LOCAL TOURIST / TRANSPORTATION
Competition is heating up in US intercity bus market out of Detroit
WindsorOntarioNews.com January 28 2023
More competition is coming to intercity bus travel out of Detroit. Gone are the days of just the old venerable Greyhound. Now European-based Flixbus has entered the Motown market as it has the southwestern Ontario one out of Windsor with the demise of Greyhound Canada during Covid. Flxibus offers trips to Ann Arbor, Chicago, Indianapolis and Madison and Milwaukee WI. A one-way trip to Chicago scheduled today costs $44.99. Bur fares can also vary by time of day. In addition to the upstart company’s foray into the Midwest market long time discount carrier Megabus has decided to re-enter Michigan. Megabus advertises fares as low as $1 but prices can be as high as $88.99 to Indianapolis, for example. Megabus is offering connections to 13 cities stateside. Travel started Jan. 25. The return to Detroit follows an earlier pullout, again because of the Covid pandemic. “The continued expansion of our network to more than fifty cities throughout the central United States is an exciting opportunity for Megabus,” Colin Emberson, vice president commercial for Megabus, stated in a company release. “We’re pleased to be able to offer the customers in Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Tennessee and Kentucky additional convenient and safe travel options; with connections to points beyond.” The Magabus service is being provided in conjunction with Kentucky-based Miller Transportation. Megabus has further connections. Once in Chicago you can connect to 23 cities, in Indianapolis to 32 cities. “By working together with Megabus and selling our tickets on megabus.com, Miller Transportation can sell excess seating inventory and introduce our brand and convenient destinations to new customers across North America,” Miller’ s CEO John Miller, said in the release. As for legendary Greyhound it’s still very much operating with five departures today for the Windy City prices varying from $47 to $107.
No transit to a principal Windsor transportation hub - on weekends
WindsorOntarioNews.com December 13 2022
As the city attempts to put more emphasis on public transportation and wean use of private vehicles, there are still surprising gaps in transit service. One of is the near rural-city connections and city-suburban neighbourhoods like west Windsor and Oldcastle. Another is simply connecting prime transportation hubs within the city itself. Such is the case with Windsor International Airport, branded by the airport code YQG as Your Quick Getaway and marketed as an expanding facility for domestic and international flights. But if you don’t have a private vehicle or take a cab or Uber, on weekends you can be out of luck relying on Transit Windsor. The only bus route that serves the airport is the Walkerille 8, which only runs there weekdays. The closest weekend stop is at Walker and Division roads. From there, it’s an 11/12-minute walk to the airport but along a busy corridor - County Rd. 42 - with no sidewalks (photo, terminal at far left)). Moreover, even during the week, Transit Windsor’s southbound schedule (towards the airport) doesn’t include YGQ as a main stop though its northbound schedule does. Tyson Cragg, TW’s general manager, said “that (airport) area” is to be addressed in “Year 6” or 2026 of the city’s Transit Master Plan. But he said it could come earlier. “We are, however, looking to extend service to the airport with the existing route sooner than that, perhaps the fall of 2023.” Cragg said there is “not much public demand (at least not communicated to us) for service to the airport, but it is an important element of the intermodal transportation equation that we would like to address.” In the master plan there is also mention of “Feasibility for a new future terminal at the Airport or Future Hospital (which) requires studying.” An accompanying map shows service that would connect further east along County Rd. 42 to the new regional hospital. In fact, connecting the rest of the city by transit to the hospital is a key element in the hospital location criticized as too remote for many city residents. City airport manager Mark Galvin, deferred questions, including whether YQG has lobbied for extra service, to Transit Windsor.
Photo: Google Street View
In Guelph, a splendid arboretum, McRae House and covered bridge
WindsorOntarioNews.com Nov. 29 2022
"A World of Trees," also known as the Guelph Arboretum, is a hidden gem only three hours away from Windsor. Begun in 1970 on just over 400 acres the arboretum now has walking trails, meadows, forests, wetlands, wildlife and pollinator mature gardens. Perhaps best the arboretum is open year-round and has free admission. On the University of Guelph campus it's the home of more than 2000 types of woody plants with noteworthy collections of oaks, beeches, maples and conifers. The land is a “living laboratory" for students and researchers, offering dozens of workshops and public education programs. Its research element consists of the Rare Woody Plants of Ontario program. It archives, in living gene banks, representative specimens of rare and at-risk trees and shrubs of the province. And through its Elm Recovery Project the arboretum is breeding a genetically diverse, Ontario-sourced American Elm tree that can ward off <>Dutch Elm Disease. While in Guelph check out this college town’s many offerings. These include quirky second-hand bookstores, cafes, superb restaurants and cultural venues. The Guelph Farmers Market, in operation 180 years, operates Saturdays. The Art Gallery of Guelph has regional and international art. There’s an outdoor sculpture park with more than 35 sculptures, open even if the museum is closed. McCrae House is the birthplace of John McCrae, who wrote In Flanders Fields. The city is dominated by the Gothic-style Basilica of Our Lady Immaculate church. The Guelph Civic Museum is next door. And don’t forget Guelph’s iconic covered bridge, one of only two in the province.
