Why QLine may be more of a headache than a transportation convenience

Some public buses may be squeezed off of Woodward to give more room to the QLine.

Some public buses may be squeezed off of Woodward to give more room to the QLine.

The $179.4 million project to add streetcars to Woodward was billed as “an unprecedented public-private partnership” that would vastly improve transportation in greater downtown Detroit.

But as crews get closer to finishing the QLine, it has become increasingly clear that the streetcars may cause more headaches than solutions and may benefit visitors at the cost of resident who rely on buses.

Despite repeated claims that buses would “co-exist” with streetcars, Motor City Muckraker learned Tuesday that some public buses may be squeezed off of Woodward by the rail system, a 3.3-mile loop from downtown to New Center.

“We don’t have a set plan because we have to get more direction from QLine,” said Detroit Department of Transportation spokeswoman SuVon Treece. “Even if we have to jump over to Cass, there still would be (bus)  service.”

The QLine also may bump new bus rapid transit lines from Woodward. In 2011, the U.S Department of Transportation stopped supporting the streetcars in favor of more practical bus rapid transit lines, which would send 70 speedy buses up and down Woodward, Gratiot and Michigan avenues.

Nevertheless, DDOT approved $37.2 million in federal funding for QLine. The rest was privately funded.

The QLine, which also was billed as a faster alternative to buses, was supposed to shuttle passengers from New Center to downtown in 8 to 12 minutes. Officials now concede the ride will take more than twice as long.

“Run time is expected at approximately 25 minutes from Grand Boulevard to Congress,” QLine spokesman Dan Lijana said.

That’s roughly the same time it takes a bus, which has more stops than the QLine.

The problem is that long stretches of the QLine are on the curbside lanes. Buses and bicyclists would be competing for the space. So if a streetcar was behind a bus or bike, it would not be able to pass until the track diverges.

Transit experts encouraged officials to use the middle lanes for streetcars, which was the case when Detroit used them decades ago. But QLine officials rejected the plan, saying it wasn’t safe for riders.

Adding street cars also is going to eliminate a lot of street parking and will contribute to traffic snarls on Woodward, creating a bigger demand for parking structures.

All of this should come as no surprise. The QLine Board of Directors is led by two billionaires – Dan Gilbert and Roger Penske. The president and CEO of the QLine is Matthew P. Cullen, who happens to be the CEO of Gilbert’s Rock Ventures.

Gilbert owns more than 80 buildings in downtown Detroit, has a stake in nearly 20,000 parking spaces and is embarking on a major housing project in Brush Park, which borders the QLine.

Lijana defended the system and said QLine officials continue “working cooperatively with all transit entities, DDOT included, to ensure all modes and operations complement each other effectively. We are working with DDOT on station locations on Woodward and continue a productive dialogue.”

The QLine was scheduled to be complete this fall but was delayed. It’s now expected to be operating in the spring of 2017.

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.

  • Steve

    You mean to say that adding a passenger street car/rail line to Woodward will reduce the number of passenger buses on Woodward? That’s outrageous

  • JohnJoslin

    Removing normal Woodward buses from the Q-line route will be done to eliminate a speedier alternative… Essentially to clumsily hide the fact that the Q-line option is v-e-r-y SLOW.
    Pathetic and terrible public policy.

  • JohnJoslin

    Removing normal Woodward buses from the Q-line route will be done to eliminate a speedier alternative… Essentially to clumsily hide the fact that the Q-line option is v-e-r-y SLOW.
    Pathetic and terrible public policy.

  • JohnJoslin

    Yup. Unfortunately it is a dog. It would only work if it had human operators, or ,even better, was up in the air so it could pick up some speed.
    As far as the value of relying on a driver ( rather than a bank of sensors…) EVERY bus rider knows that when a bus driver notices nobody waiting @ the next stop..she picks up speed in response!

    As far as the betting pool… At least 4 T-Bone collisions ( streetcar gets smacked) in first 3 days.
    – JJoslin(Detroit)

  • Alexbensky

    Eindhoven and Haifa, among other cities, have implemented dedicated busways. They have found that with articulated buses the busway can handle a passenger load at least similar to light rail (and we need to remember that “light rail” is a very technical term here). And of course, busways are much cheaper to build and much cheaper to take out if circumstances change.

