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Detroit's QLine set to get $85 million in state funding

A QLine Streetcar in Detroit, Michigan.
Michael Barera
Wikimedia Commons
Detroit's Streetcar, the QLine, is set to get $5 million in annual funding for the next 17 years.

Detroit’s streetcar, the QLine, is set to receive long-term funding from the state of Michigan. Senate Bill 1223 recently passed both legislative chambers with bi-partisan support. State Senator Wayne Schmidt (R-Traverse City) was the primary sponsor for the bill. It’s expected to be signed by Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

The bill aims to subsidize Detroit’s newest public transit system through 2039. That includes $5 million a year going to its parent nonprofit company, M-1 Rail Inc. The subsidy would cover roughly half of the line’s current annual operating costs. The plan is to use money from Michigan’s hotel and liquor tax revenue to keep the line going.

The streetcar spans a 3.3-mile stretch along Woodward Avenue and gives access to many of the city’s prominent landmarks and venues. Riders can get off near several museums, theaters, sports arenas, and parks. They can also get to the Amtrak station and Detroit’s People Mover. The service runs from 8 a.m. to midnight Monday through Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday.

Plans for Detroit’s first streetcar began in 2007. The project was privately funded and developed by a coalition of businesses and cost $142 million to build. The benefactors include the Penske Corp., the Kresge Foundation, and the Rock Financial family of companies. These companies still financially support the project, but say that can't last indefinitely.

Meant to energize Detroit’s revitalization efforts, the service officially began running in May 2017. In the following two years, it didn’t perform as well as expected. At the time, riders had to pay a fee to use it. It was $1.50 for a single ride, or $3 for a day pass.

Like many public transportation services, the QLine stopped operating in spring 2020 due to concerns over COVID-19. During the time, the QLine was in danger of permanently closing, so the state stepped in and provided $5 million a year for three years.

The line reopened in September 2021 and stopped charging fares. M-1 Rail plans to keep the service fare-free indefinitely.

Katheryne Friske is the weekend morning host and producer for All Things Considered.
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