Five Things We Bet You Didn’t Know About the QLine
From commuters saving on parking to students traveling up and down Woodward to tourists marveling at the beauty of Detroit’s architecture, Detroit’s new streetcar system, the QLine, is a hit.
By now you probably know that the line travels a 6.6-mile roundtrip loop starting north at Grand Boulevard and running south near the riverfront at Congress Street before heading back to Grand Boulevard. But were you aware that …
1. It’s Getting Better All the Time
Fine-tuning continues to make the QLine experience more efficient and enjoyable. The time it takes to ride the roundtrip [M1] loop has already been shaved by seven minutes, thanks in large part to a complex system of traffic signal coordination at key intersections. At Congress Street, Campus Martius, Montcalm Street and Burroughs[M2] Street, green lights are being extended or cycles are speeding up so an approaching QLine streetcar can cruise on through without having to idle at a red light. Traveling the entire line roundtrip takes just 31 minutes – and that includes the four minutes that each car spends at the Congress Street Station between trips.
2. Ridership Is Up – But Maybe Not When You’d Think
Ridership levels have exceeded expectations of 3,000 to 5,000 riders per day. During the week of July 17, the average was 6,300 trips – up considerably from 4,000 the week of June 12.
Interestingly enough, the QLine is most popular between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. That is the exact opposite of what many expected— that peak ridership would be during rush hour. Ridership is greatest between noon and 2 p.m., illustrating the fact that many people hop on the line during their lunch hour.
Also surprising is that the northernmost stop, Grand Boulevard, is the station most used by far. That supports the belief that many commuters are parking in that area and hopping on the QLine to get to work further south. (Not unexpectedly, Campus Martius and Congress are the second and third most popular stops.)
3. It’s a Bargain Compared to Parking
It costs just $1.50 for a three-hour QLine pass or $3 to ride all day. A yearly pass is only $285 – just 78 cents a day. Be prepared to fork out as much as $20 (and more during special events) to park your car in some of Detroit’s busiest neighborhoods like Downtown near Campus Martius. Sure, you can park at a meter – if you can find one – but better not miscalculate the time because a parking ticket costs $45. (And, if your car is towed, you’ll pay $215 at the very least to get it back. Just ask the owners of the 20,000 cars towed in 2015, according to the Detroit Police Department.)
Here's another sobering stat: Detroit drivers spend an average of 35 hours per year seeking a parking spot. That, according to a July report by Inrix Research, costs $731 in wasted time, fuel and emissions.
Want to park and ride? Qlinedetroit.com is a handy resource on where to do it.
4. It’s Spurred a Building Boom
Since 2013, more than $7 billion in new development has occurred, or is in the works along the QLine’s 6.6-mile route[M3] . The massive $863-million Little Caesars Arena – the new home of the Red Wings located a stone’s throw from Comerica Park and Ford Field -- is getting the lion’s share of attention (pun intended). Often overlooked, however, is the remarkable activity near the QLine’s northern stops.
In fact, $1 billion will be poured into the area north of I-94 known as New Center (west of Woodward) and the North End (east of Woodward). Of that, $142 million is complete, $723 million is under construction and $168 million is in the pipeline.
Among the notable projects are Third and Grand, a $53-million residential development, the first for the neighborhood in 30 years; and Baltimore Station, $7.5 million worth of retail shops and restaurants. These are among the ambitious undertakings of the Platform, the joint initiative of Peter Cummings and Dietrich Knoer (who recently bought the iconic Fisher Building) that aims to connect New Center, Midtown and downtown with commercial and residential developments.
Knoer, a relative newcomer to Michigan, has lived previously in Chicago, New York, Atlanta, Phoenix and London. “Detroit offers incredible opportunity and when I moved here four and a half years ago I don’t think I fully comprehended that,” he admitted. “I am very optimistic that this trend will continue. There is too much demographic support behind it not to.”
Over at the North End, $55.4 million of development is expected, with $9.4 million complete, $2 million under construction and $44 million in the pipeline. QLine operators have such faith in the neighborhood that they built their $8 million headquarters and garage, known as the Penske Tech Center, on Woodward between Bethune and Custer streets.
5. The Cars Are Pretty Cool
The sleek QLine cars were manufactured by Brookville Equipment Corporation’s Liberty Streetcar Division, which introduced its “modern streetcars” with off-wire capacity in 2012. The company employs nearly 300 at its Brookville, Pennsylvania plant. Securing the QLine contract helped it land orders from Dallas, Oklahoma City, Milwaukee and Tempe, Arizona, said Adam Mohney, the company’s marketing specialist.
“The QLine order helped us develop a stronger market position for our Liberty Streetcar, which we are hoping to turn into more and more jobs for the skilled craftsmen and engineers of western Pennsylvania,” said Mohney.
The streetcars weigh 87,000 pounds each and are 66 feet long, with seating for 30 and room for at least 125 people standing – more during peak periods. The cars are articulated, meaning they have a pivot joint so can turn more sharply. But they don’t turn around at the end of the route; they have an operator compartment at each end and the driver changes sides when heading north or south.
The QLine runs on batteries charged by overhead electrified wires. It’s so efficient that the streetcars spend 60 percent of their time running off line, which further reduces waiting times.
Want to know more or purchase your pass? Visit qlinedetroit.com.
This story is provided and presented by our sponsor QLine.
Members of the editorial and news staff of The Detroit News were not involved in the creation of this content.