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Streetcars return to Motor City

First weekend service on Detroit’s QLine streetcar ‘far exceeded all expectations’, according to promoter M1-Rail. (Image courtesy: A. Grahl)

The 5.3km (3.3-mile) QLine streetcar loop along Detroit’s Woodward Avenue (US) opened to passengers on 12 May, ahead of a weekend of celebrations and free travel until 22 May.

The USD182m project has been developed by M1-Rail, a non-profit organisation formed in 2007 by a consortium of private sector partners who claim the line is ‘the first major transit project led and funded by private businesses and philanthropic organisations, in partnership with local, state and the federal government.’ USD37.2m in contributions have come through two TIGER federal grant programmes with additional funding from state and local sources.

The ten-year naming rights for the line were adopted by Quicken Loans (a major investor in M1-Rail) in a USD5m deal announced in 2016, assigning the name QLine. The 12 stops are sponsored and feature real-time passenger information, heating and CCTV.

Operations and maintenance are handled by Transdev from the new 1765m2 (19 000ft2) Penske Tech Center under a USD15.5m contract signed in July 2016. The initial five-year contract has an option for an additional five years.

Brookville Equipment Corporation has supplied six 20.3m Liberty streetcars under a USD32m order signed in 2015 that includes spares and servicing. The 70% low-floor three-section vehicles have capacity for 125 passengers (34 seated) and are fitted with lithium-ion batteries for catenary-free operation on around 60% of the route and a spur into the depot. High-speed Wi-Fi is provided both onboard the vehicles and at stops. All six streetcars were in operation on 12 May and five on 13 May.

A 20-minute service is offered between 06.00 and 23.00 Monday-Thursday, extended until midnight on Fridays, and 08.00-0.00 on Saturdays. Sunday services begin at 08.00 and end at 20.00. Increases in headways to 15 minutes are planned.

The city’s last streetcar service made its final journey along Woodward Avenue in April 1956.