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QLine in Campus Martius
OwnerM-1 Rail
LocaleDetroit, Michigan
Stations20 stops (12 locations)
Operator(s)Directly operated[1]
Rolling stock6 Brookville Liberty Modern Streetcars
Daily ridership2,629 (2023, Jan. - Aug.)[2][3]
OpenedMay 12, 2017 (May 12, 2017)[4]
Line length3.3 mi (5.3 km)[4]
Track gauge4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
ElectrificationOverhead line or onboard lithium-ion batteries, 750 V DC
Operating speed30 mph (48 km/h)[5]
Route map
Map QLine highlighted in red
Grand Boulevard
Baltimore Street Detroit (Amtrak station)
Amsterdam Street
Edsel Ford Freeway
Ferry Street
Warren Avenue
Canfield Street
Martin Luther King Boulevard/
Mack Avenue
Sproat Street/Adelaide Street
Fisher Freeway
Montcalm Street
Grand Circus Park
Campus Martius
Congress Street

Handicapped/disabled access All stations are accessible

The QLine (stylized as QLINE), originally known as M-1 Rail by its developers, is a 3.3-mile-long (5.3 km) streetcar system in Detroit, Michigan, United States. Opened on May 12, 2017, it connects Downtown Detroit with Midtown and New Center, running along Woodward Avenue (M-1) for its entire route.[4] The system is operated by M-1 Rail, a nonprofit organization.[6]

In December 2011, city and state leaders announced a plan to offer bus rapid transit service for the city and metropolitan area instead of light rail as had previously been proposed. Soon afterwards, M-1 Rail, a consortium of private and public businesses and institutions in the region, announced the plan for a streetcar line along part of the same route as the cancelled light rail plan, connecting the downtown Detroit People Mover to the Amtrak railway station in New Center and the proposed Ann Arbor–Detroit Regional Rail system. Rocket Mortgage (then known as Quicken Loans) bought the naming rights to the line, and announced the name in March 2016.[7]






Woodward Avenue with streetcar lines, 1942

Detroit's first streetcar service began in 1863 with horsecars. Electrification of the streetcar system followed, starting in 1886. Detroit's streetcar lines eventually saw their operations consolidated under the privately owned Detroit United Railway. Municipal takeover and control of the streetcar network by Detroit's Department of Street Railways followed in 1922.[8] Detroit Mayor Hazen S. Pingree had led the charge years before to have the city take over operations. Since that gave the companies reason to believe the rail lines would be taken over, they were discouraged from maintaining the lines, which meant that Detroiters had "inherited a giant money pit" when the city eventually voted to buy them.[9] That and the Department of Street Railways' introduction of buses from 1925 ultimately led to the demise of the original streetcar system in 1956.[8][10]

Downtown heritage trolley


A short 0.7-mile (1.1 km) vintage streetcar gauge line in 900 mm (2 ft 11+716 in) gauge opened in 1976 along Washington Boulevard, using seven former Lisbon tramcars and two from England and Switzerland, all originally built in the early 20th century.[11] Built at a cost of roughly $1.5 million (equivalent to $6.25 million in 2023[12]), the line initially ran between Grand Circus Park and Philip A. Hart Plaza near Cobo Center.[13][14] The line was extended a further 0.3 miles (0.48 km) along Jefferson Avenue in 1980.[15] It ended service in 2003.[11] Ridership at one time had seen 800 daily passengers, but declined to under 200 after the 1987 opening of the competing Detroit People Mover system.[16]

M-1 Rail Line

M-1 Rail logo

In 2006 the Detroit Department of Transportation (DDOT) commissioned a study to determine expanded mass transit options along Woodward Avenue.[17] Concurrently, a private group of local business leaders decided to provide matching funds to government dollars to develop a $125 million, 3.4-mile (5.5 km) line through central Detroit (similar to the Tacoma Link) called the M-1 Rail Line. After much wrangling between the private investors and the DDOT, the two groups decided to work in tandem on developing DDOT's 9.3-mile (15.0 km) line.

