If you’ve been following the conversations about transit projects in the media recently, you’ve probably heard some of the debate around which project should be built first. We’ve been following the debates too, and we’ve come to the conclusion that the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area [GTHA] needs as much transit as possible.
The Yonge Subway Extension [YSE] has been in York Region’s Transportation Master Plan since 1994, and here at YRRTC we’ve been working on moving it forward since we became a corporation in 2003. We of course support the YSE being built, but it’s not just a matter of one project. It’s a connected network. It’s commuters crossing municipal boundaries. And it’s important that it all come together in the next decade or so.
Why? Well partially it’s because there hasn’t been enough transit built in the past 50 years and we need to catch up a bit. And we also need to keep up with the growth to ensure the number of people, businesses, jobs and housing continue to grow in York Region and the GTHA.
York Region is expected to grow from 1.2 million residents to 1.5 million by 2031
York Region has 51,000 businesses, and together with the Toronto provides 2 million jobs – equal to about 11% of Canada’s labour force
York Region has an average of 13,000 new jobs every year, and over the last five years, our workforce has grown at 3.1% on average, surpassing growth rates in the nation, province and GTA
In the southern part of York Region, Markham and Vaughan are two of the GTA’s four employment “Megazones” and together with Pearson airport these zones have more jobs than Downtown Toronto
Toronto residents make over 189,700 trips per work day to York Region, and even more trips are southbound, supplying employees and customers to help Toronto’s businesses thrive
TTC’s Line 1 is currently over capacity during peak hours. There are capacity improvements required that will help with this, like the Line 1 extension to Vaughan [opened in 2017], TTC’s automatic train controls, new signals, six-car trains, and Go Expansion/SmartTrack. Large infrastructure projects like the Yonge Subway Extension can take 10 years to complete, so the YSE can be built in parallel with the capacity improvements in the next 10 years.
Building the YSE will help reduce traffic congestion – eliminating the almost 2,500 bus trips per workday on Yonge Street between Highway 7 and Finch Station, and giving commuters who drive between Toronto and York Region the chance to get out of traffic.
So which projects should be built first, and which should wait? We need as much transit as possible, so let’s consider all options, and try our very best to get the GTHA moving. Because it can’t wait.
If you haven’t taken transit for a while, or are new to York Region, you may need to know a bit more about our system, and how it works.
A recent article in the Markham Economist and Sun pointed out 10 Helpful facts About York Region Transit, and it reminded us that not everyone knows the basics. We’ll cover some of the facts here, and explain a few things along the way.
In 2001, transit in four of York Region’s nine municipalities merged to become York Region Transit [YRT]. This was following through on a vision to have a fast, convenient, seamless transit system across York Region. York Region’s bus rapid transit – Viva – was launched in 2005, with curbside vivastations and distinctive blue buses [pictured above] custom-designed with higher capacity and enhanced comfort. More frequent service, prioritizing traffic signals, and off-board payment all meant improved service.
Viva curbside was just the beginning. In 2010, we at YRRTC began building rapidways – dedicated lanes and stations for Viva buses. As of today, we have 12.2 km of rapidways, and 18 vivastations built and open for service. By the end of this year, we should have 15 more kilometres of rapidways and 13 more stations [each station has two platforms and blue canopies – one for each direction] open for service.
Aside from YRT Local [white buses] and Viva [blue buses], YRT also operates Express routes with fewer stops during rush hours, and On-Demand service in locations and time periods with lower demand, and used by customers who need assistance or who have disabilities.
Two things stand out in YRT’s stats: many customers travelling, across a huge area. On a typical weekday, YRT serves more than 77,000 customers, and in 2016, there were 22.8 million customers. York Region is 1,762 sq. km, almost three times larger than Toronto, and 24% of the Greater Toronto Area.
To serve such a big area, YRT has a fleet of more than 500 vehicles, operates 128 bus routes and serves more than 5,300 bus stops and vivastations.
While it’s possible to pay using cash either on board a YRT bus, or at a ticket machine at a vivastations, it’s convenient and a little cheaper to use a PRESTO card or the YRT Pay app [free for iOS or android]. Without these, fares are $4, or $4.50 to ride Express, or $1 to ride to GO. Using a PRESTO Card or the YRT pay app, fares are currently $3.75 for adults, $3 for youth, $2.35 for children/seniors, $4.25 to ride Express, and still $1 to ride to GO. When you board a Viva bus you can use either the front or back door and have your proof of payment ready in case YRT staff asks to see it. Fares can change over time, and when you cross borders, so if you haven’t been on YRT in a while or you’re planning to travel to & from Toronto, download YRT’s Fare Guide.
