Home View from Underground Video of the Day: Roosevelt Island tram returns

Video of the Day: Roosevelt Island tram returns

by Benjamin Kabak

Via The New York Post comes a video look inside the brand-spankin’-new Roosevelt Island Tramway cars. Out of service for the past nine months as the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation modernized a system prone to leaving commuters dangling 250 feet above the East River, the new cars are bigger, more stable and, supposedly, longer lasting than the ones they’ve replaced.

“Roosevelt Island’s Tramway is once again the most modern urban aerial transportation system in the world,” Leslie Torres, President of RIOC, said this morning. “It’s built to serve residents, business, and tourists for the next thirty years.”

The tram upgrades cost a total of $25 million — with $15 million coming from the state and $10 million from the RIOC. The modernized tramway includes two separate tram systems in which each cable operates independently of each other. This way, the RIOC can better conduct preventative maintenance while keeping one side of the tramway in service. Cabins are now attached with double-hanger arms for a more stable ride, and the tramway is now equipped with four back-up generators. (In April 2006, the tramway had stalled above the East River for 11 hours.)

“The tram is not just a vibrant symbol of all that is unique about Roosevelt Island,” Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney said at the ribbon-cutting. “It’s an only-in-New York icon of our great city just like the Empire State Building or Grand Central Station. It’s also an extremely active, critical mode of mass transit, and I am delighted to join its thousands of riders in welcoming it back and better than ever.”

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Christopher Stephens November 30, 2010 - 9:52 pm

What a waste of $25 million that could have been better spent on better bus and subway service on the island. The tram only made sense when Roosevelt Island was not serviced by the subway. Now that the subway services the island, there was no reason to keep the tram except to pacify the whiniest of constituents. Hacks like Maloney respond only to the most vocal (though often the least rational) constituents. Now the city and state are going to be saddled with maintenance on this white elephant for decades into the future because politicians didn’t have the guts to tell a handful of activists that they were wrong. Even ferry service would have been more useful and integrated better into the rest of the city’s transportation infrastructure. Shame.

Sharon December 1, 2010 - 11:52 pm

This is yet another example of NYC where people were screaming for a subway and then say WELL I like the view and the states spends Millions upon millions to give people choice and then saddle the bill on the taxpayers. We need to spend out transit dollars wisely in area’s where it is needed. The tram is a duplicate service and should have been closed down.

The express bus situation in Brooklyn is the same issue. We are spending good money after bad providing express bus service that mirror subway lines. Many of these services were private and charged a premium fare. They ran rush hour only. Now we provide weekend service that draws flies on $400k buses that get 3 mpg.

Take out all the political service patterns and mta costs could decline by a few hundred million with min impact on riders. The cost of the express buses could have been used to make all brighton lines ADA for example.

Benjamin Kabak December 1, 2010 - 11:54 pm

Take out all the political service patterns and mta costs could decline by a few hundred million with min impact on riders.

Your cost estimates are repeatedly laughably outrageous. Do you base these numbers on facts or just pull them out of the air?

Ed December 1, 2010 - 8:27 am

I have to disagree with the above comment. The first Manhattan stop on the F is three cross-town and four updown-downtown blocks from the Tram stop, which given the congestion in that part of Midtown (it takes forever to walk anyplace) is quite far away. I live in that area and I’d much prefer trying to reach the N/Q/R or even the 4,5 during rush hour from 2nd Avenue and 60th Street than Lexington and 64th, simply because of the foot traffic patterns. Add the time it takes to access the F at both the Roosevelt Islands and East 64th Street stations because the stations are so deep. The tram will be an even better option if the Second Avenue subway is ever completed.

I think the original plans for Roosevelt Island called for more people to live there than actually happened. If the Island ever becomes a viable neighborhood -its not quite one yet but is getting there- we will be looking at extending the Tram to Queens Plaza. But put in a N and R station on the Island and then the tram becomes redundant.

For what its worth, the thing has also beocme a tourist attraction.

Roosevelt Island 360 (Eric) December 1, 2010 - 9:22 am

A couple of comments. I am in no way an expert on the financing related to the Tram. But I do know that the maintenance of the Tram is the responsibility of the Roosevelt Island operating Corporation which to my understanding receives no budget assistance from NYS. Yes it is a State Authority but it receives nothing from the State. I could be wrong but this is what was explained to me. I understand it has to fund its own operations from local revenues including building ground rents as well as tram revenue which it shares with the MTA so the Tram can accept the Metrocard.

As far as extending the Tram into Queens Plaza I have never heard that as a serious possibility of even being discussed. And Island residents would love if the N/R would be accessible but the MTA would never start that project as to build it “could” disturb the QB bridge as it runs underneath. The air vents for the N/R sit alongside the Tram station. If someday Goldwater Hospital is demolished and residential buildings are built in its place then perhaps a call will exist to rethink access to the N/R or the E/M both of which run underneath the island (currently emergency access exists to both only). Don’t even get me started re access to the LIRR East Side Access project whose tracks run directly under the F station on the island.

Related / Hudson actually has the right to build three more Towers just North of the Tram on the Eastern side of the island opposite the newest 6 buildings on the island. Until those buildings are built dramatically increasing the island population it is unlikely we will ever see any additional transportation infrastructure projects being discussed.

The MTA won’t even seriously discuss with residents pedestrian access to the QB Bridge citing landmark status and public safety issues. Granted how many people would want to walk up 20 flights of stairs as they keep arguing that to build an elevator would take up a lane of traffic. Many of us would love to see a redesigned island Tram station building which would act like the old Upside Down building (it historically allowed vehicles to exit the QB bridge onto its roof and descend to the island) and give individuals elevator access to the Bridge.


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