Detroit First Streetcar Line, 61 years after been removed from service

June 06, 2017     By Drum118

April 8, 1956 was the last day a streetcar ran on Woodward Ave in Detroit, MI that had a population of 1.8 million in 1950. Detroit had the 2nd largest system after New York City with a streetcar system having 700 cars in service daily running to all parts of the city. This was the start of the decline for the city to where it is today as well lack of transit with the removal of the streetcar system.

The population of Detroit was 677,116 in 2015, with the city supposed losing another 5,000 residents in 2016.

On May 12, 2017, 61 years later, the QLine own by M-1 Rail, a consortium of private and public businesses and institutions in the region, open a new 3.3-mile streetcar line at a cost about $200 million on Woodward Ave running from Congress Street in the south end of Downtown Detroit to Grand Boulevard to the north and short of the original plan to 8 Mile due to lack of funds. The official opening took place at Grand Circus Park about 10:30 am by the Mayor of Detroit, Governor of Michigan and other VIP. They rode LRV 288 to Congress Station.

The QLine line runs in the centre of the road for Woodward Ave starting a block north of Grand Boulevard Station that has 3 stations in this section to Amsterdam Street station that is just south of the railway overpass. Amsterdam Street station which is the last Centre station going south and where the line moves from the centre to the road to the curb lane. It is also a power charging station with longer power bar for charging the batteries for some unknown reason.

[Photo] Detroit MI QLine Tracks The Night Before Officially Opening To The Public  The QLine runs in mix traffic except at Congress Street Station, Adelaide Street Station on Woodward Ave in the northbound lane and the charging station by M-1 Rail Penske Center.


[Photo] Detroit QLine LRV 290 At Grand Circus Station Southbound On Woodward Ave First Day Of Service  There are 8 stations on each side of the road.


[Photo] Detroit Traffic Lights To Allow The QLine LRV's To Go Southbound On Woodward Ave By The Penske Tech Center  The line uses the bar signal so car drivers aren't confused who is to do what compare to some systems who use green & red arrow traffic lights.


[Photo] QLine LRV  The QLine Light Rail Vehicles (LRV) where built by Brockville Equipment Corp call Liberty bidirectional that measure 66 feet long as a 3 section car. There are 34-38 seats on the LRV and are supposed to carry 114 riders including the operator.

The centre section is low floor for about 71% of the car that has 4 spots mark on the floor for wheelchairs with bumper pads on the wall for riders to lean against if the spot is not occupy by a wheelchair [a photo] for Wheelchair. There is no tie down for the wheelchairs. There are 2 areas for bikes to be hang from an overhead hock. These areas also have 2 flip down seats for riders to use if no bikes are hanging.

There are poles at both doors on the centre section in the centre of the LRV for riders to hold on with a fare paying machine at one of them.

35% of the QLine has overhead for pantograph that is located between I-94 and I-75 only, with a small missing section. The rest of the line requires the new streetcars to run on 750V lithium batteries that are required to be charge at various stations up to 5 minutes. There is an charging station at each end that requires the pans to be raise as well the last south centre platform and a number along the line off wire. This is a major issue as it slows down the travel time for riders and add extra travel time.

Because of the extra charging require off wire between the ends and overhead, travel time is a lot slower than it should be.

Currently, the system has 6 LRV's, but only 5 are in service at any given time with the other being a spare. They are number 288 to 292 to pickup where the last number stop back in 1956.

Both ends have the driver compartment and a lot smaller than other LRV's with a window in the door that can be lower so people can look over the shoulder of the operator as well ask questions or the rear. The two ends of the LRV are high floor with only 17 seats. This means there is only 34-38 seats on the LRV, depending what is taking place in the centre section.

All the stations are the same except the platforms ends that various on the location where they are. One must have a sloping ramp to get to the centre section of the LRV. The shelter is an L shape that is open with a roof. The small end has an LED screen to advise the riders what time it is, when the next LRV is due and if there is problems on the line. The end of the long section has another LED screen for advertisement and other information. In the corner of the shelter is an overhead heater that is to blow hot air to the other end. As for seating, you have a long concrete block to sit on. There is railing along the full station on the sidewalk area with each end that has a ramp. At the bottom of the ramp is the station name on a sign that also has it in Braille for the visually impaired rider. There is a fare machine that allow users to pay for their fare with cash, credit card, passes and other approved cards. All the stations are lighted, but could be better.

