UPDATE: Will the Roosevelt Island Tram tumble out of MTA OMNY System?

UPDATE: Will the Roosevelt Island Tram tumble out of MTA OMNY System?

Don’t tell Roosevelt Island Tram riders, but the MetroCard system they need for entering expires this year. That’s according to TimeOut New York. But with RIOC tuned out of almost everything, what does that mean for Roosevelt Island? UPDATED: February 14th, 2022.

By David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

The Roosevelt Island Daily thanks Sylvan Klein for the heads up.

Roosevelt Island Tram already far behind

In 2023, OMNY will completely replace the MetroCard in New York City as we move toward a contactless payment system. The MTA finished installing all 15,000 OMNY readers across the city at 472 stations and on all 5,800 buses and Staten Island Railway stations on December 31, wrapping up the first phase of the rollout.

TimeOut New York/NYC’s MetroCard will be completely gone.
Relics now, MetroCard readers were a big step forward for Roosevelt Island as it merged fare collections with the city system.

Setting up OMNY readers at all MTA subway stations and on buses wrapped up on December 31st, 2020, well over a year ago. But Roosevelt Island is far behind because the Tram was not included in the upgrade.

As recently as last week, RIOC and its sister agency, the MTA, pointed fingers at each other for the stalemate. RIOC says OMNY readers are on the schedule for this year, but the MTA says they have never made a request.

Fallout has already begun. Unprepared MTA system passengers now cannot transfer for free between buses, trains and the Tram, using OMNY. OMNY, which accepts smartphones and enabled credit cards, replaces MetroCards at the start of 2023.

Worse than you think

In less visible financial terms, the situation is much worse. RIOC, the state agency that never gets it wrong, has not renewed its MTA contract in over ten years. That means RIOC still collects only $2.00 of every fare while the MTA keeps the rest, resulting in a $1 million plus loss to Roosevelt Island annually.

But in practical terms, the end of MetroCard is closer than you think, just months away, and Roosevelt Island is unprepared. Last week, after other elected officials kept their heads tucked deep in the sand, City Council Member Julie Menin laced into RIOC’s absentee landlord, Shelton J. Haynes. Haynes, typically, failed to respond.

Not a word has come from RIOC, the MTA’s sister agency now hosting the last of the MetroCard only readers. Someone needs to awaken the perpetually out of touch state agency because conversion for everyone else happened nine months ago.

Note: New York State Governor Kathy Hochul controls both agencies, but her indifference toward Roosevelt Island, while preoccupied with campaign fundraising, is discouraging.

Over a decade ago, when RIOC abandoned its Tram tokens, the MTA made it possible by installing readers in both Tram stations. That came after intense lobbying by Residents Association president Matthew Katz and city council member Jessica Lappin.

But that comity ended with the Cuomo state takeover. The MTA simply bypassed RIOC, moving into the 21st Century, leaving little sister behind.

So near and yet so far… OMNY readers in the Roosevelt Island Subway Station.


Will enough pressure come to bear that either RIOC and/or the MTA will make a simple call? Installing OMNY readers has been done hundreds of times already while slumbering RIOC was bypassed. Julie Menin’s given us some hope, although its affect on Haynes is unknown.

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