Photo: University of Guelph
Shipping company, port authority, cited for inadequate fire response
WindsorOntarioNews.com Nov. 15 2022
The federal Transportation Safety Board (TSB) has cited the local harbour authority and a shipping company for mismanagement of a fire aboard the bulk carrier Tecumseh (photo) in December 2019. An investigation “raises a Board safety concern regarding firefighting resources at some Canadian harbours and ports,” said a Board release. On Dec. 15 that year a fire broke out in the boat’s engine room while sailing in the Detroit River. The ship, owned by Lower Lakes Towing of Port Dover, is one of the firm’s five self-unloading carriers. The Tecumseh had been sailing from Thunder Bay to Windsor with a shipment of canola when the fire occurred off Zug Island. The fire started from a failure of a flexible fuel hose assembly supplying fuel to the port (left) engine. The crew attempted to extinguish the fire with a fixed in place Carbon Dioxide fire suppression system. After three hours two crew members entered the engine room to check on the fire allowing fresh air to “most likely” re-ignite the fire. On Dec. 16 the ship sought Port of Windsor assistance. But onshore resources “were not trained in marine firefighting and therefore were not able to provide onboard assistance.” This necessitated marine-trained firefighters who arrived two hours later. The lack of onshore resources contradicted a 1996 TSB recommendation that these be in place. This “could result in fires that endanger crews, the general public, property, and the environment.” The TSB also cited the shipping company for “shortcomings” such as not having a “vessel-specific” fire training manual “and there was no emergency preparedness plan on board to guide the crew in the fire response actions.” Nor did the company have adequate oversight to “ensure that the fuel hose assemblies on the main engines were of adequate integrity and remained in working condition.” In the aftermath, the company did alter its response protocol, the TSB said.
You'll be 'iMazed' by the annual fabulous Thamesville corn maze
WindsorOntarioNews.com October 19 2022
For 22 years the Thamesville iMaze has been entertaining families as one of the most unique seasonal tourist attractions in southwestern Ontario. Run by Ingrid and Ken Dieleman every year there's a different theme in the 10 acre giant walkabout puzzle. This year it's "Canada's Beauty" featuring a corn sculpted field of Canadian icons like a maple leaf, moose, lighthouse, hockey and lacrosse sticks. In previous years there have been themes featuring astronaut Chris Hadfield - who visited - and another year Terry Fox. "Rick Mercer (of CBC fame) was in the field in 2008 and actually did an episode there in the field," Ingrid says. The Imaze is perhaps the most well executed of other Ontario tourist corn mazes, all part of growing niche. Ingrid says "agritourism", where the public comes and visits a farm (the Dielemans also have a pick your own pumpkin patch) has been slower to take off in Canada than in the United States. "It's starting to grow which is kind of fun," she says. "You see some different agritourism things going on, like yoga with the goats or yoga with llamas." For the iMaze the couple spend months every year coming up with the theme and design. “We always want our designs to revolve around Chatham-Kent or Ontario, Canada,” she says. “So we’re rather particular and we spend quite a bit of time throughout the winter just discussing what's going on historically, what's important in the particular year coming up, and from there what are things that would stand out, that would work well in a maize.” The couple has become so old hat with doing this the actual execution is done relatively quickly. "I mean we laugh because it used to take our entire family to cut the maize, now I do it myself," Ingrid says. "I go in and count out all the rolls of corn and I mark with marking paint exactly where the paths have to be. So when everything is marked out in the fields I go in and I take out the corn and we have a little five ft. rototiller and then I rototill all the paths." It takes just under two weeks to complete. The iMmaze is open from early September and runs until Oct. 31. There's a food concession but the Dielemans encourage people to bring their own food and picnic. "Our big thing is we're all about play,” Ingrid says. “We want to encourage people to play.” The iMaze is located at 12768 Longwoods Road (Hwy. 2) in Thamesville.
Image: Thamseville Maize
City wants to come to the rescue for parking-besieged students
WindsorOntarioNews.com October 4 2022
Parking for university and college students may be getting a little bit easier thanks to a plan by the city to eliminate sometimes annoying residential parking permits in the west end. At the same time the city will promote the use of two large underutilized parking lots - one on Brock St. and the other in the city centre at Howard Ave. and Erie St. The first is within walking distance of the St. Dennis Centre and close to two bus routes leading downtown, where both the university and St. Clair College have satellite campuses. And, says the city, the city's electric scooter provider, Bird Canada, "could be approached" to set up drop-off stations at the lots. The fee for Brock St. would be $50 plus HST per month and the Howard-Erie lot $65. Transit also has routes that pass by the city centre lot and there are adjacent bike lanes. Meanwhile parking spaces could be freed up in the west end along Piche St., where permit parking is underutilized, the same with parts of Indian Rd. And in the 3100 block of Wyandotte St. W., removal of No Parking restrictions from the street's south side, where the city says really aren't necessary, would free up more spaces. Another street from which residential permits could be removed is Union St. between California and Partington. A survey of residents only got 13 per cent response so city staff has recommended removal. The decision goes to City Council this month.
