Peche Island: bucolic, yes, but some extras for walkers would be helpful

WindsorOntarioNews.com July 16 2024

By RON STANG/WON publisher

The first thing you notice about Peche Island is how close it is to mainland Windsor. The island, which the city took over from the provincial government in 1999, is 86 acres of small-scale rustic wilderness. But it does have a history beyond flora and fauna. It was once the summer estate of whisky baron Hiram Walker. The City of Windsor last week restarted tours of the island after completing emergency protocols there. I showed up for a tour Saturday as the only pre-booked guest thinking I might find a crowded boat. At first I was the lone passenger and then three walk-ins came. The tour is only $10 though there is a guided tour around and on the island for $30. A pontoon boat takes you from Lakeview Park Marina the 330 meters across the Detroit River channel to a dock with an attractive Peche Island sign, picnic pavilion and restrooms. From there, there are a few trails that take you through the island to the northern tip (about a half hour walk). The trails start out groomed but are less so as the walk goes on. There’s also, surprisingly, a general absence of trail markers and one can get the feeling of losing one’s way. At one point, at the remnants of an elegant bridge from the Walker era, the trail breaks into two. There is also a trail down to the west side beach though I couldn’t find the beach and turned back, worried about making the last boat back. But it was fun to see so many pleasure craft docked alongside, their passengers lazing on a hot sultry afternoon. I was a little disappointed that there is no trail around the island’s circumference, that basically you’re walking through woods near the island’s centre. Another passenger, Kirk, said the same. “I thought it was good,” he said of the trails. “They just need to put a little more signage up and a few things like that.” There was signage, including one stating some trees are 175 years old. But there could have been more and they could have been in better condition. Fellow passenger Susan loved the visit. “It’s quite lovely, the birds were unbelievable,” she said. “And you can do that thing that the Japanese do - forest bathing - where you walk through trees and you just zone out. It’s good for mental health.”

Via's new trains comes with new fees

WindsorOntarioNews.com July 3 2024

With Via Rail’s new fleet of Venture trains introduced in Windsor last week expect to pay for seat selection and baggage. The fees had been suspended when the company’s new reservation system was launched late last year. The fees were reintroduced last month. A $7 fee will be applied on the cheapest Escape fare ticket. Those in Economy, Economy Plus and Business Plus won’t have to pay extra. However, the single seats in the new trains will command an additional fee. “Passengers travelling on a regular Business fare will have to pay a seat selection fee to pick one of the single seats, although picking any of the paired seats will remain free or charge, and it will still be possible for passengers to automatically be assigned one of the single seats,” Transport Action Canada, a passenger lobby group, says. Meanwhile baggage fees have been reintroduced at a lower rate. The second bag fee for Economy passengers now varies by fare type, with a $25 fee for Escape, $20 for Economy, and only $15 for passenger travelling Economy Plus rather than $25 for all passengers. “This is lower than the $40 fee for a second bag that applied before November 2023,” the lobby group says. And “the perk” of a free second bag for students has not been brought back due to lack of train car space. Meanwhile Via is now charging for parking at smaller stations in southwestern Ontario including Chatham and Woodstock. Fees are being collected by Indigo, which charges at Windsor’s station. “For shorter journeys these new parking charges could add significantly to the cost of choosing the train,” Transport Action says.

People Mover getting used Toronto cars

WindsorOntarioNews.com June 12 2024

The Detroit People Mover is getting some new cars – to it – except they're used cars discarded from Toronto. The DPM’s dozen two car trains will be replaced by similar sets from the now closed Scarborough Line 3, which closed almost a year ago. The line is being replaced by a subway extension and buses now serve the link. The cars are identical to those of the DPM and in fact are older, in service since 1985 versus the DPM’s 1987 start date. Both are Canadian built in Kingston by the Urban Transportation Development Corp. Detroit transportation manager Robert Cramer said that, despite the age, the vehicles are in better shape than the DPM’s. That’s because they’ve had upgrades that the DPM has not. “It's a dream come true because Toronto decided to shut their system down and had these cars that weren't valuable to them or anyone else but of course, because of the uniqueness to our system ... the parts on these cars are hard for us to find. To have this fall in our lap is pretty amazing,” he told The Detroit News. Detroit will also receive a warehouse worth of spare parts. Cramer said it’s rare to find this type of monorail equipment. "The People Mover has tight curves and short platforms 80 feet long and that means we have to use unusually short cars," he said. The DPM is currently free to ride for the entire year as a private company, a DPM sponsor, is covering the cost. Detroit has been improving other parts of the DPM including replacing tracks and fixing all the escalators before this Spring’s NFL Draft. There’s new security cameras, kiosks and video boards for the 13 stations. The DPM runs on a three-mile loop through downtown.

Photo: Wikipedia

Detroit's inner city airport reviving

WindsorOntarioNews.com May 29 2024

Detroit’s inner city airport is about to get new life. The Coleman A. Young International Airport, named after the late mayor and somewhat dormant for many years, is being revived. The city has signed an agreement with manager Avflight for a 30-year lease to operate the site. Construction this summer will begin on a new 3000 sq. ft. terminal (image) along with a 15,000 sq. ft. hangar. “The structures will greatly enhance the airport’s amenities, services and security, making (the airport) an enticing option for transient visitors, airport tenants, charter operators and more,” the city says in a release. Detroit COO Brad Dick predicts a few years from now Detroit will “once again has a truly state-of-the-art airport within our city limits.” AvFlight has been part of the airport, on a short-term lease basis, since 2011. “We’re proud of our operation at KDET (the airport code),” said Avflight’s Vice President of Operations, Joe Meszaros. “We’ve always seen the value in preserving Coleman A. Young International Airport’s operations and have worked hard the last decade and a half to not only keep it operational, but also make it a successful enterprise—one that supports the city’s economy by serving as a gateway to Detroit business and as an employer of Detroit’s citizens.” Already, improvements have included a $350,000 LED taxi lighting upgrade and $3.5 million runway renovation. The future will also see a $1.2 million ramp pavement improvement project and $8.1 million engineered material "arresting" system which helps stop aircraft at a runway’s end. A new control tower will be built in 2026. While the airport has limited commercial flights MyFlight Tours Detroit operates from there. It’s also the base of the city’s police aviation unit. At one time airlines such as Southwest flew out of there. The airport is located on Conner St. north of Gratiot on Detroit’s northeast side.