The proposed line ran 9.3 miles (15.0 km) along Woodward Avenue from the Rosa Parks Transit Center to the old State Fairgrounds along 8 Mile Road.[18] The line would have had 19 stops with 10 cars running at a time in two-car trains; each train would carry 150 people. The trains would run in a dedicated right-of-way in the median from 8 Mile to Adams Street at the north end of downtown. South of Adams, the trains would run in mixed traffic along the sides of the street.

The estimated cost for the proposed line was $500 million.[18] The Kresge Foundation awarded a $35 million grant to the city for the project in March 2009.[19] It received $25 million in funding from the United States Department of Transportation in February 2010.[20][21] The Detroit City Council approved the sale of $125 million in bonds on April 11, 2011.[22] The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and the City of Detroit signed an environmental impact study on July 1, 2011.[17] Finally, on August 31, 2011, the FTA signed a record of decision allowing the project to move forward.[23]

In December 2011, the federal government withdrew its support for the proposed line, in favor of a bus rapid transit system which would serve the city and suburbs.[24] This decision arose out of discussions between federal Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and Governor Rick Snyder. The private investors who had initially supported the smaller three-mile (4.8 km) M-1 Rail line to New Center stated that they would continue developing that project through the nonprofit M-1 Rail Consortium.[25] The cancelled 9.3-mile (15.0 km) proposal would have featured seven additional stops north of Grand Boulevard, where the QLine now ends.[26]



On January 18, 2013, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced that M-1 Rail would receive $25 million in federal grant support for the streetcar project.[20][21][27] He had previously committed to the funds on the condition that a regional transit authority was created for the Detroit area.[28] In late 2012, the Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan was created by state law,[29] which enabled LaHood's approval.[30]

On April 22, 2013, the project received final environmental clearance from the federal government, with construction expected to start in the fall.[31]

On December 20, 2013, M-1 Rail began underground utility relocation work along Woodward Avenue, the first step toward full-fledged construction activities of the 3.3-mile (5.3 km) streetcar line, with construction scheduled to start in mid-2014.[32] Stacy & Witbeck were formally awarded the contract to construct the M-1 Rail streetcar line on July 31, 2013.[20][21][33] M-1 Rail officials announced on July 3, 2014, that the Woodward Avenue overpasses for both I-75 and I-94 freeways will be demolished during construction of the rail line, and that new wider bridges will be built.[34]

On July 20, 2014, the Ilitch family, owner of Olympia Development of Michigan, and major investor in M-1 Rail, announced that the streetcar line would include a stop at the new Little Caesars Arena in Midtown.[35]

QLine tracks at Little Caesars Arena

M-1 Rail officially started construction on July 28, 2014.[36] The streetcar line would stretch from downtown Detroit to Grand Boulevard in New Center. There would be 20 different stations serving 12 stops, with most of the stations being curbside on either side of Woodward Avenue going uptown or downtown, but changing to center road stations at the north and south ends of the system. At the time, the streetcar line was expected to be operational in late 2016.[37]

During the planning of the service, Detroit businessman Dan Gilbert advocated strongly for a curb-running design. One participant said, "They were not looking for speed or reliability... their number one goal was the boost in property values."[38]

On September 9, 2014, the US DOT announced that M-1 Rail would receive an additional $12.2 million in federal grant money to complete the financing of the M-1 Rail project.[39] US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx gave the keynote address at a rail signing ceremony on September 15, 2014, at Grand Circus Park.[40][41][42][43] Local officials were in attendance as were executives of local businesses who were sponsoring stations near their places of business. A new official map was made public.[44]

Approximately 60 percent of the line is not equipped with overhead electrical wires, and the streetcars are powered solely from lithium-ion batteries on that section.[45]

QLine near Fox Theatre running on battery

On February 15, 2015, M-1 Rail reported that the Penske Tech Center was under construction in New Center. The $6.9 million, 19,000-square-foot (1,800 m2) structure serves as the M-1 Rail headquarters, the operations center, and the streetcar maintenance facility. The tech center building is sited close to Woodward Avenue, and located between Bethune and Custer streets north and east of Grand Boulevard with the streetcar storage yard behind. The exterior is made of reddish brick to mimic the historical look and feel of the surrounding neighborhood,[46] and was completed in May 2016.