    But you know, all the cool cities have rail lines.

  • Circa53

    Just another bad Deeetroit joke..

  • Circa53

    Just another bad Deeetroit joke..

  • Charles

    25 minutes? If you factor in the time spent waiting for the thing you could walk it just as fast. And they still don’t know what a trip will cost.

  • Charles

    25 minutes? If you factor in the time spent waiting for the thing you could walk it just as fast. And they still don’t know what a trip will cost.

  • banmar

    My experience with light rail has been on tracks that are off-street, like passenger rail, and therefore aren’t subject to streetlights and traffic, and because of that, they can go pretty quickly between stops.

    I remember riding the street cars in Philadelphia back when they were still in use. They were picturesque and nostalgic of another time, but if someone double-parked or traffic was backed up while waiting to make right turns, you were stuck. Buses are faster and more flexible for the commuter. The Q Line is totally a vanity project for downtown developers.

  • Andrew Hensley

    Not too difficult to “do the math” or put the pieces here. Same brand of Detroit corruption, just different faces/names. Let’s ignore all the suggestions that make sense and instead do it in such a way that will make no sense; except the billionare buddies who benefit from each other doing the wrong thing for the public. Love it.

  • Bus must to working 24/365

  • imara hyman

    On my way to Woodward this morning to catch a bus, I saw a bus going down John R. I thought to myself…shades of things to come.

  • Tom

    A broken toy
    “Catch the Q-LINE to Quickenville”
    Not quickly though…….

  • Tom

    A broken toy
    “Catch the Q-LINE to Quickenville”
    Not quickly though…….

  • deedeemc

    Will the buses and street cars be in the same lane? That makes no sense?

    • javierjuanmanuel

      yes

  • Aragorn Steiger

    The Kresge Foundation, a major backer of the project, considered it to be an economic development tool first, not a transit line. Public-Private Partnerships fail to serve the people because the needs of the masses are held hostage by the interests of corporations and the extremely wealthy. Please vote to pass the RTA millage. Bus rapid transit can and likely would still be run down Woodward as well as down other major arteries. Without a regional authority we will continue to be impacted by poor spotty transit decisions.

    • javierjuanmanuel

      its not a high rise in manhattan, or even the river in detroit. Its a bus. People with money will have a car.

      So explain when they are not making money, and mostly poorer and middle income people use it, how it would be held hostage by the wealthy.

      I mean I do not like it because per mile, or per passenger per mile the costs are crazy.

      • Aragorn Steiger

        Gilbert, and Ilitch, stand to make a lot of money as the areas where they own real estate increase in value. The people that own real estate near the line will profit from it. If the needs of the people were the primary focus then the rail would be center running for speedier service, it would connect to the transit center downtown, and it would be designed so that it could be extended thus increasing the potential value over time. Private interests are funding it because it will increase the values of their holdings. The $25M of federal money being spent would be put to better use buying buses, or improving interconnectivity between SMART and DDOT. The line itself is not hostage. The interests of the tax payer that ultimately spent millions on the line were held hostage because without private funding sensible and effective transit could not be implemented. This is a huge infrastructure project, it should have been designed to make sense in a broader transit context, instead it is being implemented with as little investment as possible as a means to boost the downtown and midtown areas.

  • maggiemay

    Never really understood the purpose of the Q-line. Seems like it’s just a way to shuttle partiers between downtown and midtown, sort of like the GP Trolley, but a lot more expensive and disruptive.

    • PeachPie

      Well. You understand.

  • dirtydog1776

    Another People Mover debacle in the making. Hooray for pork barrel!

  • dirtydog1776

    Another People Mover debacle in the making. Hooray for pork barrel!

  • Michael Dakoske

    The Q-line is a shuttle bus meant to convenience and maximize the profits and interests of the builders.

    The Q-line will function exactly as intended.

    • dirtydog1776

      It’s a government subsidized monopoly that benefits the friends of the ruling elite at the expense of the common citizen. No competition, heavy regulation, contracts awarded on basis of political connections, inefficient, heavily subsidized…….what could possibly go wrong?

