QLINE free ride promotion to end after service improvement goals met

By: Brendan Losinski | Advertiser Times | Published August 31, 2017

 The QLINE trolley system, running 3.3 miles along Woodward Avenue in Detroit, is ending its free ride promotion after meeting the service improvement goals it set since its initial launch May 12.

The QLINE trolley system, running 3.3 miles along Woodward Avenue in Detroit, is ending its free ride promotion after meeting the service improvement goals it set since its initial launch May 12.

File photo by Donna Agusti

DETROIT — The QLINE trolley in Detroit will be implementing its fee structure for riders after meeting its service goals during its free ride promotion.

The trolley line runs 3.3 miles up and down Woodward Avenue between midtown and downtown Detroit. It was put in place to provide residents and visitors to Detroit with more transportation options for traversing the city, and to make the Woodward Avenue corridor more accessible by increasing foot traffic.

“I think (uniting downtown and midtown and bringing more people to the Woodward corridor) has been successful since (the) launch,” said Dan Lijana, communications specialist for the QLINE. “It benefited from launching in the summer, when the weather is nice and there are so many events along the corridor. You can really see all the construction and investments along the corridor, and all the new businesses.”

The QLINE system was unveiled and opened to the public May 12. Since that time, the line has had a free ride promotion — allowing the public to ride the line free of charge — to raise public awareness, increase enthusiasm and allow those running the line a period of time to refine the system’s precision. Scheduled to only be in place for a month, the free ride promotion was extended until Labor Day.

The Kresge Foundation covered the costs of expected ridership revenue from July 1 through Sept. 4, in addition to the foundation’s initial $50 million investment in the project. Revenue operations for the line are scheduled to begin at 6 a.m. Sept. 5.

“We appreciate the support of the Kresge Foundation,” said M-1 RAIL Chief Operating Officer Paul Childs in a press release. “It’s allowed us time to work with our operations team, our partners along the corridor and the public to ensure QLINE is a safe, reliable and welcoming streetcar system. We are ready to begin a new phase of the project on Sept. 5 when M-1 RAIL begins revenue operations.”

Costs from Sept. 5 onward will be $1.50 for a three-hour pass, $3 for a day pass, $30 for a monthly pass and $285 for an annual pass. The annual pass for the rest of 2017 will cost $112.

During the free ride promotion, M-1 RAIL has improved its services by adding streetcar operators, optimizing traffic signals along the route, implementing a new stop policy and reducing battery charging time. 

In preparation for revenue operations, additional rider resources will be available at QLINE stations and onboard the streetcars, including a more detailed route map and directions to assist in the purchase of streetcar tickets. To help with the transition, M-1 RAIL ambassadors also will be in place at highly trafficked stations throughout the route and aboard some of the streetcars to assist customers between Tuesday, Sept. 5, and Sunday, Sept. 17.

“We would encourage everybody to use the QLINE mobile app, because you can purchase every ticket possibility there and buy tickets in advance, so that will make traveling easier,” advised Lijana. “Folks also can look for enhanced signage and directional assistance along the route. We saw that some people were not sure what stop to get off at, depending on their destination, and we’ve added a lot more signage to assist with that. Lastly, we just want to remind people to take advantage of our coordinating programs with DDOT and SMART.”

The free ride promotion was looked at by M-1 RAIL as an opportunity to refine the line and allow it to work out the kinks before the public started paying for the service. Lijana said that time was well-spent.

“It was definitely very successful,” he said. “There were several ways to measure it, and I think we exceeded all of our expectations. The first was ridership. We were looking to average 5,000 riders a day, and within a couple weeks it was meeting that, and now we’re well over that by the end of August. The free ride period allowed a lot of people to get exposure to the QLINE, and more than half a million people have ridden it since it opened, and that’s an important step to building a base of riders. From an operational standpoint, we’ve improved service and lowered wait times. We also gained a lot of experience on how to run the line during major events in the city.”

Wait times have statistically dropped, and the prediction software that people can see to check trolley wait times has improved.

“At the launch in May, the wait time between cars was just north of 21 minutes,” said Lijana. “At the extension of free rides in June, they were down to 19. Now during peak time between 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., we’re in the 15-minute time between cars. When we open at 6 a.m. until 11 a.m., when the system just starts, (wait times) are two or three minutes higher.”

Those overseeing the QLINE are confident that the performance so far means a strong future for the trolley.

“We were confident that the QLINE would build on its successful launch and refine operations during the extended free ride period,” said M-1 RAIL Vice Chair and Kresge President and Chief Executive Officer Rip Rapson in a press release. “We are pleased that so many Detroiters took the opportunity to experience the QLINE and believe that, over time, the project’s impact will lead to greater support for regional transit.”