Largest bus garage you may have never noticed succumbs to the wrecking ball

WindsorOntarioNews.com April 29 2024

It’s a building you may have seen out of the corner of your eye crossing the Ambassador Bridge. Or maybe not. The yellow brick building said “Greyhound” on it. The huge two block garage was once the largest bus garage in the USA, if not the world, but has now been being torn down. Its owner, an affiliate of the company that owns the Ambassador Bridge, is redeveloping the site in conjunction with the City of Detroit and a neighbourhood group. Part of it will also become part of an expanded bridge plaza. The 240,000 sq. ft. garage was opened in 1948. In its heyday as many as 600 buses per day could be serviced there. It was state of the art for its time. It had all manner of mechanical and personnel facilities. According to Historic Detroit these included a paint-spraying department, engine-cleaning section, two automatic bus-washing stations (capable of washing a bus in 40 seconds), and air-conditioned dormitory and lounge for drivers. There were 17 hoists and 12 service pits for oil changes, with 275 mechanical staff. Beyond the garage service areas, the facility had a paint shop, parts stock room and held the executive offices of Great Lakes Greyhound. “We are building for the future," Robert W. Budd, president of Great Lakes Greyhound, told The Detroit News during a building preview. "The far-reaching maintenance facilities of this garage constitute a major step forward in our efforts to provide continuously better bus transportation. The erection of this garage is a positive demonstration of our faith in the progress of Detroit and the Great Lakes area." Greyhound used the garage until just over three decades ago. The building was also used by the late lamented Detroit Crowley’s department store chain as a warehouse. Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Maroun eventually bought the garage, as he had many properties along the waterfront. Demolition began in mid-February and was completed mid-April. Apparently, an effort was made to save the silver-coloured Greyhound logos, iconic in the neighbourhood.

New Detroit sign, Windsor tunnel changes, for NFL Draft Experience

WindsorOntarioNews.com April 16 2024

The City of Detroit has a new sign – in fact several of them. The first one – the largest - is an illuminated sign on I -94. The others will be placed on other main thoroughfares leading into the Motor City in time for this month’s NFL Draft. The largest sign simply spells out DETROIT and there will be five smaller "Welcome to Detroit" signs, the city says. The signs were designed and fabricated by Detroit-based and family-owned Fairmont Sign Co., which made the famous Fox Theatre sign. All the signs cost $425,000 with the large one $270,000. Partners DTE Energy lit the sign last night and landscaping will be completed this week. For Windorsites probably the most noticeable sign – green with the City of Detroit crest – will be along I-75 at 8 Mile Rd., which marks the city boundary. Meanwhile some streets in downtown Detroit have been closed as of last night to accommodate the build out of the NFL Draft Experience presented by Rocket Mortgage at Hart Plaza, a free fan festival taking place during all three days of the Draft April 25-27. Closures include both eastbound and westbound Jefferson Avenue in front of Hart Plaza near the Windsor-Detroit tunnel. But all sidewalks are open, access to businesses maintained, and “patronizing our downtown establishments during the Draft build out is encouraged,” the city says. All tunnel traffic must use I-375 during the M-10 (Lodge Expy)/Jefferson Avenue closures. Windsor-bound traffic should use Jefferson to Randolph St. to access the tunnel.

Butterflies are free at Meijer Gardens

WindsorOntarioNews.com March 29 2024

The largest collection of butterflies in the United States is featured at the Meijer Gardens' 38th Annual Butterfly Exhibition now until the end of April. Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park is located in Grand Rapids, MI. This year's edition examines "the microscopic detail and beauty of butterflies." Some 60 butterfly and moth species from Costa Rica, Ecuador, the Philippines, and Kenya can be observed in the five-story, 15,000-square foot Lena Meijer Tropical Conservatory. At 85 degrees and 70 per cent humidity the conservatory mimics the tropical regions the butterflies call home. The species "can be viewed drinking nectar from the flowering plants and feeding stations, flying freely within the towering tropical conservatory." Some 1000 chrysalids are delivered to Meijer Gardens each week of the exhibition. "Guests can watch delicate chrysalids and cocoons being placed in the Observation Station, where these unique and fascinating creatures transform and spread their wings for the first time. Gliders such as the emperor, ruby-spotted and orchard swallowtails will add to the diverse assortment." Special children's activities are featured throughout. Tuesday Night Lights encourages visitors to bring flashlights to search for the flying beauties. Guest speakers on different topics are featured on various dates.

Air Canada captivates, and acknowledges flyover country

WindsorOntarioNews.com March 10 2024

Air Canada, at least on long haul flights with video screen embedded in the back of passengers’ seats, displays captive advertising. For example, after the safety demonstration video is completed, a passenger can be subjected to several advertisements in a row. Usually passengers can turn off the screen or alter it depending on other video content, such as movies or TV shows, but they cannot change the screen while the advertising is running. Said Air Canada to a WON request for comment, “With respect to advertising, our IFEs (In-flight Entertainment Experience) have hosted sponsored content since they were first introduced fleetwide about two decades ago.” That may be true but the ability not to control it was news to airline rights activist Gabor Lukacs, a professor of mathematics at Halifax’s Dalhousie University. “If you have no way of turning off the audio/video, then it is a problem - wrong morally for sure, although I cannot pull a case that says that it is wrong legally too,” the president and founder of Air Passenger Rights says. Gábor has filed more than two dozen successful complaints with the Canadian Transportation Agency, challenging airlines’ terms, conditions, and practices, and resulting in orders to amend “conditions of carriage and offer better protection to passengers," his website says. Meanwhile, the airline has introduced an aerial version of better known ground organizations’ popular and sometimes controversial so-called Indigenous Land Acknowledgements. Since planes are not based on land but flying in the sky the airline's version is as follows: “Air Canada acknowledges the Indigenous peoples’ ancestral and traditional lands we fly over” (photo of video capture) showing, perhaps fittingly, a forest with a stream running through it, way down, of course, below.

