QLine streetcars on track to resume service in late summer

Candice Williams
The Detroit News
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The QLine, suspended for nearly a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is on track to resume passenger service in late summer, M-1 Rail officials said Monday. 

“The Qline helped rebuild the Woodward Corridor when it was launched, and its relaunch will be an integral part to help the Corridor return to vitality as we emerge from the pandemic,” M-1 Rail CEO Matt Cullen wrote in a report sent to donors Monday.

A QLine Detroit streetcar departs the Sproat Street station

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QLine service was suspended March 29 and a relaunch in late summer is pending COVID-19 virus containment and government guidance, Cullen said. Factors he said they'll consider include major employers announcing a return to offices along the route, retail and restaurants reopening without restriction, and the return of sporting and live performance events. 

"As activity along the Corridor returns to near-pandemic levels we are confident the demand for transit and the Qline will increase in corresponding numbers," Cullen said. 

M-1 Rall was awarded $1.3 million in CARES Act funding and expects to receive up to $15 million in funding over the next three years due to legislation passed in September that would result in a portion of surplus received from hotel and liquor taxes through the state convention facility development fund.

M-1 Rail has new leadership in Lisa Nuszkowski, who was appointed president of M-1 Rail in 2020, a title Cullen previously also held. Nuszkowski is founder and executive of nonprofit bike sharing system, MoGo. Karen Gordon also joined M-1 Rail as chief financial officer in 2020. 

Streetcars could travel along Woodward as early as this spring for operator training, testing and then a simulated service to meet the goal for streetcars to arrive every 15 minutes or less, said M-1 Rail spokesman Dan Lijana. 

Hiring for the relaunch has already begun for positions including operators, maintenance staff, safety and training staff and supervisors. Some employees will return to the QLine while others will be new hires, Lijana said. Training and public re-education will begin soon.

During the suspension the system has transitioned to a locally run and managed operation and undergone service improvements. It mutually agreed with Illinois-based Transdev NA to end its contract in November, Lijana said.. 

Officials said they are focusing on QLine streetcars arriving within 15 minutes and better addressing track obstructions such as non-street car traffic crashes along the route. The system also is addressing a long-term strategy to help alleviate congestion during special events.

Rip Rapson, president and CEO of the Kresge Foundation, said the relaunch is a fresh start for the QLine and "an opportunity to demonstrate the critical role that transit can play in our recovery from the pandemic."

The 3.3-mile streetcar line launched in May 2017. Daily average ridership was 3,011 in 2019, officials said.

cwilliams@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @CWilliams_DN

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