As it turns out, operating a streetcar in Detroit for the first time in six decades is harder than expected.
Despite months of testing, managers of Detroit’s new $187 million QLine streetcar system are struggling to cope with what they say are unexpectedly high early ridership numbers after one week of service, and they’re learning to co-exist with the realities of traffic on Woodward Avenue.
Why QLine executives were surprised at the scope of the initial wave of curiosity, which saw riders fill streetcars starting from the first stop at Grand Boulevard and remain on the train for the entire train loop, isn’t clear. But it’s certainly far too soon, after just a week, to proclaim the QLine a success or failure.
After seeing an estimated nearly 50,000 riders in the line’s first seven days, QLine officials on Friday delayed paid passenger service until July 1, keeping it free another six weeks rather than introducing another element of confusion and delay — how to pay to ride — for a system that’s a week into its teething phase.
The scramble is to help ensure the system builds a loyal, content clientele instead of creating a chorus of critics who avoid the streetcars because of a perceived reputation as needlessly overcrowded and slow.
A quick glance at social media since the May 12 launch shows a…
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