Photo: JP Gladu/X

You can reach heights in this exhibit

WindsorOntarioNews.com February 12 2024

It’s kind of like that old movie Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines. Only “those magnificent men” are anybody, as the Michigan Science Center stages its Above and Beyond exhibit. The 6,000 sq. ft. interactive exhibit offers an “unprecedented interactive demonstration of advances in aviation and aerospace, from the first powered flights to the newest innovations on Earth and in space,” according to the museum, which used to be known as the Detroit Science Center and is located across the street from the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA). And you’ve heard of the movie The Right Stuff? Well, this exhibit “will push our guests to their limits and help them discover” if they’ve indeed got what astronauts have, says CEO Christian Greer. In fact, visitors “won’t want to miss the opportunity to fly in formation like a bird or test pilot a totally new aircraft of their own design, all while applying STEM skills and having fun exploring the future of aerospace.” Guests first enter an immersive wraparound theatre and then walk into five galleries with dozens of interactive exhibits. You can ride to the edge of space in a simulated space elevator or in your own supersonic fighter jet in a virtual high speed flying competition. You can even simulate what it’s like to fly like a bird as part of a flock. Exhibit technology like flight simulation, an immersive theatre, touch display and augmented reality offer an experiential understanding of the science behind flying. This travelling exhibit is sponsored by the Boeing aircraft company to celebrate its 100th birthday.

Windsor Holocaust victims among voices part of new museum exhibit

WindsorOntarioNews.com January 26 2024

Sunday January 28 marks the grand opening of the Zekelman Holocaust Center’s new main exhibit featuring the first person recorded stories of Holocaust survivors, many of whom are from Windsor. Those stories continue the legacy of the museum, located in Farmington Hills, Mi. that is the namesake of the Canadian family including industrialist Barry Zekelman, which has benefacted the museum which first opened in the 1980s. “Michigan and neighboring Ontario have many Holocaust survivors and we recorded many of those testimonies so we were able to really use those testimonies as the cornerstone of the exhibit,” Rabbi Eli Mayerfeld, the museum’s CEO, told WON. The new exhibit is part of a $31 million renovation that visitors will also view Sunday, the same weekend as Holocaust Remembrance Day on Saturday. The new exhibit departs from the traditional “didactic” approach of many museums by placing emphasis on the first-person accounts of Holocaust victims. Besides the recorded video testimonies visitors will see archival footage, images, and artifacts. Mayerfeld said that by “localizing the history” the museum demonstrates that the Shoah (Hebrew for Holocaust) “did not happen so long ago or so far away.” In a press release, the museum says recasting the exhibit at this time reflects a new “urgency” and ensures survivor stories “remain accessible to future generations.” The museum’s re-opening comes at a poignant time. Since the Oct. 7 attacks on Israelis by Hamas terrorists – whose charter calls for the extermination of Jews – there has been a more than 300 per cent increase in antisemitic attacks compared to the previous year. “Learning about the Holocaust helps visitors understand the potential consequences of antisemitism, and how to counter it today,” Mayerfeld said. On Sunday admission is free beginning at 9.30 am, a dedication ceremony takes place at 11 am, a survivor talk featuring Irene Miller will be held at 12 noon, a conversation with the curator and exhibit designer at 1.30 pm and a spotlight on women in the Holocaust at 2.30 pm.

Detroit downtown to Metro Airport express bus pilot to start this spring

WindsorOntarioNews.com January 11 2024

It didn’t take long for a Michigan transportation authority to okay a pilot downtown Detroit to Metro Airport express bus service, despite the fact a public comment period (see sidebar) still isn’t over yet. The Regional Transit Authority (RTA) of Southeast Michigan said the “Detroit to Airport Express Service” would start operating in the spring. It would make 16 trips a day from 3.30 am to 11 pm. A soft launch will begin in March with a full launch in April. “We are excited about the proposed Detroit to Airport Express Service pilot and the benefits it will provide our community,” Ben Stupka, the RTA’s executive director, said in a statement. “This pilot will allow us to gauge the impact of a new direct way for people to travel back and forth to DTW from Downtown Detroit, and it’s important for as many people as possible to share their input about what’s to come.” The service will be operated by Michigan Flyer, an East Lansing-based bus company that already runs its AirRide service between the airport and Ann Arbor, Brighton and East Lansing. The exact bus stops still haven’t been determined. But, at Metro, the service will leave from the airport’s McNamara Terminal and the Evans Terminal’s ground transportation area. The pilot is designed to be in service in time for the NFL spring draft April 25-27, taking place at Ford Field in Detroit.

Not much can be done about an increase in local short line whistles

WindsorOntarioNews.com Dec 7 2023

Essex Terminal Railway (ETR) train whistles are increasingly disrupting east side residents but it’s a problem that appears solvable only by major expenditures on items like road crossing gates. Residents appeared before a city transportation committee this fall but were told by ETR that whistles are "in compliance” of a minimum of 96 decibels. ETR president Tony De Thomasis said the horns and whistles are ”regularly tested” and in compliance with Transport Canada regs. Councillor Mark Mckenzie asked why there was an increase in train whistle noise. De Thomasis said it’s because there’s been an “increase in volume of activity and frequency due to an increase in business activity, manufacturing and processing,” according to meeting minutes. The ETR’s main yard by Lincoln Rd. has seen an increase in train movements. While operating hours “ideally” are finished by midnight “on occasion, and on an infrequent basis there may be operating hours beyond midnight in order to accommodate a customer.” Rail operations begin between 6 and 7 am. De Thomasis said the only way to solve the problem is by installing mechanical gates at affected crossings. He said this wasn’t feasible due to the "millions" of dollars in costs. But the railway is exploring ways to access funding for crossing improvements from provincial and federal sources. Meanwhile the ETR suggests that new building construction near tracks take place “around a certain radius" and reinforced by double pane windows, brick construction, sound barriers and vibration proof foundations. De Thomasis said the railway is willing to work with the city on any improvements.

