The Metro Times has compiled a detailed story indicating the QLine streetcars that travel along Woodward Avenue in Detroit have proven to be unreliable and unpopular in their first two years of service.

Metro Times reporter Steve Neavling, after interviewing officials, streetcar operators and riders – and at one point spending eight straight hours on one of the trolleys – reached these conclusions:

  • QLine leaders made a number of unrealistic predictions about ridership, convenience and reliability and have not yet succeeded in connecting the streetcars with buses or other regional transit as promised. As a result, the streetcars travel up and down the Woodward tracks for 3.3 miles from downtown to the New Center area, with little benefit to commuters.
  • The QLine is much slower than advertised, averaging 8.3 mph, and the streetcars are often delayed, blocked by illegally parked cars, emergency vehicles, fender-benders, snarled traffic or delivery trucks.
  • For the agency that operates the system, M-1 Rail, annual costs have ballooned to nearly $7 million, while the QLine is recovering less than 10 percent of its expenses from fares. Most of the funding comes from donations by corporations and foundations, though the plan calls for taxpayer subsidies by 2027.

Before its 2017 debut, M-1 Rail officials offered wildly exaggerated claims of 5,000 to 8,000 riders daily. Since the initial four months of free ridership ended in September 2017, according to The Metro Times daily QLine ridership has plummeted by 45 percent, to 3,000 riders per day.

Wait times for the QLine that were supposed to be minimal now average about 14 minutes. Projections that the streetcars would travel the entire route in 15 to 18 minutes were off by about 50 percent.

Worst of all, each streetcar, designed to hold 125 people, sometimes carries one to five people at a time on weekdays.


Photo: Steve Neavling/Metro Times