In August 2015, M-1 Rail officials said that the opening of the line would be delayed until around mid 2017, partially because of new federal safety standards that are coming into effect, as well as a construction slowdown during the previous winter and delays in building the rolling stock.[47] QLine was announced as the official name for the line in March 2016, after Quicken Loans bought naming rights, but the non-profit organization that is overseeing the project continues to be named M-1 Rail.[48]

The first streetcar was delivered in September 2016.[49] The first test move over the line took place on December 13, and the streetcar was initially towed[50] (not yet run under its own power, except at the maintenance facility).[51] Transdev was awarded a five-year contract to operate the line.[52]



The QLine opened for public use on May 12, 2017.[4] Although initially slated to be free only for the first weekend, the streetcar's free period was later extended for a week, and later until July 1, and again until Labor Day 2017.[53] Ridership for the opening week was 50,000, with a peak of 8,300 during the weekend and 5,120 Monday through Thursday.[54] Daily ridership dropped to 3,000 when the payment service began on September 5, 2017. The percentage of riders actually paying was 40 percent, which QLine spokesman Dan Lijana said is higher than the 32.5 percent national average of similar downtown city rail systems.[55]

COVID-19 shutdown and reopening


On March 28, 2020, the QLINE suspended service, due to low ridership amid the COVID-19 pandemic.[56] Service resumed in September 2021 without fares, with financial support from Penske and The Kresge Foundation.[57] In November 2021, QLINE ended its contract with Transdev and became directly operated.[58] In 2022, a 17-year, $5 million annual subsidy was approved by the Michigan Legislature and signed by Governor Gretchen Whitmer, which will keep the QLINE free to ride through 2039.[59][60]

Rolling stock

A Brookville Liberty streetcar in current standard QLine livery, 2017
QLine at Woodward and Peterboro in 2021

Crain's Detroit Business reported that the line would cost $137 million, including the purchase of six streetcar vehicles.[61] Bids were expected to include low-floor, air-conditioned vehicles, capable of transporting passengers in wheelchairs. The vehicles have operator's controls at both ends—eliminating the need for the vehicles to turn around for their return trips.

On November 4, 2014, M-1 announced that Czechia-based Inekon had been awarded a $30 million contract for six vehicles.[62] Upon that deal falling apart, M-1 Rail instead awarded a $32 million contract to Pennsylvania-based Brookville Equipment Corporation.[45] The purchase includes six articulated, three-section, 66-foot-long (20.12 m) cars, equipped with 750-volt rechargeable lithium-ion batteries for off-wire movement on sections of the line not equipped with overhead wire.[45]

The first Brookville-built streetcar was delivered in September 2016,[49] with the last two of the six cars delivered in March 2017.[63] The last car of Detroit's previous streetcar system was numbered 286, so it was decided to number the new cars 287-292, to pick up where the old number series had left off.[64]




QLine near Campus Martius downtown Detroit 2021

The QLine traverses Woodward Avenue in its entirety from downtown through Midtown to New Center. The line begins at the southern terminus at Congress Street in the median before tracks swing to the curbside for most of its length. (Some parts of the line have tracks running down the middle travel lane of Woodward in downtown.) After traveling in the curbside travel lane, the line swings back into the inside travel lane (median) at Amsterdam all the way to the line's northern terminus at Grand Boulevard. Non-revenue tracks continue two blocks to the M-1 Rail Penske Tech Center, which serves as headquarters for the QLine and the garage for the streetcars. In September 2021, the southbound curb lane from Temple Street to West Fisher Service Drive was converted to a transit-only lane to be used by the QLine, DDOT and SMART to increase headways.[65]

List of stations

Campus Martius station in 2021
Stop Neighborhood(s) Connections
Congress Street Downtown, Financial District Detroit People Mover; DDOT 3, 5, 6, 9, 40, 52, & 67;

SMART 261 FAST Michigan, 461/462 FAST Woodward, 563 FAST Gratiot, 255, 530, 620, 635, 805, 830, & 851; Transit Windsor Tunnel Bus