Photo: ETR

Navigating the city's worst railway crossing may just get a little easier

WindsorOntarioNews.com Nov 20 2023

Perhaps the city’s most exasperating rail crossing is that of Tecumseh Rd. W. near Crawford Ave. But there’s a solution, filed under “intelligent transportation system.” City staff, responding to a question from Councillor Fabio Costante, says an advanced alert system, pegged at $80-$90,000, could solve the problem of eastbound motorists not knowing when a train is crossing busy Tecumseh Rd. on the city’s near west side. That’s because of the curve after Crawford. “Geometric design of the roadway to eastbound travellers from Crawford Avenue to Janette Avenue prevents drivers from having a clear line of sight to the grade crossings until well after they have cleared the Tecumseh Road and Crawford Avenue intersection,” the report says. Both Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) and Essex Terminal Railway (ETR) have numerous shunting there and can bring motor traffic “to a standstill.” But a solution is at hand. Sensors can be placed at the crossing. When trains cross information can be relayed to a variable message board – “or a static sign with flasher” – to advise motorists a train is blocking the route and to select alterative routes. ETR has agreed in principle to the plan and the city is awaiting word from CPR. “Legal agreements may be needed in both instances.” One positive safety feature is it would reduce motorists making U-turns “often conflicting with other traffic.” But more trucks could detour north to Wyandotte St, an allowable truck route with return traffic to Tecumseh Rd. via Ouellette (during day time hours) and Howard Ave., therefore increasing truck traffic downtown.

Photo: Google Street View

No new Via trains "below Toronto"

WindsorOntarioNews.com Nov 5 2023

You’ll still have to travel as far as Toronto if you want to ride on Via Rail Canada’s new futuristic Siemens' trains. This despite a press release in September giving the impression the trains might be in service on the London route. The company announced an extra departure six days a week, both ways, between the Forest City and the Big Smoke, which began in late October. “The ongoing progressive introduction of VIA Rail’s 32 new trainsets is already yielding positive results, as recent increases in equipment availability, coupled with intense recruitment and training efforts, are now allowing us to reintroduce these high-demand frequencies,” Via president Mario Péloquin said. But a Via Rail customer rep said none of the new trainsets are in service “below Toronto.” The company began introducing the trains last year to replace its decades-old equipment. Meanwhile the company has also announced a $25 million upgrade to the London station, “one of the busiest” in its network. Exterior and some hidden work like structural have been completed. Still to come are interior upgrades and passenger platforms that will make the station more accessible to people in wheelchairs. “The new platforms will meet the latest accessibility standards and new doors and paths giving full accessibility access into the building have already been upgraded,” the company said.

New crosswalks, bike detection signals, part of $4 million spend

WindsorOntarioNews.com October 17 2023

The City of Windsor is working on a new concept for a “sustainable neighbourhood” in Sandwich South “where active transportation facilities and transit are key components.” The goal is part of an update on the city’s “active transportation” master plan, meaning routes and trails for pedestrians and cyclists and other forms of non-motorized personal transportation. Altogether Windsor has spent some $4 million since 2022. This includes a total of 20 km on painted bike lanes, multiuse and park trails and cycle tracks. In addition 29 sidewalk patios have been approved, 11 new traffic signals, ”with bike detection.” As well, eight new pedestrian crossovers have been installed on various streets. The city also extended its e-scooter and e-bike share with Bird Canada adding 100 e-bikes to its fleet of 450 e-scooters. A draft bike parking policy was created, some $1.5 million budgeted for trail and bus shelter maintenance. Transit Windsor saw an increase of two million riders - or 5.5 million – since 2019. “By continuing to encourage and support active transportation initiatives, the City can create a healthier, more liveable and sustainable place for its residents and for visitors,” a report to Windsor’s transportation committee says.

Fall adventure as close as 'Tilbilly'

WindsorOntarioNews.com October 4 2023

Want fall fun? There are plenty of ways to get into the autumn spirit through traditional day trips that combine family adventure with the great outdoors. These would be southwestern Ontario adventure farms. Like the Tilbilly Halloween Adventure Farm in Tilbury (photo), a 50-acre farm run by the Demers family. “We understand that many children have not had a chance to experience life on the farm,” the family says. “We offer a unique touch that includes blend of farming and fun activities, that helps to have a greater appreciation for plants, living things, farming and the outdoors (providing) knowledge on self sustenance and where food actually comes from.” The family has a corn maze, offers pumpkin picking, animal visits (chickens, goats, rabbits, ducks, cats), hayrides and a haunted house. Up near Sarnia there’s Korny Korners Farm, owned by the Thurston family since the 19th century. They offer a farm market with “our very own farm fresh spray free, anti-biotic and hormone free beef and pork” and seasonal produce, the family says. Check out everything from a trike and tractor track to a straw mountain to petting animals - and new this year – a giant jumping pillow. There’s also a hay ride to the pumpkin patch where visitors get their own free pumpkin. And up near London at Clovermead in Aylmer, families can find a bee train ride, barrel-of-fun ride and tractor ride. There are open food locations, a weekday fall fest and Saturday pumpkin festival. “There are bushels of family fun on our Adventure Farm!” Clovermead exclaims.

"Glamping" arrives in Essex County

WindsorOntarioNews.com Sept. 21 2023

Lungovita means long life. And the owners of the Lungovita Beach Retreat in Oxley appear to be off and running on what could be many years of operating southwestern Ontario’s first major rural “glamping” spa. The 16-acre property for years was Caboto Park, the campground for Windsor’s Caboto Club. But the club sold the property and it was purchased for more than $2 million by a group including David Haas and Andrew Facca, both of whom have had long histories in the local spiritual and wellness fields. Facca produced the 2009 film Voyage to Betterment, which had a local run, and in the late 1990s opened the organic restaurant The Hip Rose which became the Treehouse Bar and Grill, currently run by David Haas and known as Treehouse. Haas says as Lungovita grows, the owners expect to turn it into a “wellness centre.” Yoga is offered weekends as well as Thai Massage. Day passes are also available. The campground offers geodesic domes including electricity and heat. Bell tents can also be rented. The resort stays open year-round though tents are available only until Oct. 31. Haas calls the rural bucolic setting perfect for “getting back to nature” and there are hot tubs and cedar barrel saunas, bonfire pits and "meditation-seating" chairs and benches. There’s also lakefront hammocks, kayaking, 50 Novelty Cruising Bikes – perfect for touring adjacent wine country. Guests must be at least 16 years of age. Facca, a world traveller who has spent time at spiritual retreats in places like Arizona and Sardinia, has said Lungovita is beyond simply a weekend getaway but a retreat that can include “spiritual healing.” Haas said the fact the owners were able to buy such an ideal lakefront property in Essex County “was amazing...Caboto Park was a perfect spot to do what were doing because we had the proper zoning, and we had a lot of the infrastructure." Haas said that in the short time since it has been open the resort has been full about 80 per cent of the time, attracting locals but also guests from as far away as Toronto and Michigan.

