May 3, 2024 - Transit

QLine ridership breaks records during NFL Draft

The QLine is busy with tons of riders, many in sports attire.

A QLine streetcar packed with riders on day one of the NFL Draft. Photo: Joe Guillen/Axios

QLine ridership shattered records during the NFL Draft, solidifying the streetcar service's importance to the city's transit infrastructure during major events.

The big picture: The 3.3-mile QLine's practicality and cost to the public have been questioned. But the service was critical during the draft, transporting about 9% of the event's unprecedented crowd of 775,000 people.

  • Full service along Woodward Avenue — the route was cut by a third for the draft — resumed Thursday.

By the numbers: Ridership during the draft totaled 68,377 for a daily average of 22,792.

  • On a typical day, about 3,300 people ride.
  • "We never approached close to 10k riders in one day before the draft," QLine spokesperson Dan Lijana told Axios in a text.

Between the lines: Passengers waiting for rides during the draft's peak hours packed QLine platforms on Woodward, overwhelming the service at times. Streetcars were often at capacity, the QLine's president says.

What they're saying: "This is a strong indication, from my perspective, we're equipped to handle events of this nature," QLine president Lisa Nuszkowski tells Axios, adding that adjustments were made to handle the crowds. "I feel like we were ready. The stuff we were responding to was inevitable for an event of this size."

  • Streetcar operators worked with draft shuttles to pick up riders unable to catch their first available ride, she says.

Context: Although the QLine is just one facet of the city's transit infrastructure, it has faced criticism from some residents and transit advocates for its dedication to downtown and the business community.

  • Rides are free and the route has 12 stops from Congress Street to Grand Boulevard in New Center.

💭 My thought bubble: Taking the QLine last Thursday to and from the draft was efficient, although southbound platforms were overflowing with waiting passengers as I headed home in the evening.

  • Frequent riders I spoke to yesterday at the Canfield Street stop said the congestion was expected, but travel times and waits were longer.

The intrigue: Only one car had to be towed from blocking the streetcars' tracks during the draft, a departure from its early days when obstructing vehicles delayed rides more frequently.

What's next: The service is preparing to transition its assets and operations this year from the nonprofit M-1 Rail to the Regional Transit Authority.

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