Viva was launched with Van Hool's rapid transit vehicles. However, YRT has also just placed a new order for Nova buses, having received four of them thus far. Both vehicle types run on biodiesel fuel.
Viva uses off board fare collection, allowing passengers to board on any door without needing to engage in dialogue with the operator.
"You buy your fare at the station on the curb side. If you already have a ticket and just need to validate it you do that as well off board at the station at the curb and you can just jump on and jump off," describes Albers. "The tickets are good for two hours, so if you need to just pick up flowers, run a quick errand or get a haircut, you don't need to pay a second fare and then it's also transferrable to the local service, the conventional service. You take that same ticket and board on a YRT bus and it will take you into the residential areas."
The rapid ways will make trips up to 40 percent faster, Albers says.
"Gridlock has been and continues to be our No. 1 issue here in the region. So the community need for alternative ways to get around the community has been a constant factor and continues to be a constant factor with respect for needing this service," Turner says. "The challenge has really been about meeting that demand and in a timely way with the funding we need to do it. It's never going to be enough soon enough."
Turner says Viva has exceeded expectations in overall ridership growth. Ridership has continuously and steadily grown across the system since Viva's launch. January 2011 saw a 10.8% increase over January 2010 with 803,903 total boardings.
"The ridership growth has been growing at a faster pace and a steadier pace than our actual growth, so in terms of measuring success, I can say we've stayed in front of just the pure growth. We know that we are reaching into a whole new marketplace which again was a ridership challenge, to reach beyond the riders that have to take transit to a whole new generation of riders."
"We spent a great effort on branding the service initially – everything from the fabric on the seats to the look of the bus, the paint of the bus," Albers says.
Along with the look of the bus, the name of the system was important to branding.
"We didn't call it York Region Transit or a more government type name. We called it Viva, which is like a celebration. It's very geared toward lifestyle and making choices on how to move about and how it shapes urban development, how the two sort of work together," Albers says. "It was a big effort to do that and to not confuse the public. We made it clear through our branding and marketing that it's two services in one system. You have the conventional service and the rapid transit service, but they work together in one system."
Thus far in phase two, one rapid way has been opened on the Viva system. Currently there are a number of other sections under construction now that will be completed between the year 2010 and 2015.
Lane Transit District EmX
Back in the mid 1990s Lane Transit District received a challenge from its board president: find something beyond traditional transit to really address what he saw as the next step in serving the community and attracting people who had a choice to ride transit.
"He just didn't see that traditional transit would meet their needs, so he challenged us to go see what other models were out there," says Andy Vobora, director of service planning, accessibility and marketing, Lane Transit District. "We did some research in South America and Europe and found the Bus Rapid Transit concept and brought that back to the board and they liked it. We started working with FTA and were deemed one of the first cities for a demonstration project, and the smallest of those 10 cities by far. We wanted to show that Bus Rapid Transit could work in a medium-sized community like ours."
BRT was adopted in the regional transportation plan in the early 2000s and Lane Transit District received approval for the first line, which spanned 4 miles connecting the two downtown centers – Eugene and Springfield. BRT made its debut with the opening of EmX in January 2007. Since then approximately 5.5 miles have been added to that original line; currently approximately 9 of the 61-mile planned system is built, Vobora says.