Detroit has built a new streetcar line that is expected to boost the city’s economy by $3 billion. The public-private partnership faced a number of setbacks, including pulled government funding and seven years of back-and-forth negotiations. After securing a naming partner, Quicken Loans, and station-specific sponsors, Detroit begins operations of the QLine in May 2017.
Results & Impact
The QLine street cars are set to begin running in May 2017, and serve 5,000 to 8,000 passengers daily. The QLine is expected to bring more than $3 billion in development and 10,000 new housing units to Detroit over the next 10 years. The street car service is the city's first in 61 years
The M1 Consortium led by Michigan Department of Transportation, Quicken Loans, the City of Detroit, the State of Michigan, the Federal Transit Administration, Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, Michigan Department of Transportation, Kresge Foundation, Brookville Equipment Corporation, 20 station sponsors
After federal and state authorities pulled support for the street car project in 2011, the M1 consortium worked with state authorities, the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments and the FTA to redesign the project. They brought in Quicken Loans, which bought the right to name the QLine street car service, and 20 private companies, which each paid $3 million to be named station sponsors. Their contribution is denoted with a plaque at each of the line's 20 stations. Construction on the street car line began in June 2014, and the first cars are set to run in May 2017
Cost & Value
The QLine cost $179.4 million in total, including $24 million for 10 years of operation and maintenance
Running since May 2016
The project suffered a number of setbacks. In the most major, federal and state authorities withdrew funding in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, and proposed replacing the projected with a bus service. The consortium redesigned the project, shortening the distance covered by the streetcar and finding new public and philanthropic backers
Detroit has built a 10.6-kilometer street car line that is expected to bring a $3 billion boost to the city’s economy.
Initiated in 2010, the M1 Rail project – later to be renamed the QLine – was beset by bureaucratic slowdowns, including federal and state withdrawal of support in favour of a competing bus line. A later iteration of the project recouped funding from government and transit authorities, and was built with financial backing from corporate sponsors, including mortgage lending company Quicken Loans, which bought naming rights to the line.
Funding for the QLine ultimately came from more than 30 different public and private partners, and took seven years to negotiate and build. Altogether, the street car line cost $179.4 million, including $24 million for 10 years of operation and maintenance.
M1 Rail, a consortium of public and private partners led by the Michigan Department of Transportation, initiated the project in 2008 to boost economic growth through better transit links. M1 Rail initially recommended a 4.8-kilometer street car line running along southeast Michigan Woodward Avenue – but in two years, the project grew into a 14.5-kilometer, $500 million light rail transit system. In 2010, the federal government awarded the project a $25 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant. The consortium assembled another $75 million in funding for the project from private companies, foundations and hospitals, alongside local, state and federal government agencies.
However, due to economic constraints, the City of Detroit, State of Michigan and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) pulled support for the project in 2011 in favour of a $500 million regional rapid bus line proposal. Despite the setback, M1 Rail reassembled to revise the street car concept. They redesigned a shorter, 10.6-kilometer line that would run along the same route as the first proposed line.
The consortium worked with state authorities, the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments and the FTA to redesign the project. The Michigan Department of Transportation committed $59.2 million in state and federal funds to build rail infrastructure, and the Kresge Foundation awarded M1 Rail a $50 million grant.
In another setback, the consortium’s $30 million deal with Czech-based tram manufacturer Inekon to build the streetcars fell through in 2014. M1 Rail had to re-open bidding, and awarded Philadelphia-based railcar manufacturer Brookville Equipment Corporation the contract for $32 million.
Quicken Loans bought naming rights to the street car line in 2016, and QLine was subsequently announced as the official name. Additionally, each of the tram line’s 20 stations has its own sponsor. Corporations, organisations, universities and hospitals, including Blue Cross Blue Shield, Chevrolet, Detroit Medical Centre, and Wayne State University paid $3 million each for sponsorship, which is commemorated with a plaque at each station.
Construction on the street car line began in June 2014, and the first cars are set to run in May 2017. Organisers predict 5,000 to 8,000 people ride the line daily, at a cost of $1.50 per ride.
The QLine is expected to bring more than $3 billion in development and 10,000 new housing units to Detroit over the next 10 years. The M1 consortium has awarded nearly 30% of the construction and road work related to the streetcar project to women- and minority-owned businesses, which adds up to nearly $40 million.
The QLine marks Detroit’s first street car service in 61 years: Detroit’s first street cars were built in 1863 when horses, not engines, pulled passengers along Woodward Avenue.
(Picture: Flickr/Team Kebs)