Have more questions? Visit YRT.ca for schedules and maps, and excellent trip-planning tools that will tell you how to get where you’re going. They also have a feedback form and live chat options on their website, or if you need to hear a voice, call 1-866-668-3978.
future transit in York Region
Transit grows along with our vibrant city centres and busy streets. Our projects here at YRRTC include more rapidways opening in the next two years, and two YRT bus terminals – in Vaughan and Markham. Future plans that require funding include building over 75 km of rapidways along other corridors – connecting Yonge Street between Newmarket and Richmond Hill, extending Highway 7 to eastern Markham and western Vaughan, and adding Viva along Jane and Leslie Streets, and Major Mackenzie Drive. There’s more to explore of course. You can learn from YRT about their Service Plans, and learn about rapidway projects on vivanext.com. Happy travels.
This time of year, it’s all about relationships and family. Valentine’s Day has just passed, and now it’s Family Day weekend. Every family is a network, a group with things in common.
In York Region, there is a family of transit services operated by York Region Transit [YRT]: Local, Express, Viva, and On-Demand. Express and Viva sound alike, but while Express shuttles rush-hour customers to connection points with few stops in-between, Viva provides frequent service along some of our busiest roads, in dedicated bus lanes where possible.
Families are built and maintained with relationships, and yes, we can compare that to transit too. It’s the relationships between York Region Rapid Transit Corporation [YRRTC] and other organizations that move our projects forward.
York Region owns YRRTC [our shareholder], and we report to a Board of Directors made up of municipal Mayors and Regional Councillors.
Our projects are funded by all levels of government, sometimes private organizations and even other projects. The Province funded 100% of our rapidway projects through Metrolinx. Our maintenance facility in Richmond Hill and the Cornell Bus Terminal are funded by Federal, Provincial, and Regional government. SmartCentres Place Bus Terminal is funded by the Province, York Region, some funds from the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension project [TYSSE], and you guessed it – SmartCentres.
Aside from funding, some of the most valuable relationships we have are the ones we build as we construct our projects. We work closely with contractors and utility companies to ensure each project moves forward, with as little disruptions as possible to the community. Our Community Liaison team works directly with local residents and businesses affected by our construction. We know it’s important to keep everyone aware of what’s happening, and who to email or call if you have a question.
Our family is working to grow York Region’s rapid transit network, so if you’re out this Family Day weekend, be sure to explore the places transit can take you – from tobogganing to ice skating or just checking out some of the local businesses. From our family to yours, we wish you the best of this long weekend.
It was a year of sometimes messy construction on the Bathurst & Centre and Highway 7 West projects in Vaughan in 2018 – but a lot of positive progress was made and multiple milestones were reached! As you take a look at our year-in-review video, keep in mind, the vivaNext rapidway project is scheduled to open for service in these areas at the end of this year.
2018 has been a year of progress, working toward completing our funded projects, and continuing to develop plans for new transit projects.
In Vaughan, our Viva rapidway project on Highway 7 West and along Bathurst and Centre Streets is approaching the final stretch. In 2018, we installed canopies at seven vivastations, installed a massive culvert under Highway 7, paved red asphalt between Bathurst and Yonge Street, and continued to expand the bridge over Highway 400. In 2019, you’ll see rapidway construction in centre lanes, more paving and permanent features, leading up to opening for service in phases.
Yonge Street in Newmarket reached several milestones this year, including new storm sewers and water mains, raised bike lanes, and a traffic shift, allowing crews to perform work on the vivastation platforms in the middle of the road. In Richmond Hill, work included curb installations, base paving, storm sewer and other utility work, and more progress is expected in 2019.
Construction began on Cornell Bus Terminal in Markham near Markham-Stouffville hospital, and construction of a new bus terminal is underway in Vaughan Metropolitan Centre. We expect to see significant progress on these terminals in 2019.
The preliminary planning, design and engineering phase of the Yonge Subway Extension was underway in 2018, and will continue in 2019.
There’s more to come, as we work toward funding, for capital construction of the Yonge Subway Extension, and for 75 more kilometres of rapidways across York Region. To keep up with York Region’s growth, we have to continue building our transit network. And to do this, we’re exploring all of York Region’s transportation options to create a sustainable future.