Some people simply refuse to fly out of Windsor's YQG airport
WindsorOntarioNews.com Sept 20 2022
Despite its best marketing efforts, including using Windsor airport’s code as an iconic stand-in for city identification, it seems many people simply refuse to use the airport. Anecdotally WON.com has encountered people who would prefer to drive, take the train or get a ride to Toronto’s Pearson airport rather than fly out of – or to – Windsor. But even professional travel planners have issues with YQG. (YQG has been dubbed Your Quick Getaway.) Al Valente, owner of Valente Travel, said he “purposely” does not fly out of Windsor because he can’t depend on flights not being cancelled. “It’s pretty sad to say because I love to support Windsor and the airport but we have to be honest with our clients and just say it's unreliable,” he said. Almost inevitably Valente will prepare travel packages with flights originating out of Pearson, for example, instead of Windsor. “We have to do what’s best for our client,” he said. The problem with cancelled or delayed flights long predates Covid and recent flight problems occurring just about everywhere. With Windsor being a spoke in Toronto’s hub “you’re going to get the regional flights cut before you get the lucrative flights cut,” he said. He says people flying overseas are in risk of missing their connecting flight. “And you can’t do it for business travel because you’ve got to be at a meeting for 9 am,” Valente added. “That 7 am flight if it gets cancelled you’ve missed your meeting.” Meanwhile, Maria Voros of Complete Travel said she was heading to Europe but flying out of Detroit. “Why? Because I don’t want this happening to me,” she said. “Half of the time they don’t go, they cancel the flight.” If a client insists on flying out of Windsor she’ll try to book an earlier departure so there’s lots of time in Toronto between flights. “If it’s reliable I would sell (YQG) more,” she said. Windsor airport CEO Mark Galvin said he has flown out of Windsor numerous times and really hasn’t had much problem. “You know, delays don’t stick in my head.”
He said recent flight disruptions have been in the massive run up of travel post-Covid. “I wasn’t here pre-Covid, I started in January 2020, so I really haven’t had a normal year.” He said he sees the flight boards every day. There have been few problems with direct flights such as to Calgary or Montreal and Halifax or Porter’s flights to Toronto Island Airport. “It’s very fluid, you have a day where everything is totally on time, even a flight’s 10 mins early, and then the next day you might have two or three delays.”
Deep discount, yes, but not quite the deep deep airline discount
WindsorOntarioNews.com Sept. 6 2022
Booking a seat on a deep discount airline can take you through a labyrinth of questions and options which can end up costing you much more than the advertised price. Flair Airlines recently began service between Windsor and Montreal and Halifax. WON.com tried a booking. First, there are only certain days you can travel. We wanted Halifax on Sept. 20 but the closest flight was Sept. 19. On the pop-up calendar it said the cost that day was $79. But when you begin booking the flight it shows “prices from $29.00.” That takes you to the next page which gives you three “bundles” – Bare (no checked baggage), Basic - “recommended” - and Big. Basic allows one personal item (ie., a purse), one on-board carry on (a small suitcase) and one checked bag for $55.71. We choose that. Next comes seat selection. There are five categories from standard $11.30, "recommended" $16.95, extra legroom $28.25, first row and emergency exit both $39.55. We choose “recommended.” The next page is “Travelflex perks.” This gives one-time “unlimited” flight changes and no fees but you’d have to pay any difference in price. The smaller print says changes can be made “once.” Hmmm. We choose it for $10.50/person. If you want priority boarding - “Don't wait in line, get on the plane first. Want to get settled onboard first and make sure you secure space for your carry-on bag?” - that’s an additional $10. Finally, you can check-in online for free. But woe to anyone checking-in at the airport. Says Flair, “It costs time and resources to check in at the airport, which means it'll cost you $25. Or if you want to go the old school way, we do offer pre-paying your airport check-in fee for a lower cost! ($15). The choice is yours!” We choose online booking. So altogether our fare has now jumped to $124.26. That's still overwhelmingly cheaper than conventional airlines. Air Canada’s cheapest fare that date was $566 and Porter Airlines $530 and they can also have extra charges. But it's not quite the super discount you might have originally expected.