Campus Martius Downtown
Grand Circus Downtown, Grand Circus Park Detroit People Mover; SMART 261 FAST Michigan & 461/462 FAST Woodward
Montcalm Street Downtown, Foxtown
Sproat Street / Adelaide Street Midtown, Brush Park, Cass Park SMART 461/462 FAST Woodward
Martin Luther King Boulevard / Mack Avenue Midtown, Brush Park, Cass Corridor DDOT 31 Mack & 42 Mid-City Loop; SMART 461/462 FAST Woodward
Canfield Street Midtown, Medical Center
Warren Avenue Midtown, Cultural Center, Wayne State University DDOT 8 Warren; SMART 461/462 FAST Woodward & 562 FAST Gratiot
Ferry Street Midtown, Cultural Center, East Ferry
Amsterdam Street New Center
Baltimore Street New Center Amtrak; SMART 461/462 FAST Woodward & 851
Grand Boulevard New Center SMART 851

Headways and operational span

A tram stopped at the Canfield Street station

The QLine generally operates four trains at a time, with trains arriving every 15 minutes or less. Service runs seven days a week, beginning at 8 a.m. daily: trains run through midnight Monday-Saturday, and through 9 p.m. on Sundays.[66][67]



There is currently no charge to ride the QLine, as its operations are supported by a subsidy from the State of Michigan.[60] The system's original fare, instituted in September 2017, was $1.50; it was raised to $2 in October 2019, when the QLine joined the Dart payment system used by SMART and DDOT.[57][68]



M-1 Rail is a licensed towing operator.[69] State legislation permits the agency to tow parked vehicles which block its tracks; vehicles are taken to City of Detroit-owned impound lots. Towing operations began in June 2022, when a Florida towing company donated a truck to M-1 Rail.[67]