Photo: Lungovita Beach Retreat

"Protected" intersection aims to keep pedestrians and cyclists safer

WindsorOntarioNews.com Sept. 7 2023

In Toronto, a “Dutch-style” intersection aims to make crossing for cars, cyclists and pedestrians a whole lot safer. The under-construction intersection near the University of Toronto at Bloor and St. George streets will see what is essentially a typical four way intersection expanded outwards with separate lanes for cyclist and motorists. Zebra-style crosswalks, like at present, will be extended out the most but further from the corner than traditional crosswalks and therefore shorter to cross. Between them and motor traffic will be cycling lanes. Right turning drivers will therefore have a better view of both cyclists and pedestrians. To the Dutch they’re known as “protected” intersections. The Toronto intersection redo is especially poignant since a cyclist was killed there in 2018. According to the Toronto Star cities with these intersections report significantly lower accidents. A New York study found such intersections even safer than ones with dedicated bike signals and turn lanes. San Francisco reported almost 100 per cent of drivers turning at speeds at or below the speed limit. Eighty-five per cent of cyclists and 55 per cent of pedestrians felt safer. “One of the biggest determinants of road safety, particularly for vulnerable road users, is whether drivers can see them,” Benjamin Wolfe, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Toronto Mississauga and a director at the Applied Perception and Psychophysics Laboratory said. “So, building intersections such that drivers are more likely to see people using them is going to keep people safer.” The design differs from typical North American intersections which are anto-centric.

New exhibits for Shedd Aquarium

WindsorOntarioNews.com August 24 2023

Chicago’s renowned Shedd Aquarium has announced several major renovations as it gears up for its 100th anniversary in 2030. Chief among these is a 40-foot Caribbean Tunnel where visitors can walk “through” a warm saltwater environment and look at species such as blacktip reef sharks, goliath grouper fish and spotted eagle rays, considered a near-threatened species. Renos to the Amazon Rising gallery also will bring visitors closer to the amazing aquatic creatures. “We’re providing this greater habitat space, but at the same time, designing it in a way that we’re going to be able to bring those giant fish right up to the guest while feeding them and they can see these huge fish just gulping their food at the surface,” Andrew Pulver, VP of animal care, said. Meanwhile the new Whalefall exhibit will display the environment that forms at the bottom of the seafloor when a whale dies. “We’ll have this rib cage of a whale with food that we are providing for really cool big, giant crabs, and to be able to up close see how that process would happen in nature and connect the guests to the fact that this is a natural process,” Pulver told the Chicago Tribune. The $500 million expansion of the aquarium, on Lake Michigan, will be one of the biggest ever for any Chicago museum. The whole focus is on “animals first,” Pulver said. “For the animals, these changes are going to be fantastic. It really also helps the animal care team so they have the greater space to access and work with the animals, and then that allows us for greater flexibility in developing new care techniques.”

Review: As a resort Collingwood just a little underwhelming

By Ron Stang, WON.com publisher

WindsorOntarioNews.com August 11 2023

Collingwood is a pleasant enough community nestled in the southeast corner of Georgian Bay. The resort town has long been associated with the Blue Mountains ski resorts. But that’s in winter. In summer those numerous ski trails are vacant. But the Blue Mountains Resort Village, at their base, remains vibrant if not overly so. And that may be what ails Collingwood, only several kilometres to the east. The town’s main street HurOntario is a fine display of classic Ontario Victorian era architecture, capped by its ringing bell tower. Unlike some other towns the storefronts are full with many curiosity and antique shops. The problem is lack of pedestrians – at least on our three-day mid-week visit – and amenities like bars and restos. HurOntario has some but they’re hard to find. We had drinks and a quick bite at 1858 Caesar Bar, an innovative home grown cocktail lounge (they want to franchise) specializing in a vast array of Casears and Bloody Marys – they even sell their own elixirs. But it wasn’t busy at dinner hour and only one resto up the street was. This is early August in a resort community and summer has not yet ended, though it seemed to have. The town touts its wide waterfront, topped by its famous grain elevator, a local motif. But there are absolutely no bars or restaurants that line it, a glaring omission (and we criticize Windsor for only having a couple of such places). Independent restos and mom-and-pops were largely nonexistent and we were forced to eat at the same chains you’d find in suburban Windsor. We soon discovered the apparent reason downtown is vacant - everyone heads to the faux Blue Mountains Resort Village, with every manner of restaurant, bar and coffee shop - a tourist paradise which visitors swarm to like bears to honey. Try finding a parking space during the day! To the west are the picturesque communities of Thornberry and Meaford. To the immediate east is famed honky tonk Wasaga Beach, a summer resort extraordinaire. Further north is Midland, a pleasant discovery with its cafes and park lined waterfront. About 45 minutes east is Barrie, a bustling city of 150,000 and a commuting town to Toronto. Its massive park lined waterfont is rimmed by condo towers and famed geyser-like fountain. But Collingwood itself is a little underwhelming.

GHIB construction update: more than 80 cables in place, two dozen buildings well underway

WindsorOntarioNews.com July 25 2023

The Gordie Howe International Bridge (GHIB) is indeed taking shape, so much so that it’s starting to actually look like a bridge as its Canadian and American side decks start building out across the river. In fact, it seems as if both sides are constructed in synchronicity or at exactly the same time. How is this happening? “To achieve synchronicity of construction, Bridging North America (the private sector contractor consortium) has a dedicated bridge director responsible for overseeing construction of the Gordie Howe International Bridge on both sides of the border,” GHIB communications director Tara Carson said. “The bridge director ensures teams on both sides of the project undertake activities as per the technical design and monitors progress ensuring teams are working collaboratively towards connecting the bridge deck in the middle over the Detroit River.” As for the pace of construction the two bridge towers have now joined together at their apexes “and continue to climb as single pylons,” Carson said. Both towers are now more than 200 metres (656 ft.) and will continue to rise to 220 metres (722 ft.) “Anchor boxes,” the white cylindrical shapes you can see even some distance on the bridge deck, “continue to be installed,” she said. The boxes anchor the white cables to the towers. Some 42 cables have now been installed on the Canadian aide and 40 on the US side, so pedants will point out a slight discrepancy! Otherwise construction continues with girder installation, steel erection and pre-cast panel placement. At the Canadian Port of Entry (POE), where Customs is located, construction on all 11 buildings is “well underway,” Carson said. Customs’ primary inspection lane construction is continuing along with work on the toll building and canopy. There are 13 buildings on the US side. On average there are 35 people working on the bridge decks every day, Carson said. They access the deck by walking up 200 flights of stairs or use a temporary elevator. The bridge is still scheduled for a late 2024 opening and when finished will be the longest cable-stayed bridge in North America.