This year has been all about what’s to come. Along with our bus rapid transit [BRT] and transit terminals projects we have on the go, there is more to be done to ensure York Region has a transportation network that is complete and sustainable:
Yonge Subway Extension [YSE] – Preliminary design and engineering is already underway for York Region’s top transit priority. Once full capital funding is committed for this 5-station, 7.4 km extension from Finch to Highway 7, it will be ready to proceed to procurement, full engineering and construction. For more info, visit our YSE project page
next phase of BRT – More than 75 km of new dedicated lanes for Viva, along Yonge Street, Highway 7 East and West, Jane Street, Major Mackenzie Drive and Leslie Street. These projects are vital to ensure that York Region has a completely connected system, making the most of the investment already made into BRT. Why Bus Rapid Transit? The capacity fits the projected ridership on most of our routes, it’s relatively economical to build and flexible to expand. For more information about these BRT projects, click here, or look at our interactive map of unfunded rapid transit projects in York Region.
building innovation – Helping York Region benefit from the changes to technology and mobility, by researching trends and building partnerships – find our 10-year business plan here.
York Region is a big municipality – with a growing number of residents and businesses. To ensure everyone can travel from A to B without overloading our roads with traffic congestion, we’re putting a fast, reliable transit system in place, on some of our busiest roads. We’re also looking at new ideas in travel and mobility. We’re researching new types of transit vehicles, sustainable solutions and innovative funding partnerships.
Growth can be great when it’s managed well, and for this we need smart investments that bring York Region’s bright future to life!
Over the last few years, the fence at the historic Quaker* Meeting House and Cemetery – located at 17000 Yonge Street in Newmarket — had deteriorated and it was due for a makeover. A staple in the community, we wanted to restore the fence back to its original form to continue to honour those buried in the preserved Quaker cemetery.
So, on Saturday October 20, more than 40 volunteers from vivaNext, RapidLINK, and the Quaker Meeting came together to scrape, sand, prime and paint this fence. An incredible community initiative, it was truly a sight to see – cars driving by even honked to show their support.
It was a beautifully sunny fall day marked by a few sun showers, but the rain didn’t dampen the spirits of our many volunteers! All hands were on deck to restore this fence – which surrounds a cemetery containing more than 200 years of history – in record time.
This fence is now completely rejuvenated thanks to the efforts of this group and we can mark this date and add it to the interesting history of this place that dates back to the 1800s.
The historic Quaker Meeting House and Yonge Street Friends Burial Ground in Newmarket was bought, established and built by Quakers Timothy Rogers, Asa Rogers and William Doan from 1807-1810. The burial ground occupants include many of the earliest Quakers from 1807 onward. The Quaker Meeting House is the first permanent place of worship in Newmarket and around 30 other Quakers like Barbara Horwath still gather there on Sundays and Wednesdays for worship.
“We are so thankful to all the people who came out to paint this old fence. It means so much to us and our community,” said Quaker Volunteer Barbara. “This Quaker Meeting House in Newmarket gives us an opportunity to meet other Quakers who support our beliefs and to be part of a community who shares similar interests including giving back to others.”
We were honoured to contribute to the community, and look forward to making a difference in many ways.
*Quakers (also known as the Religious Society of Friends) believe that a human being can have a direct communion with God without the presence of a minister, an institution or a holy book. Quakers got their name from Judge Gervase Bennet because they “trembled” or “quaked” when they felt the spirit of God within them.
Development brings to mind condo towers and big business. It doesn’t necessarily make us think of entertainment, education and recreation. Given some new and upcoming projects, that is what’s in store for Markham.
Markham Movieland, a 400,000 square-foot TV/film studio, was recently announced for Markham. The new studio will feature several soundstages, with one blockbuster-sized 70,000 square-foot soundstage – the largest in North America. The facility is expected to be built by the end of 2020 fulfilling an increasing demand for film facilities and workers. Markham Movieland will be conveniently located along transit routes near 14th Avenue and Kennedy Road, just south of Markham Centre.
Construction also begins this year on the new York University Markham Centre campus, opening to over 4000 students in 2021. The new campus will build on an existing partnership between the City of Markham and York University to boost the innovative and entrepreneurial efforts of local businesses. The University is working with Cineplex to host classes at the Cineplex theatre in Markham Centre – aligning business and education. It will offer joint programs with Seneca College, connections to other Markham businesses [such as IBM], and perhaps most importantly, connections to transit.