Uncle Tom's Cabin historic site name changed because of "negative connotation"
WindsorOntarioNews.com August 22 2022
The Uncle Tom’s Cabin Historic Site in Kent County has changed its name because of the “negative connotation” associated with the name. The new name reflects the settlement's actual founder, the Josiah Henson Museum of African-Canadian History. “The new name reclaims the legacy of Josiah Henson, renowned 19th-century abolitionist, Underground Railroad conductor and preacher,” Eno Antai, spokesman for the site, said. The museum, about 20 km east of Wallaceburg, highlights Henson’s accomplishments. Henson founded the Dawn Settlement and established the British American Institute where the free Black population and recently settled slaves could gain an education and learn trades. The property was part of the Underground Railroad which saw slaves escape from the United States into Canada. Henson was himself a former slave, escaping from Maryland and Kentucky. He was a strong proponent of education and self-reliance. At the settlement residents farmed and worked in local gristmills and sawmills. Henson became known as “Uncle Tom” as a result of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1852 anti-slavery novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Stowe partly based the story on him.. The book unintentionally inspired many negative stereotypes about Blacks including the namesake “Uncle Tom,” which became associated with an extremely subservient Black person. The named change was announced at this past month’s Emancipation Day ceremony. Is the change simply another reflection of current political correctness? Patrice Dutil, Senior Fellow of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute and Professor of Politics and Public Administration at Toronto Metropolitan (formery Ryerson) University, says no. “I've been fighting wrong-minded historical revisionism for many years,” he said. “Historical invocations must always have as a key purpose the remembrance of what is most dignified. Josiah Henson was a brave man, a Black American who sought refuge in Canada to seek a better life. The moniker of ‘Uncle Tom’ made him recognizable because he inspired a story, but that is not who he was.”
Photo: Ontario Heritage Trust
Airport concessions still closed but efforts continue to reopen them
WindsorOntarioNews.com August 9 2022
Passengers flying out of Windsor Airport (branded for the airport's code YQG or “Your Quick Getaway”) may still be disappointed that food and beverage concessions remain closed, more than two years after the pandemic forced the closure of the snack bar and lounge. But that’s not because airport management hasn’t been trying to get them re-started. The problem is finding an operator. Airport CEO Mark Galvin said an RFP went out “and we didn’t get any bidders.” The airport used to operate both concessions in-house but wants a new operating model. The RFP was well distributed. “We did get people who looked at the RFP but they just didn’t decide to bid,” Galvin said. Both concessions closed in March 2020 “a few days before the provincial mandate” and the airport itself was closed for passenger service for several months. Galvin said Windsor airport isn’t the only airport affected but also larger ones like Pearson and US airports with some retail shops remaining closed. “In fact, when I was out at a CEO summit it was a topic that we all talked about, concessions and food service coming back,” he said. He said with travel now rapidly gearing up as more people travel for the first time since the pandemic’s start – and the return of long-distance flights like those by WestJet and Flair – the emphasis is getting the snack bar in the waiting lounge opened first. “I think there’s a real appetite for grab and go,” he said, especially for people boarding flights that will be in the air for a few hours rather than the under one hour service to Toronto. He said food operators are probably “waiting to see” what the third and fourth quarter passenger numbers are like before making commitments. What about partnering with a community organization like St. Clair College’s culinary program? “That call’s been made,” Galvin said. He said YQG remains in “active discussions” with certain providers. “I don’t want to say the names, but again you can’t sort of turnkey and they’re looking for certainty too.” Meanwhile the airport has installed vending machines offering “more choices” of food than previously existed, Galvin said.
Now all BIAs are 'tourist destinations'
WindsorOntarioNews.com July 26 2022
Here’s one way to beat line-ups at airports, lost luggage and high gas prices. And support local businesses to boot. Have a staycation and travel to local business improvement area, walk around, enjoy the sights, and perhaps drop a little cash on merchants, who’re likely still struggling after the continuing cycles of Covid lockdowns and restrictions. As an additional boost, the City of Windsor just designated all nine city business improvement areas (BIAs) “tourist destinations.” Up ntil now only two BIAs have had the designation - downtown and Via Italia or Erie Street. For the average driver the change means there will be far more “trail blazing” or “way finding” signs around the city – 90 in fact. This may sound a lot but according to a report, they won’t “significantly contribute” to existing signs. The wayfindings will be located at strategic points directing the public to shops and restaurants. The city “will review the location and access routes and will determine the nature and extent of the signing required on the basis of using the nearest suitable Windsor streets,” says the report. “Where considered advisable, such routes will by-pass heavily travelled streets or congested areas in order to make the best of the Windsor road system and to provide motorists with the best service possible.” Only one route will be signed from any one direction. Sign formats will be determined by local BIAs, can be no more than two colours and must meet official specs. For example, “unless field conditions dictate otherwise,” signs can’t be more than 45cm x 45cm (17.7in x 17in). The city has to approve all signs. Local BIAs, and not the city, will pay for them.
Image: Merson Group
Three times a day Amherstburg to Windsor bus route begins in September
WindsorOntarioNews.com July 12 2022
The planned new bus route to Amherstburg, starting on a two-year pilot project sometime in September, will have three departures a day each way every day of the year including holidays. The line, dubbed the 605, will do a loop through Amherstburg’s urban townsite and run along County Rd. 20 beside the Detroit River to the Hotel Dieu Grace Healthcare (former Western Hospital) transit terminal in west Windsor. The detailed route, from Hotel Dieu, and going south towards the town, will travel along Ojibway Parkway to Front Rd. in LaSalle. Arriving in Amherstburg it will also do a loop into the town’s Kingsbridge subdivision just north of the urban townsite. Then it will rejoin Sandwich St. and head through the town with numerous stops as far south as Lowes Sideroad. It will turn around and head back north and then turn east on Simcoe St. to Fryer St., go north on Fryer, and turn west on Alma St. where it will rejoin Sandwich St. (County Rd. 20) and head back north to Windsor. According to a Transit Windsor document, the route will depart from Hotel Dieu Grace Healthcare at 6 am, 1.30 pm and 6 pm. Travel time is expected to take 45 minutes in each direction. Amherstburg town council voted unanimously this spring to try out the bus pilot beginning in the first year at $70.20 per hour excluding fuel or just over $156,000, which the town will wholly pay. Each fare will be credited to the town. The route will also have several transfer points – for example, with the LaSalle 25 route and the South Windsor 7 – with direct connection to St. Clair College – and transfers at Hotel Dieu Healthcare to the Transway 1C, Crosstown 2, Central 3 and again the South Windsor 7. This is the first time at least since the 1970s that regular bus service will connect Amherstburg and the city.
