The QLine streetcar system in Detroit had its first mishap since testing began months ago.
A northbound streetcar on Woodward shed a piece of exterior paneling while traveling past the Detroit Symphony Orchestra during a routine test run around 8 a.m. Saturday.
Alex Juchelka told the Detroit Free Press that he was riding his bike when he saw a 2-foot by 2-foot panel fall from above the streetcar driver’s window and land on Woodward. Apparently unaware of what happened, the streetcar driver continued north without stopping.
Since the QLine averages just 7 mph, Juchelka was able to catch up to the streetcar and alert the driver about the fallen panel.
QLine officials blamed the problem on a third-party vendor that did not properly secure the panel.
The long-awaited QLine is scheduled to open to the public on Friday. Transit leaders are projecting a daily ridership of 5,000 to 8,000 people.
Despite the minor mishap, the QLine has encountered only a few minor problems, performing better than most of the nine cities that launched modern streetcars since 2013.
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In Atlanta, Cincinnati and Washington D.C., each streetcar system averaged 10 accidents during the testing phases. In separate incidents, a streetcar and overhead wire caught fire in Washington D.C.
So far, the QLine has not been involved in any accidents and has only encountered one or two minor mechanical issues.
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One of the most common problems is illegally parked cars blocking the track.
Check out our multiple-part investigation of the QLine and nation’s modern streetcar systems:
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- Part 1: Streetcar revival derailed by host of shortcomings, dangers
- Part 2: Failing Dallas streetcars are red flags for Detroit’s QLine
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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.