Photo: GHIB project

Detroit to combine bus and train stations in "intermodal" terminal

WindsorOntarioNews.com July 11 2023

Detroit will no longer have separate bus and train stations. Instead these will be combined into an "intermodal” terminal north of downtown just off Woodward Ave. The terminal is still in the planning stages and a timeline shows completion by 2026. The project essentially expands the existing Amtrak train station south to a new bus terminal at Woodward and Baltimore St. The current Greyhound terminal just off the Lodge freeway west of downtown dates from the early 1990s and needs “major remodeling,” says Michael Frezell of the Michigan Dept. of Transportation (MDOT), which owns it. “A new facility will allow for a combined station for Amtrak, local transit, and intercity bus, thus providing more connectivity between modes.” The department is developing an RFP and initial public meetings are being held this month. No final dollar figure has been set but $10 million will come from a federal grant, the rest from the state. The terminal would be used by Greyhound, Indian Trails, Miller Transportation, and Barons Bus. The idea is to create a one-stop transportation hub for bus and train passengers, connecting intercity services to city buses and the Woodward Ave. QLINE streetcar, which runs south to downtown. The terminal would be about three miles from the central business district in what’s known as the New Center neighbourhood, just beyond Wayne State University. Meanwhile the existing train station will get upgraded platforms and the new bus station would be connected to Amtrak by a tunnel under the tracks. Another goal of the terminal is to build “Transit-Oriented Development (TOD)” a real estate term to attract private investment to an area with easy transit links. Just south of New Center, which has been slow to see urban revitalization, is the burgeoning Midtown neighbourhood.

Image: MDOT

Unlike elsewhere local public has no fear of losing bus terminals

WindsorOntarioNews.com June 27 2023

Windsor and Detroit commuters can breathe a sign of relief that their transit terminals are publically-owned. Otherwise the terminals might be on the selling block because the private bus company that owns them wants to redevelop for more lucrative purposes. Such has been the case in American cities like Louisville and Cincinnati. And now the Chicago Greyhound terminal on the edge of the downtown Loop is threatened. Greyhound’s owner, European-based Flixbus, has been selling off the terminals. Flixbus has been making rapid inroads into the North American bus market and now operates two trips daily between Windsor and Toronto but not from the downtown terminal. Despite those US cities’ sizes there have been no alternative terminals and now buses depart curbside or at remote shopping plazas. In Cincinnati the “terminal” is now more than 10 miles from downtown. According to the Chicago Sun-Times “Greyhound lost ownership of 33 of its stations two years ago when the company was sold to Germany-based FlixBus. Greyhound’s properties were sold separately last December to private equity group Twenty Lake Holdings, owned by Alden Global Capital, and the stations have been sold one by one.” In Windsor the downtown terminal opened in 2007 through a Transit Windsor public-private partnership including then Greyhound Canada. Meanwhile in Detroit, the Greyhound terminal at Sixth and Howard streets just west of the Lodge Freeway and just outside of the downtown core in the Corktown neighbourhood, is owned by the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT). Transit Windsor director Tyson Cragg confirmed the city's "full" terminal ownership. An MDOT rep also said his department owns the facility as well as stations in Southfield and Pontiac.

Photo: Wikipedia

Detroit building a bus terminal out of an historic State Fair building

WindsorOntarioNews.com June 13 2023

Detroit is converting part of its historic former State Fairgrounds into a large transit terminal that will also likely see restaurant and retail and providing a measure of indoor comfort to thousands of bus riders who will use it daily. It replaces what was essentially a local bus stop at the corner of Woodward and 8 Mile Rd. - the city-suburban boundary – where many downtown buses terminate but also is enroute for suburban buses. It’s called the State Fair Transit Center, with construction well underway and an April 2024 opening date. The building, the former Dairy Cattle Barn, has been partly gutted and is being refitted for retail, lounges, restrooms and a ticket office. That wasn’t the original plan. But community reaction to a smaller more contemporary building called for preservation of the historic site. “Obviously a lot of Detroiters and people in the surrounding community remember going to the state fairgrounds – really fond memories,” Detroit Building Dept. head Tyrone Clifton said. “So really and truly the community wanted some form of adaptive reuse, we don’t want to lose all of our culture.” But it will be more expensive - $31.5 million. The 52,000 sq. ft. building was constructed in 1926 and has steel columns and frames. Large windows will be punched out, interior spaces created. The “portico” – a kind of archway - of what used to be an equestrian coliseum next door, will be saved as a gateway. Six bus bays will be for Detroit Dept. of Transportation (DDOT) buses and two for Smart buses, the suburban line. Officials expect users to double at the hub, partly because bus access will be improved as well as connections to adjoining retail like that Gateway Shopping Plaza and Meijer store.

