Roosevelt Island Tram Guide 2023
Update: February 14th, 2023
With the opening of FDR Four Freedoms Park in 2011, then Cornell Tech five years later, interest in Roosevelt Island soared. Soon, the Tram, New York City’s cheapest big thrill, caught the attention too.
Courtesy of The Roosevelt Island Daily News
Note: Face masks are encouraged at all times, but all COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted.
Roosevelt Island Tram Questions Answered
The Roosevelt Island Daily offers this guide as a public service..
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, the same as MTA Subways and Buses. That includes one free transfer within the MTA system. Note: The Roosevelt Island Tram does not participate in OMNY. You cannot get a free transfer using OMNY.
The Tram to Roosevelt Island Is Fast But Fun
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. The 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.
Just a reminder…
It doesn’t happen often, but Tram travel is suspended during thunderstorms or high winds.
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 historical 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 frequent red signs and catch a free ride. The buses, like the Tram, is operated by the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation.
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, New York State rebuilt the entire system, except the towers, replacing everything else 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 tend to crowd in rush hours.
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 knowledgeable staff.
The Roosevelt Island Daily News is independently owned and operated.
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