New tunnel vision at Niagara Falls
WindsorOntarioNews.com June 28 2022
Talk about tunnel vision. The Niagara Parks Commission July 1 opens the new tunnel experience, offering visitors a deep dive into the bowels of the former Niagara power station and spectacular lower view of the falls and Niagara River. This completes the “adaptive reuse” of the power station, says Niagara Parks. Last year the commission opened phase one, the restored generator hall with the “Currents” immersive sound and light show. Now visitors will be able to descend in a glass elevator to the tunnel level itself. During the 180 ft. descent they’ll see many underground floors on the way to the historic tunnel. For more than a century the power station’s spent waters flowed through the “engineering marvel” on their way back to the Niagara River. Now visitors can walk the 2,200 ft. tunnel that leads to the “exit portal” into the Niagara River. There they will be able to stand on a viewing platform which extends into the river and provides “never-before-seen panoramic” views of Niagara Falls and the lower Niagara Gorge. Niagara Parks chair April Jeffs called the opening an “incredible transformation” to create the ”one-of-a-kind” visitor experience. The Niagara Parks Power Station was the first major power station on the Canadian side of the Niagara River, harnessing the energy of the famed Horseshoe Falls for more than 100 years.
Image: Niagara Parks
Toronto to Windsor in brisk 37 minutes
WindsorOntarioNews.com June 3 2022
It’s almost as fast to fly from Toronto to Windsor as it is to get across parts of metropolitan Windsor by car. That’s thanks to Air Canada Jazz/Express’s introduction of the Mitsubishi CRJ200 jet on the regional service. A passenger reported a recent flight from the Big Smoke to Canada’s auto capital took only 37 minutes – in air – or 55 minutes gate to gate from Toronto’s Pearson International to Windsor’s YQG (Your Quick Getaway) airport. The jets replaced the long-used turboprop Dash-8-300 aircraft, the backbone of so much of Air Canada’s regional services over the last couple of decades. According to Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick, Canada’s largest airline began introducing the jets “on certain flights because Jazz has retired the Dash-8-300 aircraft that previously were used in this market.” Regional services are operated by Air Canada Jazz, which can also have “Express” written on the fuselages. While the service is faster (the turboprops took almost an hour fly time or twice as long) there is no change in capacity. “The jets have the same seat count (50) as the turboprops they replaced, but they are faster, which customers like,” Fitzpatrick said. But turboprop service hasn’t been phased out entirely. The airline is continuing to use the even larger (78 seat) Dash-8-400 planes on the southwestern Ontario route. “We plan to continue operating a mix of CRJs and 78-seat Dash-8-400s to Windsor,” he said. Both planes have a Canadian pedigree and are used around the world. The de Havilland aircraft were developed in Canada and first began flight in the early 1980s. The CRJs were developed by Montreal’s Canadair in the 1990s. Both companies have now been subsumed under Canadian-based manufacturer Bombardier. The airline has 15 such jets in its fleet and 39 Dash-8-400s.
Making it easier to install “speed humps” on residential streets
WindsorOntarioNews.com May 3 2022
The City of Windsor wants to make it easier for people in residential neighbourhoods to have the city install “speed humps” to slow down traffic. Residents could always request the humps but might wait long periods as the request would be combined with other traffic calming proposals. That could take “years to implement,” says a city report. The measure is for streets that are “primarily residential” and not ones that would “pose risks for transit, trucks or emergency” vehicles. “Administration is proposing a new Local Roadways Speed Humps procedure that will provide for a more accelerated process to allow residents to make requests for speed humps if a majority of the residents on the subject block agree with the request,” the report says. City emergency services suggested the speed hump design “should be smooth and the quantity of humps should be minimized as much possible.” Those surveyed would include all residential and commercial properties “directly abutting” the street. A minimum of 50 per cent support is needed. If the threshold isn’t met a new request would have to wait three years. The list of applications will be prioritized based on things like “warrant points” under current traffic calming procedures and “per cent” of resident support. Speed humps don’t come cheap. Each one costs $7,000 and when signs and pavement markings are added it comes to $7,425. Add annual maintenance of $435. The city says there are currently four locations that could already be added to the new procedure that were already slated for some type of calming. These include blocks on Norman Road and Virginia and Partington Avenues.
