New York City

Roosevelt Island Tram Guide Coronavirus Update

Roosevelt Island Tram Guide 2020

Coronavirus Update: August 23rd, 2020

Welcome to our Roosevelt Island Tram Guide for 2020/Coronavirus Update.

With the opening of FDR Four Freedoms Park, then Cornell Tech, interest in Roosevelt Island soared. Soon, the Tram, New York City’s cheapest big thrill, caught the attention too.

Get local: Roosevelt Island News

Coronavirus System Changes

But now, with changes brought on by the Coronavirus, we’re updating conditions. Until further notice:

  • The Tram runs on a weekend schedule at all times, i.e., at fifteen minute intervals.
  • Riders are required to wear face masks.
  • As of May 1st, the system shuts down overnight, from 1:00 to 6:00 a.m., for disinfecting.
  • August 21st Update: Passenger capacity (20) and other safety measures now in place. July 1st, 2020, Because of demand, passenger capacity is now at operators discretion, but masks are still mandatory. Long lines have formed in the last week as the city reopens and more people come outside.

Following is a quick how-to for the Roosevelt Island Tram and little history…

Details for The Roosevelt Island Tram

What does the Roosevelt Island Tram cost? Although not managed by the MTA, the Tram operates within the New York City Subway MetroCard system. Transfers are easy between systems. You swipe a MetroCard at turnstiles in either Tram Plaza. Buy MetroCards at either location. Fares are currently $2.75 per single ride, same as MTA Subways and Buses. That includes one free transfer within the system.

Where is the Roosevelt Island Tram? The most popular access point is the Tram Plaza on 2nd Avenue, between East 59th and East 60th Streets. Closest subway access is from the N, R and W station one block west at 3rd Avenue. Also, one block farther west is the 4, 5 and 6 59th Street station on Lexington near Bloomingdales. Q32 and M102 buses also stop within a block of the Tram. Reach the Roosevelt Island Tram by F Train, one block north, Q102 Bus or NYC Ferry, both with stops adjacent to the Tram Plaza.

How long does the Roosevelt Island Tram take? The Tram glides alongside the Queensboro Bridge for roughly four minutes. Times vary as little as the cabins speed up or slow down, depending on need. Cabins rise 250 feet. The city spreads out on all sides. Views are great anytime, but nighttime rides are spectacular.

When is the Roosevelt Island Tram open? First cabins sweep skyward at 6:00 a.m and run at 15 minute intervals until 2:00 a.m. They run twice as often, every 7 1/2 minutes, during rush hours when demand is high, for example, when the subway is down or there is a special event. If possible, visitors should avoid rush hours when cabins can be cramped, and you’re better off waiting for a better experience and view when local residents aren’t using the Tram to get to and from work. RIOC Red Buses offer free rides to most Island locations.

It doesn’t happen often, but Trams are suspended during thunderstorms or when winds are very high.

How do I get around Roosevelt Island? Roosevelt Island, from north to south between channels of the East River, is just two miles long, and it’s an easy walk to Shops on Main in the heart of town, numerous historic sites, the sprinkling of parks throughout the Island, FDR Four Freedoms Park and Cornell Tech. As unique as the Tram, free, full size RIOC Red Buses carry passengers to all points. Just watch for the red signs for stops. The buses, like the Tram are operated by the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC) and operate on a similar schedule.

Roosevelt Island in Pictures

Brief History of the Tram

The Roosevelt Island Tram was built and operating in 1976 as the modern community, envisioned as the City of Tomorrow, welcomed its first permanent residents, planned as a temporary solution until a subway connection was built.

But construction lagged, and by the time the local Subway Station opened in 1989, the Tram was a beloved local fixture. Residents put up a fierce fight, and finally, they won the battle. They saved the treasured system.

Eventually, the entire system, except the towers, was replaced with newer, more reliable technologies.

Tourists flock to the Tram, which doesn’t disappoint, but visitors experiences increase during off-peak hours. Residents rely on the Tram for commuting, and the cabins get crowded.

Quick Tip: However you find your way to Roosevelt Island, smart visitors stop by the Historical Society’s Kiosk in the Tram Plaza on Main Street. Find souvenirs, maps and refreshments along with helpful suggestions and answers from a knowledgeable staff.

A slightly different version of this article appears in the Roosevelt Island Daily.

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