How Will The QLine Streetcar Impact Detroit’s Economy and Community?

May 10, 2017  |   Story by Amanda Walgrove  |   Photos by M-1 Rail and @Camera_Jesus

After 10 years of planning, Detroit’s new streetcar, the QLine, is now running — ushering in a new and much-anticipated era for the city’s growth.

“We’re bringing rail transit back to the heart of the city and connecting the Woodward corridor in a way that’s already begun to transform the entire district,” said Matt Cullen, CEO of the M-1 Rail company behind the streetcar service.

How exactly will the QLine affect the economy, development, and community of Detroit?

Let’s take a look.

Driving customers to nearby shops

The QLine runs on Woodward Avenue between Larned Street and West Grand Boulevard — bringing customers right to front door of shops along this route. (Check out this helpful map of all 20 stations.)

This easy access will allow residents and tourists to visit several establishments without having to pay for parking or move their car up and down the avenue. Metro Detroit artist David Gifford even started a running list of 100 places to see and visit while riding the QLine!

As Joanne Czerny, owner of 14 East coffee, told The South End: “It will be helpful and we are lucky to be so close to a stop.” For instance, she anticipates that people will wait at her shop while tracking the streetcar on the mobile app.

Spurring billions of dollars in development

The streetcar is expected to drive more than $3 billion in economic development over 10 years. This includes 10,000 new housing units and 5 million square feet of new commercial space. In fact, nearly $1 billion in development is underway, with $60 million still being planned out.

Specifically, the QLine connects bustling areas like New Center and Midtown. Meaning, travelers have easy access to landmark establishments such as the Detroit Institute of Arts, Wayne State University, Campus Martius Park and the home of the Detroit Tigers, Comerica Park.

Construction actually began after Detroit hosted the Super Bowl in 2006. At this time, it was evident that the city needed a better way to connect the Downtown, Midtown, New Center and North End communities.

Roger Penske, the man behind the Penske Tech Center where the streetcars is housed, told Curbed: “A decade ago … we were boarding up buildings in this area. Today Woodward Avenue is becoming one of the most successful and vibrant corridors in our state and much of that has to do with this [streetcar] project.”

QLine in downtown Detroit

Creating a mobile and eco-friendly community

The QLine streetcars seats 125-200 people, and they’re estimated to host 5,000-8,000 riders per day. As more people use this type of transit, Detroit will become less car-dependent, more walkable and more eco-friendly. The QLine will also run in tandem with other mass transit services, such as the Detroit People Mover, the New Center’s Amtrak trains and the Windsor Tunnel Bus.

This allows event-goers to park further away from their destinations and ride the rail to their venue. As a result, they’ll have time to explore local shops and connect with other members of the community.

As one Detroit resident commented on Curbed, “I live in Midtown and work downtown. This rail was made for commuters like me. With the consistency of light rail, I’d like to get rid of my car and the expensive insurance that comes along with it in favor of this more sustainable, less expensive and more eco-friendly form of transportation.”

Building the future of travel in Detroit

Detroit’s streetcar success won’t be unprecedented. The streetcar in Portland, Oregon, for instance, has reportedly brought $4.5 billion to the city since 1998. And Washington, D.C.’s streetcar is expected to increase property values by $5-7 billion within 10 years of its launch.

Other streetcar-enabled cities like Seattle expanded their services to add more streetcars or extend their routes. Could Detroit do the same? No comment from M-1 Rail yet. But if the QLine truly fosters a connected community and prosperous marketplace, anything could be possible.