Monday, July 27, 2009

Travel: The Fifty Cent Tour, For Real

"Transcending"--a monument to the labor movement by David Barr, was noted in Detroit's Hart Plaza from the People Mover on 27-July-2009. The buildings in the background are across the Detroit River in Windsor, Ontario.

TORONTO, ONTARIO - It has become an idiom in the English language that "fifty cent tour" means a guided tour of something, usually a town or some other physical space. However, while inflation might have made the original phrase "nickel tour" turn into a "fifty cent tour," the phrase hasn't kept pace in the 20th century. I was not aware of any tour that could be had for just fifty cents in all of North America, until I passed through Detroit, Michigan today.

A Detroit People Mover train approached the Renaissance Center station on 27-July-2009. All Detroit People Movers wore advertising schemes.

Detroit has a People Mover system, an elevated transit system running throughout its downtown core that opened in 1987. The system is familiar to those from Vancouver, British Columbia or Toronto, Ontario, as it is extremely similar to Vancouver's Skytrain and Toronto's Scarborough Rapid Transit. The Urban Transportation Development Corporation-built vehicles operate as an automated system in an almost three-mile loop around Detroit.

The scoreboard at Comerica Park, home of the baseball Detroit Tigers, and Ford Field, the home of the football Detroit Lions, were visible in the same view from the People Mover on 27-July-2009

While the system has thirteen stations in an approximate circle around the downtown area, it isn't widely patronized. Probably the largest problem is a lack of connecting transit--why park somewhere downtown and take the People Mover when one could just park closer to one's actual destination in the first place? The system runs at somewhere around 3% of its capacity, more a tourist curiosity than a real transportation system.

The main branch of the Detroit Library System was viewed from the People Mover on 27-July-2009

Indeed, when I boarded the People Mover today, only four people were on the car I boarded, and as I made one complete loop of the system, I was alone in the car for most of the journey. Yet, for a fare of only fifty cents, the People Mover was a great opportunity to quickly see central Detroit. The route offers views of historic buildings like the Wayne County Center, central library, and Old Mariner Church, sports stadiums like Comerica Park, Ford Field and the Joe Louis Arena, and architecture like the Renaissance Center and Rosa Parks Transit Center. It even offers views of the Detroit River and Windsor, Ontario on the other side.

The Ambassador Bridge connecting the United States and Canada, Michigan and Ontario, Detroit and Windsor was noted from the Detroit People Mover on 27-July-2009

The Detroit People Mover may not have proved to be a very useful system, but it does offer about the only real fifty cent tour in existence.

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