Photo: City of Windsor
Via Rail does test run to Windsor of new look corridor service Venture train
WindsorOntarioNews.com April 20 2022
Via Rail Canada ran a test train last week between Windsor and Montreal, with stops in between. The Crown corporation is testing its all new Siemens-manufactured “trainsets” – or integrated locomotives and passenger cars of a fixed number of coaches – before putting them into service later this year. There was no official announcement by Via Rail but Trains magazine, an industry publication, reported that Via did the runs over April 13-14. It was testing “track geometry” and passenger loading and unloading. The so-called Venture cars will likely be a welcome replacement for Via’s decades-old passenger equipment on the Windsor-Quebec City corridor routes. According to Trains, “special train No. 649” stopped at Ontario stations starting in Ottawa, Brockville and Toronto. It went to the Toronto Maintenance Centre for an “emergency rescue test” where a GO Transit locomotive was used to “rescue” the train if it became incapacitated. It also practiced on the “wye” (a triangular junction), the tightest radius curve on Via’s network and used to turn around trains. While the Venture “push-pull” trains – meaning a locomotive cab at each end – won’t need a wye Via wanted to test the extent of the train’s performance on tight curves. No. 649 then headed to Brantford, London and Windsor. It covered 550 miles on April 13. On April 14 it was tested on Via’s slowest track in the Guelph subdivision. Said Trains, “The tour was not publicized in advance, but area photographers who learned of the move were out in force to see the Siemens equipment moving under its own power for the first time in Southern Ontario.” Via has ordered a total of 32 trainsets costing $989 million, with full delivery by 2024.
Photo: Rail Fans
Not your imagination: Michigan does have some of America's worst roads
WindsorOntarioNews.com February 25 2022
It’s not your imagination that Detroit freeways are pretty awful. And, for that matter, a lot of the outstate freeways and highways and byways as well. Governor Gretchen Whitmer after all campaigned for governor in 2018 on the platform “Fix the dman roads.” In a survey by the Reason Foundation using US Department of Transportation statistics, Michigan was found to be 45th among 50 states in the quality of its “urban interstates.” (One being best and 50 being worst). It also ranks last in this regard among the five Great Lakes states. The state also doesn’t do well as far as the pavement condition of rural interstates, ranking 42nd and fourth among the Great Lakes states. Some 3.23 per cent of these roads are in poor condition, well above the national average of two per cent. It also costs more per mile in Michigan for general road maintenance – ranking 32nd nationally – at $93,000 per mile compared to the national average of $83,714. And the Mitten State also ranks 35th nationally in the cost to build state-owned bridges and highways and upgrade or repair existing infrastructure. It spends $53,099 per mile compared to an average $41,850. In other ways, Michigan ranks just so-so. For example, it costs less to make simple repairs like filling potholes or repairing guard rails in the Wolverine State - $13,849 per mile – compared to the national average of $14,570. But it still ranks way above neighbouring, and sometimes rival, Ohio, which shells out just $9672.
Travelling to Europe? Next year you’ll need a special form for Schengen Area
WindsorOntarioNews.com February 3 2022
Covid rules excluded, traditionally travel to Europe has always been no different from travelling to the United States. All you need is to show your passport. But starting January 1 2023 you’ll also have to apply online for a travel pass for any of the so-called 26 Schengen Area countries. These are countries where passports within Europe for Europeans are not required to travel from country to country. The pass is called ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorization System). Some reports have called this a visa. But this is incorrect. The European Union stipulated ETIAS is not a visa but a lighter and more user-friendly system. Why the pass? In a word, security. “This will help identify persons who may pose an irregular migration or security risk before they arrive at the border and significantly enhance the security of the external borders,” the EU says. First proposed in 2016, then President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker described ETIAS as a “way to know who is travelling to Europe before they even get here.” There’s little red tape and application is similar to the Canadian Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) and the American Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). Travellers apply online and it take about 10 minutes to fill out. The cost is seven Euros. “The ETIAS will undergo a detailed security check of each applicant to determine whether they can be allowed to enter any Schengen Zone country,” says the ETIAS website. Duration? The ETIAS “might be valid for three years or until the end of validity of the travel document registered during the application, whichever comes first.” Whether you will get the shorter or longer time frame depends on the system’s evaluation of your information and risk.
