Roosevelt Island Tram MetroCard-only readers

76,000 Free Rides on OMNY. Roosevelt Islanders Left Out


Roosevelt Islander Tram users were mostly left out while OMNY gave out 76,000 free rides in just two weeks. And efforts by City Council Member and State Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright, aimed at fixing the mess, have not brought results.

by David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

The Daily thanks Sylvan Klein for this tip.

Lost in the coverage of RIOC’s brutal failure at getting OMNY readers installed for the Roosevelt Island Tram was a lesser story. But now, bonus-free rides for OMNY users, worsen the deal, costing local residents real money.

OMNY readers allow riders to enter using a credit card, iPhone, watches and other enabled devices without toting around an extra card.

76,000 free rides but none for the Tram

While The Daily uncovered a decade of fumbling and bumbling between RIOC and its sister agency, costing Roosevelt Islanders over $1 million every year, the MTA announced bonuses for frequent OMNY users. That, according to MTA boss Janno Lieber, came to 76,000 free rides but not even one on the Tram.

That’s because, under the “leadership” of President/CYA Shelton J. Haynes, RIOC couldn’t figure out how to work with the MTA on what should have been a minor transition. No more than a city block from either Tram station, OMNY readers were installed. But the Tram remained MetroCard only.

Not only did that force many Roosevelt Islanders to miss out on user bonuses, it jeopardizes the system’s existence. If a fix does not come through by the end of 2022 – when MetroCard dies – RIOC will have no system for collecting fares.

76,000 free rides on OMNY but none for Roosevelt Island Tram riders because they are still MetroCard only.
Roosevelt Island Tram gates are still MetroCard only after every other entry point in the city transit system added OMNY.

You might think that’s not possible, but until Menin and Seawright raised hell with him, Haynes had settled into a plan for OMNY readers for the Tram…in mid-2023. That’s around six months too late. RIOC’s brain trust either didn’t notice or didn’t give a damn. But Julie Menin did.

A Demand That Haynes Do His Job

In early February, aware of the pending disaster, Menin sent Haynes a letter firmly demanding action. Seawright signed on. CYA Haynes never answered publicly, but in response to the electeds, he deftly blamed everyone but himself.

It was a Truman* in reverse moment, but it backfired. Within hours, RIOC sucked it all back, saying the MTA was “working tirelessly” on OMNY for the Tram. But no new installation date came with it. It could’ve been done in a couple of days, preventing Tram users from missing out completely on the 76,000 free rides.

*President Harry Truman was known for his “The buck stops here” philosophy for taking responsibility. This is not a RIOC strength.

76,000 free rides and more conclusion

No one at RIOC disclosed any of the above. Neither has Haynes nor his vaunted Communications and Community Relations Team coughed up a single word. And Governor Kathy Hochul, who runs both RIOC and the MTA, staked out a position that Roosevelt Island is not in New York, leaving RIOC malfunctioning without interference.

As a result, Roosevelt Islanders miss out on free rides, every day. Lieber announced 76,000 of them in just the first two weeks. How much longer will this go on? The Hochul/RIOC silence is deafening. Well, no, that’s a cliche, but it adds to the continuing insult of RIOC’s gaggle of bumblers going on unchecked.

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