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QLine (Detroit): Reviews and Improvements


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#1 Pere Flyer

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Posted 24 June 2017 - 11:54 PM

I didn't see a thread dedicated to the QLine, so I thought I'd open a discussion. (Mods, please move this post to the appropriate thread if necessary.)

 

I've yet to try the QLine, but I hope I'll have time when I visit Detroit in early August. From what I've read in articles and comment sections, the overall response is a combination of excitement and frustration. The QLine is Detroit's first streetcar since 1956, and in an area designed for roads, any rail project is big news. It's shiny, it's urban, it's expensive, and it's part of the (uncoordinated) effort to rehabilitate the core of Detroit: New Center-Downtown.

 

And it takes over 30 minutes to travel just 3.3 miles.

 

But I'm hesitant to call it a boondoggle. Expectations have been high since the original M-1 concept was released. Compared to that plan, yes, the QLine is a disappointment. The slow speed is a valid concern. Future signaling improvements at intersections and a general rise in average auto driver IQ will likely shave off 10 minutes or so.

 

Columnist Allan Lengel of Deadline Detroit published a five day travelogue of his experience commuting via the QLine and concluded the report with an even keeled yet hopeful analysis:

 

I applaud the QLine, and of course, I get all the criticism. It certainly falls far short, at least for now, of what a real mass transit system should be. But it's a start, a training wheel of sorts for a local culture that has so long rejected mass transit.

 

I agree with Lengel's assessment. The QLine falls far short for me. I would've liked to see a light rail line connecting the Pontiac-Detroit M-1 corridor (à la Wolverine), but I know anything resembling that would be a couple decades out at least. For now, I'm hopeful for the QLine's success and momentum for extensions/expansions/improvements.

 

I'm curious if any AU members have taken the QLine, and if so, what your experience and impressions were.


Edited by Pere Flyer, 24 June 2017 - 11:55 PM.

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#2 printman2000

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Posted 25 June 2017 - 06:10 PM

We are heading to the Detroit area next week. Probably will not ride the line but interested in what people think of it.

#3 Green Maned Lion

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Posted 28 June 2017 - 08:55 AM

Street cars are inherently a boondoggle, because they are less capable of mixing with traffic than a bus is (a bus can deviate from its route infinitely, a street car can only deviate if infrastructure is placed for it to do so- in English: a bus can swerve around a morons double parked car, a street car can't).

Light rail (seperated right of way) is a totally different story.
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#4 neroden

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Posted 28 June 2017 - 11:30 AM

Note that despite being slower, it's getting over 10 times the ridership of the parallel buses and it's already overcrowded.

 

Yeah.  People prefer streetcars.  There is some question as to why -- personally I suspect it's ride quality (tracks are smooth, rubber tires on asphalt are bumpy).

 

I agree that it makes no sense to have streetcars in mixed traffic -- give them their own lanes -- but it's impressive the degree to which the *actual riders* prefer a streetcar in mixed traffic over a bus in mixed traffic.


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#5 Eric S

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Posted 28 June 2017 - 11:58 AM

For much of that stretch, Woodward Ave is extremely wide (7 traffic lanes and 2 parking lanes). No good reason the streetcar should not have been built in a median instead of in the right lanes next to the parking lane. That's a decision I suspect will be questioned if this line is ever extended into a longer system.



#6 Anderson

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Posted 29 June 2017 - 11:57 AM

Street cars are inherently a boondoggle, because they are less capable of mixing with traffic than a bus is (a bus can deviate from its route infinitely, a street car can only deviate if infrastructure is placed for it to do so- in English: a bus can swerve around a morons double parked car, a street car can't).

Light rail (seperated right of way) is a totally different story.

It depends.  Sometimes a "streetcar" ends up with a partly-separated ROW while in other cases a "light rail" line ends up stuck mixing with traffic for a few blocks (e.g. Norfolk's Tide Light Rail runs with traffic in a few places because a separate ROW didn't exist).


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#7 bretton88

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Posted 29 June 2017 - 12:22 PM

For much of that stretch, Woodward Ave is extremely wide (7 traffic lanes and 2 parking lanes). No good reason the streetcar should not have been built in a median instead of in the right lanes next to the parking lane. That's a decision I suspect will be questioned if this line is ever extended into a longer system.

Reason it was done that way it's is considered to be much more pedestrian oriented to have the streetcar on the shoulders.

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#8 Eric S

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Posted 29 June 2017 - 12:40 PM

 

For much of that stretch, Woodward Ave is extremely wide (7 traffic lanes and 2 parking lanes). No good reason the streetcar should not have been built in a median instead of in the right lanes next to the parking lane. That's a decision I suspect will be questioned if this line is ever extended into a longer system.

Reason it was done that way it's is considered to be much more pedestrian oriented to have the streetcar on the shoulders.

 

 

I'm not sure I understand that thinking. Center-running streetcars can be given dedicated lanes, allowing for far more effective transit service. Curbside or parking-adjacent streetcars cannot really be given dedicated lanes. And effective transit service creates a more vibrant pedestrian environment.



#9 Hotblack Desiato

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Posted 29 June 2017 - 12:59 PM

 

 

For much of that stretch, Woodward Ave is extremely wide (7 traffic lanes and 2 parking lanes). No good reason the streetcar should not have been built in a median instead of in the right lanes next to the parking lane. That's a decision I suspect will be questioned if this line is ever extended into a longer system.

Reason it was done that way it's is considered to be much more pedestrian oriented to have the streetcar on the shoulders.

 

 

I'm not sure I understand that thinking. Center-running streetcars can be given dedicated lanes, allowing for far more effective transit service. Curbside or parking-adjacent streetcars cannot really be given dedicated lanes. And effective transit service creates a more vibrant pedestrian environment.

 

 

Since pedestrians are (typically) already on sidewalks, putting the streetcar closer to them means that half the time you don't have to cross a street.

 

While you may not be able to do 100% dedicated lanes, it's possible to have semi-dedicated lanes, similar to the way LoopLink is setup in Chicago for bus lanes, with occasional breaks to allow cars to get into the turning lane.  It really comes down to enforcement to make sure folks don't use the streetcar lane as a travel lane.



#10 Eric S

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Posted 29 June 2017 - 01:21 PM

Half the time the passenger doesn't have to cross the street, the other half the time the passenger has to cross the entire street. Or the passenger has to cross half of the street every time. I fail to see how that's a significant difference.

 

The problem with curbside or parking-adjacent semi-dedicated lanes is that, as you mention, they require enforcement - and even then, will be blocked be vehicles waiting to park or turn. Truly dedicated lanes, as in a median, for the most part do not require enforcement and, with proper traffic signals and left turn restrictions, will not be blocked by turning vehicles. Far better, in my opinion, to design the street to encourage desirable outcomes rather than relying on enforcement to do so. On a street as wide as much of Woodward is, I still maintain that it was a poor decision not to construct the streetcar in the center of the street.






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