OMNY for the Tram was not supposed to move this way, but today, it’s becoming more unlikely, not less. With a springtime push from Council Member Julie Menin and Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright, the logjam appeared near breaking. Now, the possibility dangles by a thread and may never happen at all.
by David Stone
Last week, Roosevelt Islander Sylvan Klein contacted the MTA, thanking them for integrating senior discounts into their OMNY system. “Hopefully, in the near future OMNY will be available to Roosevelt Island Tram users too.”
A week later, today, he got this shocking response:
“The Roosevelt Island Tram is not operated by the MTA, we are unsure if and when OMNY will be available. Please keep using your Reduced-Fare MetroCard when riding the tram and OMNY whenever using New York City Transit.”
OMNY for the Tram: “…if and when…”
After Menin and Seawright forced the issue, RIOC President/CEO Shelton J. Haynes responded with a stinging email, blaming the MTA. That email was not made public by RIOC.
But it was instantly blunted by pushback from the MTA which rejected his finger-pointing. Then, RIOC issued a second email, which did not have Haynes’s signature, withdrawing the accusations and, in a complete twist, praising the MTA for working “tirelessly” to bring OMNY to the unique local transit system.
It now appears that even “tireless” has its limits.
Neither Haynes nor anyone else at RIOC has ever directly addressed the community about the problems with bringing OMNY for the Tram. Hilariously, though, at a board meeting, RIOC’s Chief Counsel and major Haynes backscratcher, Gretchen Robinson, declared that they’d soon be resolved through the brilliance of Haynes’s involvement.
But another manager told The Daily that Dear Leader Haynes was content with the MTA delays because he was generally too lazy to get involved.
What’s the Problem?
RIOC owns the Tram and all its parts, although operations are contracted out to Poma. Fare collections, using the aging-out MetroCard system, are governed by a contract with the MTA.
That’s where the current issues stem because RIOC’s EADD was in full swing. Their deep thinkers signed off on an agreement with an escalator clause. That is, fare sharing is based on the rate at the time, over a decade ago.
To be clear, the MTA now passes on to RIOC the $2.00 per ride price at the time, keeping the remaining $.85 for themselves. It’s virtual theft – except it’s in New York where this sort of thing just sorta happens all the time.
Bottom Line: The MTA rakes in over $1 million per year it doesn’t earn. Only a fool believes that’s not why they’ve refused to negotiate a new contract, which is necessary before OMNY readers can be installed. And why it’s possible they never will be.
So, Where the Hell Is the Governor?
In case the irony evaded you, Governor Kathy Hochul controls both the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC) and the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA.) Andrew Cuomo did too when all this started.
A call or two from the governor could have solved this in a New York minute. But those calls never came. Both Menin and Seawright say they are working on it, but if the governor doesn’t think Roosevelt Island is worth it – and clearly she doesn’t – their efforts will fail as they have for nearly a year now.