we would help to clear up exactly how they differ.

The essential difference between vivaNext and YRT/Viva is what they do:

  • vivaNext plans and builds rapid transit and the facilities associated with it.
  • YRT/Viva maintains and operates the buses and system elements.

While we each operate as separate organizations, we are connected – much like cousins. Here is a little family history:

YRT/Viva

York Region Transit [YRT] came into being in 2001 when York Region amalgamated five municipal transit agencies.

Viva was launched in 2005 as an additional transit service that focused more on “rapid”. Viva Bus Rapid Transit features faster service, off-board payment and traffic signal priority technology. The next stage of Viva BRT was the move into dedicated bus lanes known as “rapidways”, and began with the route on Highhway7 East in Markham. The rapidway project was designed, planned and built by vivaNext!

YRT/Viva operates both types of transit together. YRT, which travels in and out of neighbourhoods, feeds customers into Viva as one cohesive system.

vivaNext

York Region soon recognized that there was a real need for transit infrastructure projects to move forward quickly. As a result – VivaNext was born as the project name, and York Region Rapid Transit Corporation was the company managing the project. Once funding was received in 2009, vivaNext became more than a plan – it became a brand for the construction projects transforming York Region’s busiest roads. It includes dedicated lanes and Vivastations in the rapidways – as well as facilities and terminals in key locations across York Region.

As each vivaNext project is completed, YRT/Viva takes on the operations with service and maintenance plans.

Transit is evolving in York Region and vivaNext and YRT/Viva are collaboratively working together to make that happen. What it means to you is convenient transportation in attractive, well-connected communities.

urban parks bring us together

Thursday, February 23rd, 2017

urban parks bring us together

Having at least one feature park is a hallmark of a great city. Central Park in New York, Stanley Park in Vancouver and High Park in Toronto – they’re all natural gathering places. We go there on a hot summer day to find some shade or a splash pad, and on a snow day we go there to skate or make a snowman. Parks make our towns and cities more appealing places to live and work, so it’s important to have them right in the centre of things, where we can get to them easily by taking transit, walking or cycling.

Green parks are beautiful, and a refreshing change from the indoors, but there is also something to be said for the more activity-oriented parks and parkettes. In Markham, Toogood Pond and Milliken Mills are full of picturesque trees and ponds, but the Pride of Canada Carousel in the heart of Downtown Markham also offers a fun diversion from everyday life. If you don’t live right around the corner from these, you can get there on YRT or Viva.

In Newmarket, Fairy Lake Park and the Mabel Davis Conservation Area provide green places to gather for sports and culture, connected by the Tom Taylor and Nokiidaa Trails and meeting in the middle at the Riverwalk Commons, where people gather for concerts and events throughout the year. Mabel Davis and the Tom Taylor Trail can be reached via the new Viva yellow route on Davis Drive, and on the south end of town, YRT will get you there.

In Richmond Hill, Lake Wilcox Park has cultural and culinary events most summer weekends, and is a stone’s throw from the new Oak Ridges Community Centre and Pool. A short walk west from the Viva blue route on Yonge Street is Mill Pond Park – the heart of Richmond Hill’s downtown and host to concerts and neighbourhood festivals all year.

Parks can be activity-focused too, such as Vaughan Grove Sports Park in Woodbridge, offering several soccer and baseball fields just south of Viva and YRT routes on Highway 7. On the northeast corner of Highway 7 and Jane Street, Vaughan Metropolitan Centre will be adding one more important development to this already bustling construction area: an urban park. Edgeley Pond and Park will be in the middle of commercial and residential developments – a place welcoming to all who will live and work there. With a rapidway on Highway 7, the northernmost station of the Spadina subway line and a bus terminal at Highway 7 west of Jane, this park will be connected in all directions.

As we start to see a hint of the spring weather to come, let’s remember how important it is to have great parks, connected by great transit.