Photo: City of Detroit

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TO's glitzy new train line (maybe) getting closer to opening

If you go to Toronto and see what looks like an above ground fully intact computer train line, with completed stations and even ticket machines, don’t bother waiting for a train. That’s because it’s the problem plagued new Eglinton LRT, under construction 13 years and which was suppose to open in 2020. Transit agency Metrolinx has been tight lipped about why the delays but more open with some recent info. All but one of the 15 stations have now been given occupancy permits. The remaining one is the largest and most complex, Eglinton itself, at the intersection of Eglinton and Yonge. The six-storey excavation underneath the station is the length of two hockey rinks, a space needed for the station, mechanical rooms, and a crossover big enough to allow a train to turn. Construction began in 2016 but was delayed due to significant repairs needed for the adjoining Yonge Eglinton subway station. Meanwhile, general problems with software and track alignment have been solved. Driver training has started. – 17/7/24

Mich most dangerous intersection had 218 crashes in 2023

The top intersection for accidents in Michigan is 11 Mile Rd./I 696 at Van Dyke Ave., which had 218 crashes and 52 injuries in 2023. The total number of crashes there increased 68.9% over the last five years, jumping from 129 in 2019, according to Michigan Auto Law, the largest law firm in Michigan specializing in auto accident cases, and based on State Police stats. That was followed by Martin Pkwy. at North Pontiac Trail with 160 crashes. The third was Schoolcraft Rd. at Telegraph Rd. with 154 crashes. Other dangerous intersections were 10 Mile at I 94, Telegraph Rd. at 12 Mile, 11 Mile/I 696 at Hoover, and in downtown Detroit, Warren Ave. at I 75 (photo). – 3/7/24

Photo: Google Street View

Windsor - Aburg bus to increase frequency

Bus service between Windsor and Amherstburg will be bumped up from three to four trips a day, 365 days a year. The service, which began in Sept. 2022, will also be extended on an additional five-year contract with Transit Windsor. Transit Windsor says ridership “experienced growth” in every month since the route began. “Route 605 is doing very well for a new route, since typically a new route takes 18-24 months to truly achieve full ridership potential and growth. Route 605 achieved this in the first 12 months of operation.” Most taking the bus are students. The town said residents were “generally happy” with service except for “route frequency.” – 19/6/24

Detroit Zoo water tower has a new look

Next time you take the family to the Detroit Zoo look for a new logo on the zoo’s iconic 150 ft. water tower, seen from I-696. As part of a year-long restoration the tower is getting rewrapped with new branding. There will be a tiger staring through the Zoo name’s double O’s, along with a flamingo and giraffe on the other side. The zoo also has a new website and app. The zoo is run by the Detroit Zoological Society and Belle Isle Nature Center, which also got rebranded. – 6/7/24

Less than 30 per cent using parking app

Since the city introduced app-based public parking fees in late 2018, less than 30 per cent of motorists have used the app. The actual figure is 27 per cent. That compares to 58 per cent still using old-fashioned cash payments and 15 per cent using credit or debit cards. But, says the city, “the percentage number of app transactions to cash and or payment card continues to grow each month.” Altogether, the city has garnered $2.1 million in parking fees since then. The stats are part of a report looking into modernizing the system, including removing parking meters altogether. – 23/5/24

Interactive life size dinosaurs will be on tap for the summer

In a first, The Henry Ford will feature 16 life-size fully interactive dinosaur models with its Dinosaurs in Motion summer exhibit. The “unprecedented” event will allow visitors to actually manipulate, through levers and pulleys or remotely, the sculptures. “The life-size metal sculptures captivate visitors while their exposed mechanics illustrate science and technology principles in a fun and engaging way,” the museum says. The Henry Ford and accompanying Greenfield Village are located in Dearborn Mi. The exhibit runs June 9 – Sept. 8. – 7/5/24

Tailgating, failing to yield, could cost you

Be careful about getting too aggressive behind the wheel – really. Not only could you be criminally convicted for dangerous driving, your insurance rates could skyrocket – as much as 327 per cent, says LowestRates.ca. Aggressive driving is defined as tailgating, speeding, failing to yield the right-of-way and cutting in front of someone too closely, actions that could lead to retaliation or conflict. "From an insurance perspective, a dangerous driving charge is a criminal conviction, which means your insurance premium would skyrocket and stay high for at least three years," broker Steven Harris says. Also, tickets are ratable for three years after the conviction date. – 23/4/24

HFR not HSR on track but will elude Windsor

Forget about Windsor or southwest Ontario ever participating in high-speed rail or as it’s now called High Frequency Rail (HFR). But the ambitious plan is still on dedicated track, according to the man heading up the project, Via Rail’s HFR CEO Martin Imbleau. He spoke before a transportation symposium recently in Toronto. The 1000 km line would now run from Toronto to Quebec City with stops in Peterborough, Ottawa, Montreal and Trois-Rivières. Imbleau said the line could go up to 200 km/hr or no speed limit. “In other words, we want it as fast as possible.” Travel time would be cut from six hours to about three and a half between Hogtown and Montreal. – 9/4/24

Train service returning to the North in 2026

The Ontario Northlander is coming back. More than 10 years after the previous provincial Liberal government axed the more than century old train service, the Doug Ford PCs have made good on an election promise to restore the northern Ontario train, running from Toronto to Cochrane. The Tories are spending $140 million for three brand new train sets, each of which will have an engine and three passenger cars. Trips both ways will be overnight and begin in 2026. Some of the 16 stations along the way will have to be refurbished or rebuilt. There will also be WiFi and charging stations on board the "state of the art" coaches, the company says. - 10/3/24

Toronto area toll road Highway 407 rates up

Those trying to avoid mass backups on Hwy 401 by taking toll road 407 around Toronto will have to fork out more money this year. The increase marks the end of a four-year freeze, which began at the outset of the Covid crisis. The new rates began yesterday. The increases are from one to 11 cents per kilometre depending on time of day and the number of zones travelled; there are four zones. Prior to Covid tolls were previously updated yearly. – 2/2/24

YQG's bar IS back

While Windsor International Airport’s aka YQG (Your Quick Gateway) food concession reopened earlier in 2023, after being closed during the pandemic and afterwards while the airport tried to find a new operator, the bar also opened over the past year. However, it may seem closed a lot of the time. Said airport manager Mark Galvin, “The bar operates when there is enough traffic to support the opening - usually when a large carrier (Sunwing etc.) is flying out with a larger number of passengers.” – 18/1/24

Photo: Google Street View

DT Detroit express to Metro airport? Now that's an idea

An express bus from downtown Detroit to Metro airport? Now that’s an idea whose time may definitely have come. The Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan, which represents several Detroit area transit agencies, will hold a hearing Jan. 9, 5-7 pm at SEMCOG’s offices, 1001 Woodward Ave., Suite 1400. A virtual hearing will also be held Jan. 10, 10 am – 12 noon but register online first to join the webinar. Public comments can also be made through Jan. 17 by email at info@rtamichigan.org. – 3/1/24

