Posts Tagged ‘York Region’

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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

 

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.