Two Tracks: Some Salute QLine, Others Say (Yet Again) it 'Can't Save a City'

Posted Saturday by WIred magazine,

People are weighing in on the QLine, the streetcar system on Woodward Avenue in Detroit that launched May 12.

Megan Owens, executive director of Transportation Riders United, sees a good thing.

“I really do see it as a step forward,” Owens tells Stephen Henderson on WDET. “It is a convenient, attractive way to get up and down one of the busiest corridors in our entire metro region.” 

But reporter Bill Bradley sees it differently at The Atlantic CityLab in an essay headlined" The Streetcar Boondoggle Continues, This Time In Detroit:"

Detroit’s mass transit system—an insufficient network of buses and the People Mover, a mostly useless closed-loop monorail in the central business district—can be considered paltry at best. In the birthplace of the automobile, freeways remain king.

Last week, with the christening of a 3.3-mile streetcar confined to the city’s rapidly developing core, Detroit did nothing to help the underserved and instead joined the growing ranks of American cities enamored with mostly empty streetcars financed by developers and businesses who stand to gain from such projects—instead of investing in equitable transportation that serves residents who need it most.

“I spent 12 years riding the bus and I will definitely tell you that yes the bus system is terrible,” says 33-year-old David Porter, a lifelong Detroiter and vice president of the West Evergreen Block Club in the city’s Brightmoor neighborhood. “And the amount of money they spent on this train could have been spent so many other places.”

Wired magazine carps Saturday that "there is no empirical evidence that streetcar lines do anything to trigger an urban turnaround." It's headline (above) recycles a tired "save Detroit" cliche. 

Aarian Marshall, a San Francisco-based staff writer, acknowledges: "The fact that Detroit pulled this off is worthy of celebration.“   That's followed b observations from streetcar skeptics, including urban planner Jeffrey Brown of Florida State University:

“It’s just completely unrealistic to expect that if we’re in a depressed urban environment, just adding an expensive piece of transit infrastructure is the solution,” says Brown. 

-- Alan Stamm

Related post: 

My Daily Commute Aboard the New QLine -- the Good and the Glitches, May 19

Email Signup
Send us your email address and we’ll send you the best of Detroit!