Image: Vector Stock
Amtrak service could revive Detroit and Windsor’s historic train station sites
WindsorOntarioNews.com January 10 2022
Any revision of a Chicago to Toronto passenger train service, via Windsor, would presumably make use of the defunct Michigan Central Terminal in Detroit, the hulking and formerly ruined building near the Ambassador Bridge now being restored by the Ford Motor Co. The office tower will be the “centerpiece” of Ford’s mobility innovation district and "mobility innovators" there are expected to develop, test, and launch “new solutions that solve urban transportation challenges,” accord to Ford’s real estate division. The campus includes new and revitalized buildings, a mobility testing platform and 1.2 million square feet of commercial space. And it presumably could include a redeveloped train station. The last Amtrak train to depart Michigan Central’s tracks, adjacent to the tower, was in 1988. According to Amtrak’s 2035 Vision document, released last Spring, renewing the Chicago-Toronto link would require extending the current Chicago-Detroit “Wolverine” train for a Toronto round trip “using a newly redeveloped Michigan Central Terminal.” Last week Amtrak and Canadian Pacific Railway backed the CPR’s acquisition of the Kansas City Southern RR, lauding CPR as an “excellent host” of Amtrak trains and its commitment to expand future Amtrak service. One of the new routes would be “passenger service through the Detroit River Tunnel between Michigan and Ontario to Windsor and Toronto (with connections to VIA Rail Canada).” But the 2035 Vision statement, an outline of Amtrak’s proposal for a vast expansion of North American services, also says the Toronto-Detroit-Chicago corridor currently has “two disconnected passenger rail routes” and that “infrastructure, station, and routing challenges will need to be overcome; along with potential partnership opportunities exist with VIA Rail Canada.” For one thing, the routes are very different. The CPR rail tunnel comes out on Windsor’s near west side between Crawford and Caron avenues. The Via Rail station, which hosts trains heading to Toronto and which was rebuilt just a decade ago, is more than four kilometres to the east. There is no train station along the CPR tracks. The former one (pictured), which dated to 1911, saw its last passenger train in 1979, according to the Ontario Railway Stations blog. An arsonist burned the station to the ground in 1996. All that remains is the station platform.
Widened road poses safety concerns
WindsorOntarioNews.com December 15 2021
The city’s widening of Cabana Road also brought higher motorist speeds, and that has put school children at risk. Now there are four car and bike lanes. The speed limit is 50 km/h. But in the area of Roseland Public School “since the reconstruction speeds have been identified as high” says a city report going to council this month. In Sept. 2016 the average speed was 55 km/h and in January 2019 – when the matter was first raised – 61 km/h. During school crossing times 54 and 60 respectively. A basic school crossing and two crossing guards now exist. To improve safety the city explored a pedestrian crossover (with flashing overhead X signs) but the road is too wide and traffic volume too high. A pedestrian signal also wouldn’t work due to not enough pedestrians. What’s recommended are radar signs flashing motorists’ speeds, yellow School Area signs, a Community Safety Zone “where public safety is a concern.” And flexible bollards to separate car and bike lanes. Motorists have been parking in the bike lanes to drop off or pick up children “impeding their ability to see” the guards and creating generally unsafe conditions. The costs: $13,850 for two radar signs plus $500 annual maintenance, $3600 for two school area and community safety zone signs plus $300 maintenance. And almost $9500 for the bollards plus winter removal of just over $2200 and $4500 annually for maintenance and replacements due to inevitable damage. Total: just under $35,000. That compares to between $60,000 and $100,000 for the other two options. Also, Removal of the existing two crossing guards would save $6250 or half that if one removed.
Via Rail to unveil “train of tomorrow”
WindsorOntarioNew.com Nov 17 2021
The passenger train experience is about to get a lot different – and better. Via Rail will be introducing an entirely new fleet of trains on the Windsor – Quebec City corridor beginning late next year. The corridor carries the overwhelming number of Via’s passengers – 97 per cent of its 427 trains over a 12,500-kilometre network. The new trains have a sleek look more reminiscent of rail travel in Europe than traditionally in Canada as per the accompanying photo. In a short video Via Rail shows a “train set” travelling with locomotive and built-in driving cab on the other end. These new “bi-directional” trains can operate in both directions without having to turn around saving time and operating costs. The colour scheme has also been changed with Via’s signature logo but a scheme of yellow, black and beige. And there won’t be just a few of the trains but almost three dozen train sets. “1 brand new train
is nice. But 32 in the next few years is even better!” says Via in a public email. Via says it has been working on the new trains for four years. Besides the new look outside and in, the fleet will be cleaner with “state-of-the-art” diesel engines. They will also be built to last 30 years or 9,600,000 km. Via says passengers will experience a more comfortable ride, with wider seats and aisles and a "quiet zone." (On some railroads passengers in "quiet cars" must keep their voices to a minimum, cell phone use is prohibited and passengers must listen to electronic devices through headphones or ear buds). There will also be enhanced Wi-Fi with much lower overall noise. “The new fleet was designed to offer our passengers a more comfortable, accessible, sustainable and reliable travel experience, and we can’t wait to share more,” says Via. The trains are being built by Siemens Canada.