See also



  1. ^ "QLine streetcars on track to resume service in late summer". The Detroit News. Retrieved July 21, 2023.
  2. ^ Eric D. Lawrence (September 28, 2023). "QLINE ridership up in 2023: What annual report showed". Detroit Free Press.
  3. ^ Guillen, Joe (October 24, 2022). "QLINE ridership rebounds". Axios Detroit. Cox Enterprises. Retrieved October 26, 2022.
  4. ^ a b c d Lawrence, Eric D.; Allen, Robert (May 12, 2017). "All Aboard! Detroit's QLine Is Open for Streetcar Riders". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved May 13, 2017.
  5. ^ "FAQ". M-1 Rail. Retrieved May 13, 2017.
  6. ^ "M-1 Rail Group". Mass Transit. May 5, 2014. Retrieved July 9, 2022.
  7. ^ Lawrence, Eric D. (March 24, 2016). "Detroit's M-1 Rail Line Now to Be Called the QLINE". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved March 24, 2016.
  8. ^ a b Schramm, Kenneth (2006). Detroit's Street Railways. Images of Rail. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing. pp. 7–8, 11–13. ISBN 0-7385-4027-7.
  9. ^ Austin, Dan. "How Metro Detroit Transit went from Best to Worst". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved May 10, 2017.
  10. ^ Kurlyandchik, Mark (May 2012). "After 50+ Years, Streetcars Could Come Back to Woodward". Hour Detroit. ISSN 1098-9684. Archived from the original on June 19, 2012. Retrieved August 20, 2012.
  11. ^ a b "U.S. Streetcar Systems- Michigan". Railway Preservation Resources. July 2, 2018. Retrieved February 12, 2019.
  12. ^ Johnston, Louis; Williamson, Samuel H. (2023). "What Was the U.S. GDP Then?". MeasuringWorth. Retrieved November 30, 2023. United States Gross Domestic Product deflator figures follow the MeasuringWorth series.
  13. ^ Stuart, Reginald (September 21, 1976). "Trolley Returns to the Motor City, and Mayor Foresee Revitalization". The New York Times. Retrieved August 16, 2022.
  14. ^ "Washington Boulevard Historic District". Detroit Historical Society. Retrieved August 16, 2022.
  15. ^ 1982 leaflet with former Lisbon car 247/397 on the cover and downtown map showing route and stops
  16. ^ "Detroit, MI". American Public Transportation Association. Retrieved August 16, 2022.
  17. ^ a b "Project Overview". Woodward Light Rail. Retrieved October 17, 2011.
  18. ^ a b "Woodward Light Rail Project Cancelled, M-1 Streetcar Still in the Works". Transportation Riders United. Archived from the original on July 20, 2012.
  19. ^ "Kresge Foundation Awards Nearly $73 Million in Grants in the First Quarter of 2009" (Press release). Council of Michigan Foundations. March 9, 2009. Archived from the original on June 15, 2011.
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  24. ^ Bing, Dave (December 18, 2011). "Rapid Bus System Is a Win for Metro Detroit". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved December 18, 2011.
  25. ^ Helms, Matt; Egan, Paul; Gallagher, John (December 14, 2011). "Detroit Light-Rail Plan Is Dead: Buses Will Be Used Instead". Detroit Free Press.
  26. ^ Marable, Kamau C.; Roseboom, Tim; Ryan, Mark (September 15, 2011). "Woodward Light Rail Transit Project". NAMC Detroit Transportation Symposium. p. 4 – via slideplayer.com.
  27. ^ Helms, Matt (January 18, 2013). "Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood Brings $25 Million in Federal Aid for M-1 Rail Project". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved January 28, 2013.
  28. ^ Cwiek, Sarah (October 15, 2012). "LaHood: Metro Detroit, State Need to Move on Regional transit Authority". Michigan Radio. Retrieved January 27, 2016.
  29. ^ "Senate Bill No. 909" (PDF). Michigan State Legislature. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 25, 2013. Retrieved September 17, 2013.
  30. ^ "M1 Rail: Ray LaHood, U.S. Transit Secretary, Announces $25 Million in Funding for Detroit Transit Plan". The Huffington Post. January 18, 2013. Retrieved January 27, 2016.
  31. ^ Helms, Matt (April 22, 2013). "M-1 Rail Project Gets Final OK from Federal Government". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved October 21, 2013.
  32. ^ "M-1 Rail Begins Underground Utility Relocation Work, Shutdown of Woodward Avenue Is Not Required: Utility Relocations Will Not Prevent Customer Access to Businesses on Woodward" (Press release). M-1 Rail. December 2013. Archived from the original on January 4, 2014. Retrieved January 3, 2014.
  33. ^ Bowen, Douglas John (July 31, 2013). "Stacy and Witbeck win Detroit M1 contract". Railway Age. Archived from the original on August 19, 2013. Retrieved September 6, 2014.
  34. ^ Walker, Marlon A. (July 3, 2014). "M-1 Rail Construction to Close Freeways as Woodward Overpasses Are Rebuilt". Detroit Free Press. Archived from the original on July 14, 2014. Retrieved July 11, 2014 – via M-1 Rail.
  35. ^ Shea, Bill (July 20, 2014). "Detroit Rink City: Ilitches' Grand Plan to Supersize the Entertainment District". Crain's Detroit Business. Retrieved July 23, 2014.
