Roosevelt Island Tram at work

Roosevelt Island transportation? Mostly settled for now


With the MTA’s announcement yesterday on subway service, Roosevelt Island transportation is mostly settled until the end of 2022. But there are exceptions with looming consequences.

By David Stone

Roosevelt Island Daily News

Federal aid bill and Roosevelt Island transportation…

Expecting at least $6 billion in pandemic aid from the reconciliation bill now moving through Congress, the Metropolitan Transit Authority said service cutbacks are now not projected until at least the end of 2022. That includes buses as well as subways.

That means F trains running normally, although it doesn’t promise that overcrowding will not return as New York City reopens. But even with crowding not expected at pre-pandemic levels for many months if ever, concerns remain about even current levels under COVID-19 conditions.

MTA subway social distancing markers
As COVID-19 restrictions dragged on, subway social distancing became difficult to, at times, impossible.

Tunnel repairs that have Fs and Es switching routes on weekends and late nights end on March 22nd. Or at least, that’s the original plan, and overnight shutdowns shrink on Monday.

One More Time – East Side Access Again Pushed Back, Now Into 2023

But waiting in the shadows… the Queens bus redesign

As we reported last January, a proposed Queens bus redesign would devastate local transit. A ripple effect would impact all other options.

Under the plan, a new QT78 bus route replaces the Q102, but instead of serving the whole Island, it travels only south from the bridge and just as far as the subway station. While this part of the plan has all the earmarks of slipshod work, the threat to Roosevelt Island transportation remains.

Before the pandemic brought the project to a halt, RIOC and residents teamed up in protest, but that ground to a halt too.

Now, both are likely to reengage.

And then, there’s the Tram…

Probably no other travel options affect locals as emotionally as the Tram. An icon, it’s also a hard fought for resource on which the community’s founding rests.

Based on vague references at committee and full board meetings, RIOC hopes to share in federal rescue funding. But because the state agency often acts more like a secret society, the amount and prospects are unclear outside the inner sanctum.

Public budget records show a severe reduction in revenue from the drop off in Tram ridership, but RIOC’s managed its budget crisis effectively so far. Not only have there been no reductions in service, but Red Buses have also been added in parallel when elevator breakdowns restricted handicapped access.

But with resources limited across all of government, RIOC needs help in maintaining Tram and Red Bus services.

Although chances are they will get some aid, there’s no way of knowing if it will be enough.

Conclusion: Roosevelt Island transportation now…

On balance, at worst, expect local transportation at status quo.

MTA subway service is stable for now, and the Queens bus redesign is too stupid to resist change. After all, it would abandon Coler Hospital’s staff and visitors, and that won’t stand.

One item that’s hard to know much about for the future is NYC Ferry Service. Mayor Bill de Blasio and his Economic Development Corp. have been its champions. But de Blasio term limits out, next year, and his robust support isn’t likely to carry over. It presents a big unknown where ferries serve local communities today.

Finally, RIOC’s observable commitment to protecting Tram operations is firm and unlikely to change.


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