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2007 Transportation — Co-winner 2

Regional Municipality of York

Viva Bus Rapid Transit Project

Population: 943,510

Launched in September 2005, the Viva Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project provides a rapid transit network linking four emerging urban centres within York Region. Using a new fleet of rapid transit vehicles, Viva operates six routes along more than 80 kilometres of the region's existing roadways, and supports the development of mixed-use transit villages along these corridors. By increasing the speed, reliability and accessibility of transit services, York Region hopes to double transit ridership, aiming for 25 per cent of trips to be made using a combination of public transit modes. As the region continues to expand, a greater reliance on public transit will improve traffic congestion and quality of life for residents, while reducing pollutants and resource consumption. Overall transit use has increased by 35 per cent along rapid transit corridors in less than one year since the program's inception.

Background

York Region is Canada's sixth largest regional municipality, with a population of nearly one million people. As the region attracts more employers and employees, with 16,000 new jobs and 35,000 people flowing in annually and a 20-year population forecast of 1.3 million, tremendous demands are being placed on transportation infrastructure.

Traffic congestion has become a major concern for residents, with public transit accounting for fewer than nine per cent of peak period trips. It is anticipated that a rapid transit system would allow four to five lanes of traffic to be condensed into a single transit lane. As well, a single transit bus at full capacity is equivalent to removing 40 private vehicles from the road, saving 70,000 litres of fuel and reducing air pollutants by nine tonnes annually.

The region's rapid expansion has put increasing pressure on agricultural lands and environmentally sensitive areas like the Oak Ridges Moraine. The Viva project aims to develop compact, mixed-use communities around the four urban centres linked by the network. It is hoped that these communities will serve as both origins and destinations along the transit corridors, incorporating innovative architecture and landscaping while integrating terminals into the surrounding transit village. Compact housing developments and condominiums, along with recreational, cultural and commercial facilities, are planned to provide homes and employment opportunities within walking distance of the transit system. 

Results

  • Transit ridership along the rapid transit corridors has increased by more than 35 per cent in less than one year after the Viva BRT program began. Monitoring of air quality is just beginning, but improvements are expected based on a reduction of automobile trips and associated emissions.
  • Public awareness of the program is over 80 per cent, according to market research data. Passenger feedback has been very positive, emphasizing the efficiency, comfort and cleanliness of the service.
  • It has been predicted that, by 2026, almost 300,000 jobs will be located within one kilometre of Viva's east-west corridor. The growth of residential development in transit-connected villages allows residents to conveniently commute via rapid transit, while improving employers' ability to recruit and retain workers.

Lessons Learned

  • COMMUNICATE WITH ALL STAKEHOLDERS. Since Viva's routes run through five separate municipalities within the Greater Toronto Area, securing external approval was vital to many stages of the development process. Collaboration was also necessary with partner service organizations such as GO Transit, TTC subway and York Region Transit, since the Viva BRT system was designed to link with other transit modes, providing residents with a more convenient and comprehensive service.
  • EXPLORE PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIPS. The partnership with York Consortium allowed the project to be completed in under three years, less than half the time usually taken for similar infrastructure projects. It was also delivered within budget, thanks to fixed capital costs and a guaranteed maximum price established prior to construction. Chauhan noted the private consortium's ability to "bring in experts from around the world at the right time to help with issues as they arose."
  • PHASE IN CHANGE OVER TIME. The Viva BRT system is the first component of a 20-year public transit plan involving dedicated transitways and light rail service. By implementing the plan in stages, the Viva system immediately improved air quality and traffic congestion, while subsequent developments awaited environmental assessments and funding. For a fraction of the cost of light rail, the BRT system paid social and environmental dividends and spurred transit-oriented development in emerging urban centres.

Partners and Collaboration

  • York Consortium
  • Veolia Transportation
  • York Region Rapid Transit Corporation (Rapidco)
  • Toronto Transit Commission (TTC)
  • GO Transit
  • Brampton Transit
  • Citizen advisory groups in Markham, Vaughn, Richmond Hill and Newmarket
  • Smart Commute Highway 404-7 Association
  • Local chambers of commerce and boards of trade
  • FCM's Green Municipal Fund
Page Updated: 21/12/2015