Detroit Unveils New Streetcar System

Detroit officials open first miles-long streetcar line in decades, call it catalyst for elusive regional public transit.

Quinn Klinefelter/WDET

Detroit’s new streetcar line is officially open to the public.

And the light rail “QLine” is being touted as a step towards a long-awaited regional transit system.

It travels 3.3 miles, took a decade to develop and roughly three years of construction work to create.

But the QLine system, stretching through Detroit’s downtown business and midtown areas, is an historic return to a streetcar line that has not been present in Detroit at this scale in about six decades.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan attributes the rail line becoming reality to a vision put forth by hometown businessman Roger Penske.

“He said the elected officials in this area have never seen what a streetcar system can do. The only way this is going to happen is if the private sector and philanthropy put up our money and build it,” Duggan says.

QLine officials say they raised more than $100 million from private donations.

Quinn Klinefelter/WDET

But they still needed almost $40 million in federal funding to complete the project.

Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert, who contributed millions of dollars to the project, says the streetcars will do more than aid travel in the city.

Gilbert says it will help bridge racial and economic divides.   

“The QLine is not only going to be highly impactful along Woodward Avenue,” Gilbert says. “Iit’s also the symbolic project that will represent the movement of our entire region’s culture from one of separation, conflict and turmoil to an environment of partnership, cooperation and execution.”

The city that officials say put the world on wheels has struggled to create a public transit system that encompasses the entire region.

Last November voters turned down a proposed region-wide transit system when it was presented as a ballot initiative.   


  • Quinn Klinefelter
    Quinn Klinefelter is a Senior News Editor at 101.9 WDET. In 1996, he was literally on top of the news when he interviewed then-Senator Bob Dole about his presidential campaign and stepped on his feet.