Just east of the new York U campus is the Markham Pan Am Centre, a world-class sports facility used recently during the 2015 Pan American and ParaPan American Games. It features an Olympic-size pool, multiple gyms and a fitness facility, training/meeting facilities and staff for hosting large events.
Several condo and business developments are planned for the area in the next 5-10 years, an amazing change considering this part of Markham was empty fields just 10 years ago.
We’ve highlighted Markham, but really this type of mixed-use, transit-oriented development is on the horizon for York Region’s other city centres too. In Vaughan, a new subway and bus rapid transit hub is bringing new condos and businesses to the area, and in Newmarket, more amenities and services are on the way for Davis Drive. Richmond Hill is at York Region’s centre, where several developments are waiting in the wings for the Yonge Subway Extension to begin construction.
Growth, when planned well, brings opportunities. And in York Region, there are many more to come.
With the summer months now behind us, the rapidway project in the Bathurst & Centre community continues to make great progress, with all five vivastations under construction, utility upgrades complete, sidewalks and boulevards well underway, and base and final paving making great headway.
With the rapidway scheduled to open for service by the end of 2019, it’s a good time to remember what the goal of the project is: to design and deliver rapid transit projects that attract, move and connect people to York Region’s urban centres.
This goal translates into what’s called a “triple-bottom-line” contribution to our community – specifically social, environmental and economic benefits. They include:
Urban transformation. Emerging along the length of our rapid transit network, traditional suburban development is transforming into more compact urban neighbourhoods that include retail, entertainment, dining, places of worship, residential and offices. As the population of York Region grows and increases in density, we are building transit to service this population.
Connections. The new sections of rapidway will consist of 5 new vivastations along Bathurst and Centre, connecting people from Thornhill to Concord, Woodbridge and Vaughan Metropolitan Centre and the subway to Toronto. It will also connect people to the rest of York Region via the Richmond Hill Centre Terminal at Yonge Street and Highway 7, and the future Yonge Subway Extension.
New businesses. As new developments provide new housing choices, the area attracts new employers – businesses that want to be located near transit in order to draw on a well-educated workforce.
Less driving, more moving. As York Region welcomes this new transit and cycling infrastructure and an increasing population, the result is more transit riders and reduced dependency on cars. Less time spent behind the wheel of a car can have great benefits to long-term health because people walk, run or cycle more – for exercise and to get from place to place.
Cleaner air. Every busload has the potential to replace 70 cars, and fewer cars on the road means reduced carbon emissions.
Building transit where the people are. The most popular transit routes go where people want to get on and off. People want to get to where the action is, so routes are planned where shopping, services, jobs, and higher-density housing is already along the way. The Bathurst and Centre neighbourhood is a perfect example of this as the community has a multitude of shops and amenities, multi-story condo buildings and residential streets – and busy Viva routes already service the community.
In York Region, a number of urban centres like Bathurst & Centre are evolving into mixed-use communities. At vivaNext, we’re supporting that change by building a fast, convenient rapid transit system. As part of the Centres and Corridors initiative, York Region has a vision and best practices for new mixed-use development to make sure that it gets built in areas which are supported by higher levels of transit.
This summer, vivaNext offered the public a complimentary behind-the-scenes construction tour in Richmond Hill and it was a resounding success! You can view our latest video on the Yonge Street tours.
Participants got a closer look at the progress of the vivaNext rapidway construction project in various locations on Yonge Street in Richmond Hill – between Highway 7 and 19th Avenue/Gamble Road – and highlighted the following:
The history of vivaNext
The steps in building a rapidway
How traffic signals function with a look inside a traffic controller cabinet
Local residents who participated in the tour were enthusiastic!
According to participant Marjorie Ball, “gathering a better understanding of the complexity of the project was very helpful. It was well worth the time and a lot of good information came from the staff and personnel on site.”
At the end of the tour, each participant received a $15 lunch voucher to use at participating Yonge Street restaurants and these businesses were more than happy to be involved in this great initiative.
“The question and answer part [of the tour] was fantastic!” said participant George Blundell. “The tour was very interesting and informative and involved a well-rounded selection of employees, including community liaisons, summer students, constructors and engineers. Then getting the lunch voucher was just icing on the cake.”
We want to thank all participants, supporting businesses and our staff for making these tours a success. We couldn’t have done it without you!