    • dirtydog1776

      It’s a government subsidized monopoly that benefits the friends of the ruling elite at the expense of the common citizen. No competition, heavy regulation, contracts awarded on basis of political connections, inefficient, heavily subsidized…….what could possibly go wrong?

    • imara hyman

      if you mean dysfunctionally…you’re right.

    • Jessica Lau

      no one rides a bus anyway

    • Jessica Lau

      no one rides a bus anyway

  • Chester Marx

    The streetcar history in Mich would make a great book. Remember riding the Gratiot streetcar, and went to a history lecture about the interurban, which apparently went even further than the streetcar lines. But the Q looked like an overpriced mess from the get go, kinda in the same vein as the peoplemover.

  • CJ

    I love the idea of bringing back streetcars to Detroit but I’ve been following the progress of the line’s construction and it really worries me that someone could have an accident the way the track weaves in and out of lanes. By the Fox theatre and North of 94 the cars won’t run along the outside lanes and in ceartan areas the streetcars must change lanes to continue and to me this is just asking for a traffic acident. Frankly M1 is very poorly designed.

    • nolimitdetroiter

      And when that accident does happen, the entire route will be down for days.

    • javierjuanmanuel

      How about just having well kept, clean buses that run on time, and do that for about 10 years and then see how that falls short.

  • Donald E. Hodge

    This Could be a good idea if they just take it all the way. Cars down Woodward, and Cars down Grand river and cars down perhaps fort street and or Michigan Ave. This could be done to benefit the people who live ,work and play in the motor city. Why does everything have to be done half assed anymore. For Christ sake, can`t anybody just do the right thing anymore? Fuckin Rich people. Do it, Or Don`t do it! But get it Right!

  • “The QLine, which also was billed as a faster alternative to buses, was supposed to shuttle passengers from New Center to downtown in 8 to 12 minutes. Officials now concede the ride will take more than twice as long”

    How long does it take to ride the bus from New Center to downtown? That bit of information is sort of key to pevaluating the thesis of this news story yet it is missing.

    • karpodiem

      +1

    • Mike

      As a frequent DDOT rider, I would say that route prior to construction took about 10-15 mins, depending the number of riders and stops on/off along the way.

      • Skepticon

        Even with construction, it takes me about 15 minutes to get from Kirby to Larned on the DDOT bus.

    • imara hyman

      I can get from Warren to the Fairgrounds in 22 minutes in the morning.

    • javierjuanmanuel

      its like the train in cali, it was supposed to go from one end to the next cost something modest like 12 billion, now it cut off the tops, it might stop terminate in an onion field, it may not go through the mountains as promised, it will cost maybe 4-10 times as much, and speed will be greatly reduced.

  • SirCoffeeaLot

    “Run time is expected at approximately 25 minutes from Grand Boulevard to Congress,” QLine spokesman Dan Lijana said.

    And that’s not much faster than walking or alternatively around 10-15 minutes by bicycle.

    • Those time estimates don’t seem correct. The distance from New Center to Congress is 3.5 miles. Standard walking speed is 3.1 mph. Google maps estimates the walk time down Woodward from New Center to Congress at 1 hour and 11 mins. Bike time at 23 mins. So riding the street car would be far faster than walking but about the same as biking, minus the hastle and annoyance of having to ride a bike.

      • Skepticon

        I commute by bike daily from Kirby to Larned. On average it takes me between 10 and 15 minutes. If I was to go directly down woodward from Grand Blvd to Congress, it would probably be a 15-20 minute ride. I much prefer this to the bus which takes about 15 minutes plus walking to and from stops and waiting. It seems like the QLine might be the worst of my options, unless it causes the buses to be slower.

        • javierjuanmanuel

          What do you do in the winter, or if it is raining sideways?

          • Skepticon

            I rode all winter long. Inevitably there will be days when it’s just too cold, snowing or raining too hard. On those days I take the bus. It does exactly what the QLine will do, except it’s not stuck on rails, is able to change lanes, take flexible alternate routes, and extend much farther. Bus Rapid Transit would have made so much more sense. It could have been up and running by now, cost much less and easily gone all the way to Royal Oak.

          • I have a romantic attachment to trains and light rail but I think your probably right about bus rapid transit. Does any body know what if any negatives are associated with a bus rapid transit system?