As for fares, you can buy one-way trip, a 3-hour trip, a day pass or a monthly pass based on age.

At the Congress Station, the LRV's used the centre lane that is protected from traffic and part of a mall walkway that was still being finish off overnight Thursday night to be ready for Friday opening. This require the LRV to cross all lanes of traffic to get from/to the curb lanes. The LRV will sit there to do it power charging as well pickup riders.

After the LRV is off loaded at Grand Blvd, the car proceeds north a block to a charging station that is just north of a street where cars can make left hand turn at a traffic light using arrows, but cars run the red light most the time. It is also where the LRV switch to go south and have come close to hitting these illegal left hand turns.

In the downtown area, there is a crossover track from the northbound track going south to connect to the southbound track. North of I-75 you have the opposite direction, but it crossing 7 lanes of traffic compare to 4 in the downtown area.

[Photo] QLine LRV 287 Sitting In M-1 Rail QLine Penske Tech Center Carhouse Yard[Photo] Detroit M-1 Rail QLine Penske Tech Center Carhouse  The carhouse is located 2 block north of Grand Blvd at the M-1 Rail Penske Tech Center that can be seen on all 4 sides of it as well the yard from the street.


[Photo] M-1 Rail QLine LRV 288 & 292 Sitting In The Penske Center Carhouse  The public has a full view of work taking place on the LRV's in the carhouse as the window are large on the sidewalk on Woodward Ave as well the overhead doors. At nighttime, gates are places across the overhead doors inside. The yard is not well lighted at night, but can be seen from all 3 sides of it 7/24 with good shots of the LRV's. The LRV's are hookup when they are in the yard to keep the batteries fully charge.

Over the last number of years, Woodward Ave has been a war zone to the point both I-75 and I-94 had to be close to allow the old overpass to be torn down and rebuilt for the new Qline tracks.

What Detroit and the residents have gotten from this construction mess is a brand new street with all new underground utility that replace the old infrastructure that will not require any work on them for 50-75 years unless there is a problem, a new concrete road that replace the pot hole asphalt road as well new sidewalk in place of broken ones, new landscaping and upscale streetlight in place of the normal streetlight post that goes 1/4 to 1/2 mile north of the carhouse.

At the same time, the QLine has kick started the redevelopment of the downtown area that will take another decade or 3 to put life back into the downtown area so people can live, work and play 7/24 compare to the past.

[Photo] Downtown Detroit Buildings  The one thing going for the buildings in the downtown area compare to other cities, they have protected or devlopers willing to invest money in old and historical buildings that normally get torn down and replace by glass buildings with no charters. Some of those building who have undergone major restoration are now open as new retail at the base, office or residential above the retail and look a lot better than they did before.

There are many locations alone the QLine that still have run down empty buildings, buildings to need to be replace, as well empty lots where buildings used to exist. Even the retail areas are empty in many locations. Again, it will take decades to rebuild these areas as well bring people back to them to live and work there.

[Photo] Little Caesars Arena  In the north-west corner just north of I-75 on Woodward Ave is the new Little Caesars Arena schedule to open this fall with various buildings hiding it around it with residential that has retail at the base as well office space. There are new buildings being built just to the north as well.

Will this line make money is yet to be seen and will take a few years to generate the ridership since it will be a two fare system if you need to use another transit ride to get to/from where you want to go? There is no place in the Grand Blvd stop area where drivers can park their car and use the line to get to/from the downtown area. There is a large empty lot north of the stop for a parking lot or garage, but not good urban use.

Unless the state and the city invest more money to improve transit within the city and surround area, the QLine can only do so much to reverse the decline of the city as well getting people to use transit in place of the car.

Tag: Feature Articles     Transit 17-005