Photo: RTA

Airport plans $67K to aid hearing impaired

Passengers with hearing aids could be assisted at Windsor International Airport with the installation of a $67,000 “hearing loop” device at the check-in and pre-board counters. The system is already in place at airports in Toronto and Vancouver and “it will work with anyone with a hearing aid with a t-coil inside.” The technology requires removal of the carpet, installing a cooper wire and install of counter units. The city’s accessibility advisory committee voted in favor with one member, Surendra Bagga, against. – 4/12/23

More money for Indigenous tourism

The province has announced $300,000 for Indigenous tourism including “cultural authenticity workshops.” According to minister Neil Lumsden it will provide “meaningful opportunities” for native communities “to showcase their deep-rooted, diverse cultures.” The funding will support Indigenous arts, culture and tradition, “while bringing people together, boosting the local economy and allowing visitors to celebrate our province’s broad cultural landscape.” It’s part of $1.6 million announced since 2018. – 28/11/23

Via Rail upgrading to new booking system

You’ll have problems this coming weekend if you want to book a train ticket on Via Rail. The company’s reservation system will be down from 7 pm Friday Nov. 17 to 5 pm Saturday Nov. 18 as the railway upgrades to a new reservation system. “As customers will not be able to reserve, modify or cancel their reservations during this system interruption, we strongly encourage passengers to book and plan their trips in advance,” Via says. Train operations will not be affected and reservations made prior to the interruption remain valid. But you won’t be able to cancel or modify trips nor board a train if you didn’t purchase a ticket beforehand. - `13/11/23

It's expedient: Air Miles hooks up with Expedia

Air Miles, now owned by Bank of Montreal, has hooked up with the travel booking site Expedia, to offer clients direct access to Expedia’s 700,000 hotels and vacation rentals worldwide. This is the latest improvement in Air Miles offerings since BMO bought the rewards plan earlier this year. Among other things, it wanted to give customers new ways to add and redeem points or “miles.” The plan has almost 10 million active collector accounts in Canada. – 30/10/23

HOV comes to Mich

Coming to I-75 – Michigan’s first HOV or High Occupancy Vehicle lanes. The State House has given approval for the lanes on a busy section of the freeway in southern Oakland County. The legislation would allow any vehicle with more than one individual or buses to use the lane during specified times such as rush hour. The idea is to encourage carpooling or ride shares and otherwise reduce congestion and emissions. Michigan joins 19 other states with HOV lanes. – 13/10/23

Detroit Metro Airport ranks number one

Detroit Metro Airport has scored number one in the “mega” airport category with users, according to a JD Power survey. The 2023 North America Airport Satisfaction Study looked at six factors: terminal facilities, arrivals and departures, baggage claim, security check, check-in and baggage check, and shopping for food, beverages and retail. The survey was conducted among almost 30,000 US and Canadian travellers flying through US airports. Tampa ranked number one in the large airport category and Indianapolis took top honour in the medium airport group. – 22/9/23

Google Flights adds to its trip plan toolbox

Google Flights now offers a “cheapest time to book” feature. It joins similar notifications from booking services like Kayak’s “Price Forecast” and “Best time to travel” tools and Hopper’s “Price Prediction.” But it’s useful when added to Google’s other aids such as its pricing calendar and graph and the “any dates” tracking feature. That sends notices when the fare price drops lower than the usual fare over the next three to six months, offering Google users a kind of one stop toolbox. – 8/9/23

Travel insurance - especially for when you're connecting

Travel insurance is especially important if the traveller has knock on travel itineraries. It’s one thing to travel from point A to B if you are only staying in one place during your vacation. But if your flight needs to connect to a package tour or a cruise, and there is a delay or cancellation, you could lose big money. “Bigger, more elaborate trips such as packaged events, reserved experiences and excursions or cruises, in which a flight cancellation or other delays could significantly impact whether or not a traveler can take part, will certainly be costly in terms of losses,” Steven Harris of LowestRates.ca says. By choosing to forego travel insurance, you are opening yourself up to large losses that won't likely be refundable." - 24/8/23

Presto! You can use credit & debit on TTC

Heading to Toronto? You no longer have to line up to buy tickets or tokens – or even Presto smartcards – for Toronto’s transit system the TTC. The system will now allow passengers to simply use their debit or credit cards. Toronto trailed other GTA transit systems using this form of purchase, common in other parts of the world. Some 8700 payment machines had to be converted to accept the cards. – 11/8/23

Heading to Europe next year? Not quite so fast

Get ready for another layer of bureaucracy when travelling abroad. Starting next January people travelling to Europe will have to buy an ETIAS electronic visa before being allowed to set foot in the 30 country European Union. ETIAS stands for EU Travel Information & Authorization System. You’ll need the visa, which reportedly is easy to order online from the official ETIAS website and doesn’t cost much, to be allowed on a plane to fly across the great pond. The price is seven Euros or just over $10 CAD. – 25/7/23

State stonewalling on Pure Michigan finances - critic

Michigan’s iconic Pure Michigan tourist campaign, voiced by Michigan actor Tim Allen, for too long has been kept under wraps as to its economic effectiveness, according to a Michigan public policy think tank. Michael LaFaive of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy says his organization for years has been stonewalled by Pure Michigan’s parent the Michigan Economic Development Corp. as to the bang for the buck the campaign gets. “Taxpayers who have spent $450 million on Pure Michigan deserve some straight answers about what they get in return,” he writes. This spring the state announced the program would be rebranded with new music and a new actor. – 10/7/23

"Business as usual" for Windsor's Sunwing ops

The acquisition of Sunwing Airlines by WestJet won’t disrupt Sunwing flights out of Windsor. Sunwing’s website, still operating separately, shows Windsor flights this winter to three destinations in Cuba and one in Mexico. The airline won’t be “integrating” into WestJet’s fleet until next year anyway and otherwise it’s “business as usual,” WestJet said in a release. “Sunwing customers will continue to interact with and book through Sunwing Vacations as they have been doing for years, on their website at sunwing.ca, through the Sunwing app, by contacting the Sunwing Sales Centre or through their trusted local travel advisors.” – 26/6/23