The $US 140m project is claimed to be the first public-private partnership deal to be funded by private businesses and philanthropic organisations, in partnership with local, state and federal governments.
Supporters of the project include Bank of America, Detroit Downtown Development Authority, Detroit Medical Center, Ford Foundation, Ford Motor Company Fund, Ford Motor Company, General Motors, JPMorgan Chase, Michigan Department of Transportation, Michigan Economic Development Corporation, and the United States Department of Transportation.
The project was also supported by the federal government through a $US 25m grant from the Transport Investment Generating Economic Recovery (Tiger) programme.
In 2007 the project’s backers formed M-1 Rail, a non-profit organisation, to lead the design, construction and operation of the 20-station line. Stacy & Witbeck was subsequently awardedthe contract to build the line and major construction began in July 2014.
Services are operated by a fleet of six bidirectional Liberty LRVs supplied by Brookville Equipment Corporation.
The 20.3m-long three-section bidirectional vehicles will operate without catenary on 60% of the line, drawing power from an onboard energy storage system which utilises 750V lithium-ion batteries. The 70% low-floor vehicles will also operate in catenary-free mode around the line's depot.
Each vehicle accommodates up to 125 passengers, 32 of them seated.