Roosevelt Island Tram Plaza

OMNY for the Roosevelt Island Tram? You Won’t Like This Answer


Questions about OMNY for the Roosevelt Island Tram festered for over a year. After City Council Member Julie Menin waded in, an angry stalemate between bumbling RIOC and bullying MTA emerged. It’s still there, if more frosty than heated, according to an answer the MTA gave an inquiring resident. Paying mass transit users are being victimized by dueling bureaucratic egos.

by David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

OMNY for the Roosevelt Island Tram? Not So Fast… or at all

Roosevelt Island Tram MetroCard-only readers
The MTA installed OMNY readers at the Roosevelt Island subway. But dueling egos fueled by ineptness and a lack of accountability kept them from the Tram, just a short block away.

“Please note that the Roosevelt Island Tram is under the jurisdiction of the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation of the State of New York. As such, we are unable to provide an answer to your inquiry.”

That’s the bounce Southtown’s Sylvan Klein got when he asked about OMNY for the Tram. A cold shoulder for sure and, in reality, a double dose because RIOC has refused to comment at all on the issue since revealing, at a 2021 board meeting, that they had no contact with the MTA for over a year at that time.

With Menin demanding that RIOC get OMNY readers for the Tram, a nasty private exchange between RIOC CEO Shelton J. Haynes and MTA representatives exposed a blame game. It ended with RIOC sucking wind, humbly claiming that the MTA was working “tirelessly” on getting OMNY readers installed for the Tram.

But no firm date was set, and the little we know about the battle is from information provided by public officials outside RIOC.

Why isn’t Governor Kathy Hochul helping?

Although Hochul controls both agencies, she is running for reelection and tangled between the authorities bogged down with countless patronage appointments and secret deals.

In terms of Roosevelt Island, her primary activity amounts to shielding incompetents from accountability.

The Players

What is the Metropolitan Transit Authority?

The MTA is responsible for public transportation in metropolitan New York City. It includes the subways, buses, and some of the commuter railroads. The Roosevelt Island Tram is not part of the MTA.

What is Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation?

The Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC) is a state-run corporation that manages Roosevelt Island. It is overseen by Governor Kathy Hochul.

What is OMNY?

OMNY is the new electronic fare payment system for the MTA. It allows riders to pay their fares with a contactless credit card or smartphone.

Why doesn’t OMNY work on the Roosevelt Island Tram?

The Roosevelt Island Tram is not part of the MTA, so it is not included in the OMNY system. The Tram is managed by the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC), which is overseen by Governor Kathy Hochul.

But the Tram is a 20-year member of the MTA’s MetroCard system and has merged with the buses and trains all along. The crush of interest was brought on by a decision to end MetroCard as soon as OMNY is fully available

Currently, the Tram is the single point in New York City mass transit without OMNY access.

How can I pay for the Roosevelt Island Tram?

Currently, the only way to pay for the Roosevelt Island Tram is with a MetroCard. RIOC has not announced any plans to add OMNY compatibility to the Tram.

Why OMNY for the Roosevelt Island Tram Is a Bigger Issue

Tram riders, today, can’t take advantage of user discounts offered through OMNY, and they can’t transfer for free via OMNY between Tram and MTA resources as they have with EasyPass.

That’s unfair to riders, but the MTA bullying and RIOC cowardice go deeper.

Because inept RIOC staff never demanded an escalation clause in their contract with the MTA nor has any renegotiation addressed the problem, the MTA has raked in millions of unearned dollars that should have gone to Roosevelt Island.

As long ago as 2019, then RIOC President/CEO Susan Rosenthal openly discussed the problem at a board meeting. Simply put, the original contract provided fare-sharing at the then prevailing charge of $2.00/per ride. You swiped your card, and RIOC got $2.00, helping pay for Tram expenses, just as it had with Tram tokens.

But twenty years later, you swipe for $2.75, and RIOC still gets only $2.00. According to official figures, that means – just in the last year – MTA awarded itself over a million dollars that should’ve gone to Roosevelt Island.

And RIOC has done nothing but lamely gripe about it. Hochul hasn’t helped at all.

Think about that the next time RIOC whines about scraping up the stingy $150,000 they contribute to nonprofits through Public Purpose Funds. They willingly give away around ten times that to the MTA – which gobbles it up like a pig at the bureaucratic trough.

Who’s looking out for Roosevelt Islanders? As usual, nobody.

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