          • Skepticon

            http://www.mapc.org/sites/default/files/BRTvsLRT.pdf

            I think it’s mostly psychological and the public perception. Money might be better spent informing people of the benefits rather than spending much more on transit system based it’s image only.

          • javierjuanmanuel

            Well most are not electric, most are diesel. There are hybrid buses, there could be all electric buses, their are buses that use overhead electric lines like a street car.

            SF has muni trolleys, trolley buses, or trackless trolleys.

            Not sure if they are cool enough for the hipsters. They want to put trains on social media, to show friends in DC, NY, london etc how cool they are.

            SF does it though, that should be good enough for the hipsters, but they are so illogical

            https://www.sfmta.com/about-sfmta/our-history-and-fleet/sfmta-fleet/muni-trolley-electric-coaches

          • javierjuanmanuel

            I am a supporter of expanded buses, adding buses, hybrid buses, electric buses. Buses have low start up, you can change the routes. I do not know why all the hipsters think we need to spend 2 billion bucks to get a slow train going down one or two roads.

            LOL do they think people with low income jobs are going to take a taxi to get to the train?

            Walk 8-10 miles?

            Walk any where after working a 12 hour day ?

      • javierjuanmanuel

        I like how you completely ignored cost.

        • Good point. I was focused on the travel time part. I don’t know much will the QLine cost to ride vs current bus fare. And bikes win on the cost front, I’d think.

          • javierjuanmanuel

            The attitude of the builders, city leaders, and new hipster 20 somethings is its cool, we should want it, we need it, look that city in europe or asia has one.

            They think they are super educated and very successful, but from what I can tell few can tell the difference between 100 million and 2 trillion. Anything over 50 million bucks is just a lot, or nothing, depending on if they like the cause.

    • javierjuanmanuel

      Yeah but you can tell your friends in dc, ny, chicago, etc how cool you are now

  • Third World Detroit

    Next, our elected and appointed will be arranging for police resources to guard the customers on the train ride amusement and at each stop. More police will be diverted from the neighborhood killing fields to further enhance New Detroit’s urban experience in the Emerald City.

  • Third World Detroit

    Next, our elected and appointed will be arranging for police resources to guard the customers on the train ride amusement and at each stop. More police will be diverted from the neighborhood killing fields to further enhance New Detroit’s urban experience in the Emerald City.

    • javierjuanmanuel

      Cops cant stop and do not want to stop murders. They want overtime investigating them.

      Now when they do not even investigate, that is a real problem, they cannot and do not even want to try to stop them (not sure how they would even do it)

      • Third World Detroit

        Policing sure does seem to work in downtown and Midtown.

        • javierjuanmanuel

          Well enough presence works, how do you think towns right by detroit like GP, or dearborn do not have the exact same crime that exists right across the street.

          GP shores is a mile from detroit, and is maybe the safest place in michigan.

          With enough cops you can do a lot, but its not stoping crime, junkies still need money, they just go three or four miles up the road in detroit and smash and grab a purse. Shifting crime, is not reducing crime.

  • JohnWinger

    What’s the over/under on how long it takes before a streetcar hits a car. Double payoff for being an uninsured Detroiter.

    • Dave Gifford

      I’ve been following the new Kansas City Streetcar and in its first few months derailed, hit a parked car and had a car run into it. Bound to happen.

    • disqus_vhLozcit3f

      It will be the first day. Given the traffic engineering on this shit show, with only six cars, they’ll have to shut the line down within a month because all of the cars are going to be in the shop for repairs because cars will have run into them.

      • Klann Killa

        Agreed 100%. Nothing more than your typical “dog, and pony show.”

      • MickinDetroit

        Not for nothing,but Detroit is hardly the first place in the entire human history of the world to use street cars and cars on the same grade. We’ll figure it out…..

    • MickinDetroit

      how many buses hit cars?

    • Donald E. Hodge

      John, are we talken bets?

    • Donald E. Hodge

      John, are we talken bets?

    • Jessica Lau

      union built – so probably first day

    • Jessica Lau

      union built – so probably first day

  • JohnWinger

    What’s the over/under on how long it takes before a streetcar hits a car. Double payoff for being an uninsured Detroiter.