Crain’s Detroit Business
Author: Bill Shea
Backers of the QLine say they’ll announce within a few weeks when the streetcars will begin moving passengers along Detroit’s Woodward Avenue.
It’s been expected for some time that the streetcars, which have been running tests along the route, will launch formal service in April after the Detroit Tigers begin their season — barring any problems during the testing process. The launch will formally mark the end of a decade of work to develop, fund and build the line.
“We are going through a very thorough training and testing program. It’s always been our expectation to start operations at some point after Opening Day and we remain on track to do that. A launch date isn’t expected to come for a few more weeks, but streetcars will be on the road nearly every day from now until passenger operations,” QLine spokesman Dan Lijana said via email.
The reddish-orange and white streetcars began test runs in December along the 6.6-mile Woodward loop, and about 1,000 federal and state checks will have to pass muster before service is authorized to begin. Construction of the line’s 20 stations will be 95 percent done by the end of March, Lijana said.
Matt Cullen, CEO of the nonprofit M-1 Rail that operates the QLine, told Crain’s at that time he’d prefer to not start passenger service close to Opening Day for the Tigers, when downtown is a mass of fans. The team begins the 2017 season at Comerica Park on April 7, and Cullen said ideally service will begin — and any early quirks worked out — while the Tigers are on the road. The Tigers are at Minnesota April 11-13, and then gone again April 17-23, so those are possible windows for service to begin.
In the meantime, M-1 Rail has launched a public education program for pedestrians and motorists to share Woodward with streetcars. A safety video is being circulated and the next seminar is Thursday.
The $142 million streetcar system, which runs between Grand Boulevard and Larned Street, is being paid for with a mix of public and private funding. The line, powered by a mix of overhead electrical power lines and batteries in the streetcars, operates out of the Penske Technical Center in the New Center area.
The six-car system is expected to operate as a pair of two-car trains during regular operations, with the other two cars as backups or for use during especially busy times downtown. Fewer cars may operate during off-peak hours. They’re manufactured by Brookville, Pa.-based Brookville Equipment Corp., which signed a $32 million contract in May 2015 with M-Rail for the streetcars, spare parts and support services. The first streetcar was delivered in September, and delivery of the final two is expected soon, Lijana said.
The three-piece articulated cars are 66 feet long and able to carry 125 passengers on average. There are 34 cloth seats along with a slew of loop handles for standing, mostly in the center portion of the streetcars, which are lower at either end. They’re air-conditioned, heated and come equipped with bike racks and Wi-Fi. Passengers enter from grade-level station platforms, and each side of the streetcars has two large sliding doors.
For safety, there are six internal cameras whose footage is recorded, and four exterior cameras used by the driver as navigation aids. They also are equipped with “black boxes” similar to what’s found on airliners. There are enclosed driver modules on either end of the car. The operators will have a central digital screen that displays information about the status of the cars, a radio, horns and the usual controls equipped on transit vehicles.
Digital crawl marquees on either end of the car will be used to list the upcoming station along the rail line. The stop names also will be broadcast inside the car, as is done on the Detroit People Mover.
The system, which is intended to be handed over to the regional transit authority in coming years, will be operated by Lombard, Ill.-based Transdev Services Inc., a private transportation management firm, under a five-year, $15.5 million contract signed in 2016.
Base fares will be $1.50 and end-to-end rides are predicted to take 22-25 minutes. There are 20 stations, which will be heated and branded for the system’s various corporate financial backers. M-1 estimates 5,000-8,000 riders per day. Hours will be 6 a.m.-11 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 6 a.m.-midnight Friday; 8 a.m.-midnight Saturday; and 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday. Those could be adjusted after service begins and M-1 Rail has data on passenger usage, Cullen said.
Detroit’s last streetcar system ended service in April 1956, and M-1 Rail’s QLine service has taken 10 years to develop, plan, fund and launch.
Article Originally posted on: Crain’s Detroit Business