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.
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.
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:
- 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.