QLine, free all week, now moving weekday workers

James David Dickson
The Detroit News

Detroit — Lisa King, 43, would’ve normally ridden the bus.

She entered the QLine at the Montcalm station, repositioned an upright seat to sit in it, but it snapped back before she could.

That was the only hiccup she experienced in a brief, smooth ride to the Canfield station Monday morning. She and other passengers will be able to travel the 6.6-mile round-trip route for free through May 21.

A relative rarity among Metro Detroiters, King owns no car, says she doesn’t need one to get from downtown, where she lives, to Midtown Zef’s, the coney restaurant where she works as a waitress.

Monday was the first time King could get aboard the streetcar, which opened to the public Friday and was jam-packed all weekend.

King didn’t just ride the QLine on Monday because it was new, but to see if it could be a viable replacement for the bus she would normally take. At one point, at the MLK/Mack stop, as she sat while a bus whizzed by, she worried if she’d made the right choice.

“I worry about whether there’s a set schedule,” for the QLine, she said.

There was a schedule. And it was on schedule, completing its northbound route from Woodward and Congress to Woodward and Grand Boulevard in about 25 minutes.

King hasn’t had a car for the last eight years, unable to afford a replacement when her car was totaled. She moved downtown from Warrendale about five years ago, for love. But her stay downtown outlasted the marriage.

A self-proclaimed “online shopping queen,” who has squared the circle of carless downtown living by having groceries sent to her apartment, King said she finds the streetcar nice, but that newer Detroit buses are also nice on the inside.

After eight years of being carless, she has adjusted.

“I thought I was going to die at first, but I’ve gotten used to it,” she said.

After a brief ride, King arrived at the Canfield stop and backtracked south to her final destination.

King said before exiting: “it’s actually perfect timing.”

Kyle Lydy, 25, works as an accountant in the Renaissance Center. Monday, he left his car at home in favor of the QLine. If the experiment works, he may do so on a regular basis.

Describing his first ride as a “trial run,” Lydy said “it’d be nice not driving my car downtown” from The Park Shelton in Midtown. The walk from the end of the line, at Congress, to the RenCen, might be the deciding factor.

Parking in a downtown structure has cost him as much as $190 per month, though he found a lot that dropped that cost to $50. But even at that price, he said, the QLine would be cheaper.

Cost is but one factor. Weather is another. While Monday morning was a sunny 45 degrees, not even requiring Lydy to wear a jacket, and could get as high as 70 degrees, the Michigan winter is coming.

“If it was freezing cold, (the walk to come) would not be as welcome,” Lydy said.

Max Petersen, 30, works in audio visual for Quicken Loans — the sponsor that put the “Q” in QLine.

Petersen lives in the Belcrest Apartments in Midtown. Like King, Petersen does not have a car, relying until recently on a shuttle.

“It’s very expensive to have a car in Detroit because of insurance,” Petersen said. “I really hope it works.”

He took the QLine home “kinda successfully” on Friday, its first day of operations, but there were too many riders and delays.

Beyond hope that the streetcar works, Petersen said he’s hopeful the line will expand north beyond Midtown, that it eventually grows to reach “more than who it’s meant for.”

When the northbound route ended, streetcar operator Stewart Marcus, 57, swept the car looking for trash and left-behind items for the lost and found. Then he moved from the cockpit at the north end of the streetcar to the one at the south end.

In 20 minutes he’d be back on the road, headed downtown.