QLine streetcar temporarily shut down after hit-and-run crash

Qline at the northern start of the route on Woodward in New Center.

The QLine streetcar system was temporarily shut down Tuesday morning after a car being pursued by police crashed into a QLine power box on Woodward in Detroiit’s New Center.

Shortly before 10 a.m., the car hit a Highland Park police chaplain’s car and then fled south on Woodward for about 2 miles before striking the power box.

QLine spokesman Dan Lijana said the damage was minimal and didn’t affect the streetcar’s performance. The system was shut down for less than an hour because the tracks were blocked by emergency crews.

Also today, the Canfield station stop was closed so a private contractor could repair its previously botched concrete work. The stop is expected to reopen at 6 a.m. Wednesday.

Since opening on May 12, the $140 million Qline has struggled to meet expectations, prompting numerous complaints about long wait times and slow rides. Ridership is only half of what was projected, drawing a little more than 100,000 passengers during its first month. Some riders have grown impatient because wait times at the stations vary from 20 to 30 minutes. On top of that, the streetcars are much slower than projected, routinely taking 20 to 30 minutes to travel the length of the 3.3-mile route.

Inside a busy QLine streetcar. Photo by Steve Neavling.

While looking for more efficiencies, officials have extended free rides for the third time since opening. M-1, which owns and operates the streetcars, originally planned to offer free rides until after the inaugural weekend.  Now it’s free through Labor Day.

The Kresge Foundation, which initially contributed $50 million to the system, has agreed to compensate M-1 for the projected $200,000 to $300,000 it will lose in revenue by extending free rides from July 1 through Labor Day. QLine hopes to then begin charging $1.50 for three-hour passes or $3 for the day.

In a two-part series in April, Motor City Muckraker published a multi-part series on the unexpected shortcomings and dangers of the modern streetcar renaissance.

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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.