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  38. ^ DeVito, Lee (March 20, 2018). "Dan Gilbert, private interests steered QLine plans, study finds". Metro Times.
  39. ^ Spangler, Todd & Gallagher, John (September 9, 2014). "Feds Give M-1 Rail $12.2 Million". Detroit Free Press. Archived from the original on September 11, 2014. Retrieved September 11, 2014.
  40. ^ "Officials participate in track signing ceremony celebrating Detroit streetcar project". The Republic. Columbus, Indiana. Associated Press. September 15, 2014. Archived from the original on September 17, 2014. Retrieved September 16, 2014.
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  42. ^ "USDOT's Foxx, Detroit officials sign ceremonial track for M-1 Rail streetcar". Progressive Railroading. September 16, 2014. Archived from the original on September 17, 2014. Retrieved September 16, 2014.
  43. ^ Williams, AJ (September 16, 2014). "U.S. DOT Secretary Foxx Announces $12.2 Million for M-1 RAIL in Detroit". Michigan Chronicle. Detroit. Archived from the original on September 17, 2014. Retrieved September 16, 2014.
  44. ^ Walsh, Tom (September 16, 2014). "Tom Walsh: M-1 Rail Makes Noise as New Donors Push Line Ahead". Detroit Free Press. Archived from the original on September 16, 2014.
  45. ^ a b c Shepardson, David (June 8, 2015). "M-1 Rail Buying 6 Off-Wire Streetcars for $32M". The Detroit News. Retrieved June 11, 2015.
  46. ^ Gallagher, John (February 15, 2015). "M-1 Rail's Tech Center Under Construction". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved February 15, 2015.
  47. ^ "Detroit Streetcar Project M-1 Delayed through 2017". Trains. August 6, 2015. Retrieved August 16, 2015.
  48. ^ "QLINE announced as official name of Detroit's modern streetcar". M-1 Rail. March 24, 2016. Retrieved December 14, 2016.
  49. ^ a b Shea, Bill (September 12, 2016). "First M-1 Rail streetcar arrives in Detroit". Crain's Detroit Business. Retrieved December 14, 2016.
  50. ^ Detroit Free Press web team (December 13, 2016). "See the Test of Detroit's New QLine Streetcar along Woodward Avenue". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved December 14, 2016.
  51. ^ Shea, Bill (December 13, 2016). "M-1 Rail Takes First QLine Streetcar out for a Test Run in Detroit". Crain's Detroit Business. Retrieved December 14, 2016.
  52. ^ "In brief". International Railway Journal. July 2016. p. 10.
  53. ^ "QLINE, I Love You But We Need to Talk". Daily Detroit. June 18, 2017. Retrieved September 19, 2017.
  54. ^ Lawrence, Eric D. (May 19, 2017). "Amid Deluge of Riders, QLine Announces Free Rides until July 1". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved May 19, 2017.
  55. ^ Livengood, Chad (September 22, 2017). "40% of QLine riders paying as ridership falls". Crain's Detroit Business. Retrieved January 1, 2018.
  56. ^ Lawrence, Eric D. (March 27, 2020). "QLINE shutting down after Sunday service close as coronavirus saps demand". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved May 14, 2023.
  57. ^ a b Lawrence, Eric D. (March 30, 2022). "QLINE free rides to continue through end of 2022: How it's possible". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved May 14, 2023.
  58. ^ "QLine streetcars on track to resume service in late summer". The Detroit News. Retrieved July 21, 2023.
  59. ^ Guillen, Joe; Robinson, Samuel (December 5, 2022). "Motor City Transit: Legislation would extend QLine funding". Axios Detroit.
  60. ^ a b LeBlanc, Beth (December 29, 2022). "Whitmer signs off on $85M tax subsidy for Detroit's QLine". The Detroit News. Retrieved May 14, 2023.
  61. ^ Shea, Bill (October 14, 2013). "M-1 Rail to Bidders: Contract will begin Dec. 1; Streetcar Service will begin February 2016". Crain's Detroit Business. Archived from the original on May 7, 2018. Retrieved February 12, 2014.
  62. ^ "Detroit Streetcar Project Selects Inekon to Supply Vehicles". Trains. November 4, 2014. Retrieved November 5, 2014.
  63. ^ Brookville Equipment Corporation (April 12, 2017). "Brookville Completes Delivery of Off-Wire Capable Liberty Streetcar Vehicles to Detroit for QLINE Ahead of Schedule" (Press release). Brookville Equipment Corporation. Retrieved May 17, 2018.
  64. ^ Raven, Benjamin (September 21, 2016). "Take a peek inside Detroit's first QLine streetcar". MLive.com. Retrieved December 14, 2016.
  65. ^ Lawrence, Eric D. (September 18, 2021). "QLine, buses get transit-only lane in front of Little Caesars Arena". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved November 19, 2021.
  66. ^ "QLINE announces extended streetcar service hours". WXYZ-TV. June 15, 2022. Retrieved May 14, 2023.
  67. ^ a b "QLine hours extended beginning this weekend". The Detroit News. June 15, 2022. Retrieved May 14, 2023.
  68. ^ Lawrence, Eric D. (August 20, 2019). "QLINE to join DDOT, SMART unified payment system beginning in October". Detroit Free Press.
  69. ^ "Company Snapshot: M-1 RAIL TOWING LLC". Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Retrieved May 14, 2023.
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