Photo: Via Rail
"Many complaints" about ArriveCAN
WindsorOntarioNews.com Nov 2 2021
By RON STANG, WON.com publisher
The ArriveCAN app is compulsory for Canadians and others entering Canada. The app asks for passport information and to upload photos of your vax certificates, as another preventative measure against Covid-19. The only problem is that it sometimes doesn’t work. It worked fine for me when I tested it on my phone prior to leaving for Greece. But a couple of days before returning home – you can only fill it out within 72 hours of arrival back in Canada – it simply didn’t work. I kept getting “sign-in failed” messages. I changed my password several times and it still didn’t work. I tried four different wi-fi connections around Athens and it didn’t work. I also submitted my problem to technical support but didn’t get a response. Finally, I went to the Canadian embassy and a receptionist, who knew nothing about the app, eventually allowed me to use a desktop computer. This time, using the ArriveCAN website instead of the app, it worked and I could fill it out. I had been concerned I wouldn’t be allowed to border my flight home. But all Air Canada demanded at check-in was proof of a negative PCR test. When I arrived at Pearson airport in Toronto I told the Customs’ official about my problem. He said the app’s questions could have been filled out upon arrival. I submitted this information to MP Chris Lewis’s office. Lewis’s office responded that it has received “many complaints” about the app and passed the complaint to the appropriate government department. Kelly Belanger, Director General, Information, Science and Technology Branch Canada Border Services Agency, replied that the dept. would investigate further if more information was provided. The official added that Canadian citizens, etc. who have not filled out the ArriveCAN app “will not be denied boarding of their flight.” Additionally, “Although the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has made ArriveCAN digital mandatory, these cohorts of travellers can complete the ArriveCAN paper form upon entry but may be subject to public health measures enforced by PHAC.” Said MP Chris Lewis, “The ArriveCan App has failed in its purpose to allow Canadians to efficiently enter their own country, causing stress and uncertainty for many travellers. The Trudeau government needs to ensure Canadians have a reliable and secure system to guarantee they can arrive home safely.”
"Prohibitively expensive" PCR tests greet people who need one for travel
WindsorOntarioNews.com October 5 2021
Want to take that first post-Covid international vacation? It will cost you. Most countries, including the United States (so far, only if you’re flying) require a PCR test prior to arrival. To get that test in Windsor you will have to shell out about $200 plus HST. That appears the going rate of clinics that offer PCR travel tests. There are five clinics in the Windsor area that offer the tests, posted on the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit website. These include Medical Laboratories of Windsor at $199 + HST. Audacia Biuoscience’s tests also start at $199 and offers a test + certificate for $230 and a ‘China Package” for $350 (includes other testing such as a venous blood draw). It’s not just Windsor. CBC News reported earlier this year that tests can range from $160 to $1200 and doctors and experts warning that without regulation this could be an out-of-control industry. This contrasts dramatically to the free tests offered by public health in Windsor-Essex for people suspecting they have Covid symptoms. Testing sites include local hospitals and, again, the Medical Laboratories of Windsor. Another concern of experts is the lack of medical oversight in terms of the efficacy of the tests. The CBC quoted Dr. Anna Banerji, a physician and infectious disease specialist at the University of Toronto's Dalla Lana School of Public Health. ”Who's doing the tests? What are the standards? How do we know that they're doing it at the same sensitivity and specificity as those done in provincial labs or hospital labs?" Anecdotally WON.com has heard of PCR test costing as little as $25 US in the United States and under $100 Can in Europe. WON.com also contacted Ambarish Chandra, Associate Professor of Economic Analysis and Policy at U of Toronto, who agreed that the tests are “prohibitively expensive.” One of the Windsor test sites is at a pharmacy, another is an adjunct to a family physician’s office. Another appears to have a wide variety of experience in travel vaccinations and testing. Chandra said this is an example of a “captive” marketplace. “It is in the interests of large medical organizations and testing facilities to ensure that cheap, rapid tests are not available to the general population as this would cut off a lucrative source of revenue.”
City to remove several traffic signals
WindsorOntarioNews.com Sept. 14 2021
To the, no doubt, applause of many motorists, the City of Windsor is planning to remove several traffic signals from various intersections – six in all. These include Brock at Sandwich St., Campbell Ave. at Grove, Aylmer at Chatham St, E., Kildare at Seneca, Lauzon Rd. at McHugh St. (Tim Hortons) and Banwell at Mulberry. The city reviewed traffic based on “resident or other related complaints,” says a city report going to the city's transportation committee’s September meeting. “Many signals…..fall well below the volume, pedestrian and other criteria for a new signal to be installed,” the report says. It adds that it is “not clear, based on available data, why the signals at these intersections were installed originally. Many are very old and warrant criteria may have changed, expected developments may have not come to fruition, traffic patterns of drivers may have changed, they may have been installed for political reasons.” Having signals where they’re not warranted can create negative consequences. For example, “when signal phasing causes longer wait times, both drivers and pedestrians tend to become impatient and violate red lights, or drivers cut through neighbourhood streets to avoid the congestion or stopping at the signal.” The former signal at Tecumseh Rd. E. and Joe St. Louis previously had an average of five collisions yearly. After 2017 there have been only two collisions. “Reverse” traffic warrants are used to determine whether a signal will be removed, measuring traffic volumes, pedestrians, lanes, and speeds - the same as if a signal was to be installed. The report notes reasons for removals. The signal at Aylmer Ave. and Chatham St. E., for example, has little traffic because the casino “is not generating the significant levels of traffic that were anticipated and with the opening of the west wing, most traffic goes west from there or north on Goyeau to Riverside Drive.”