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The QLINE at Congress with the new signal priority light.

A new report from the parent organization of Detroit’s streetcar says that the new QLINE streetcar service is making improvements following several opening glitches, expected growing pains and complaints from riders.

M-1 Rail, the QLINE’s operating organization, has been working with the streetcar’s operator, Transdev North America, on service improvements for about a month now. Those have resulted in more riders, shorter waits and better coordination with traffic signals.

Ridership on the QLINE, which launched May 12, has increased from an average of 4,000 daily trips during the week of June 12 to 6,300 the week of July 17, the report says. That’s higher than the 5,000 daily trips officials have established as their target, though the streetcar has yet to begin charging for rides.

Thanks to a commitment from the Kresge Foundation announced last month, riders can continue to ride for free until Tuesday, Sept. 4.

Opening day crowds on the QLINE. Daily Detroit photo.

“Over the past month, we have improved QLINE service, putting more streetcars on the road, reducing wait times between vehicles and integrated rider feedback into our operational enhancement plan,” said M-1 RAIL CEO Matt Cullen. “Many more people have had the opportunity to experience the QLINE for the first time and Detroiters are beginning to integrate the streetcar system into their daily travel.”

Here’s how the improvements are shaking out:

  • Round-trip rides have been reduced by 6 minutes due to operational improvements.
  • Average wait times between streetcars fell from more than 19 minutes to an average of 16:49 Monday to Saturday. They’re down 20 percent since the start of operations on May 12, and officials have said they’re targeting long-term wait times of 12 minutes during weekdays.
  • M-1 Rail increased streetcar operator staff from 17 to 21. M-1 says it plans to have 27 certified operators on staff when the QLINE begins charging riders in earnest, after Labor Day.
  • QLINE worked with city and state traffic engineers to improve traffic-signal timing at the intersections of Burroughs, Montcalm and at Campus Martius. At Congress, approaching streetcars now trigger a signal change.
  • Streetcars no longer stop at stations if no one is waiting and if no passengers have signaled for a stop.
  • Since launching in May, transit police have issued 30 tickets and towed seven cars that were obstructing the tracks.

Estimated wait times remain inconsistent, though M-1 officials insist the digital kiosk technology is improving. M-1 is working with technology partner Nextbus to make the arrival and streetcar location data more accurate and says the system is showing incremental improvements over six weeks of work.

“Improving the arrival prediction system is one of our top priorities as we prepare for revenue service,” said Paul Childs, M-1 Rail’s COO. “We appreciate the patience of our riders as we refine this technology and we expect to see a significant improvement in the data over the next six weeks.”

The QLINE begins charging for rides in Sept. 5. Rides will start at $1.50 for three hours of unlimited rides and $3 for a day pass.