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OMNY and the Roosevelt Island Tram Now Edge Closer

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Testifying before state lawmakers yesterday, MTA chief Janno Lieber answered a question about OMNY and the Roosevelt Island Tram. It wasn’t great, but it was much better than the hardball his agency took last November.

by David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

According to an article in STREETSBLOG NYC, Lieber said that OMNY is coming for the aerial tramway “in the second half of this year.” That’s pretty vague – from July 1st to New Year’s Eve – but it’s so much better than the slam one Roosevelt Islander got in November.

“The Roosevelt Island Tram is not operated by the MTA, we are unsure if and when OMNY will be available,” an MTA representative told Sylvan Klein.

But yesterday, Klein reached out with somewhat better news:

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Duggan is a reporter for STREETSBLOG, and his tweet was followed by an article about the hearing, most of which concerned fare hikes.

OMNY and the Roosevelt Island Tram

The issues surrounding the installation of OMNY readers at the Tram plazas are not simple. They’re far more complicated than the note implies. Installing readers would be a piece of cake, but after years of frustration, they’re still in storage. Here’s why.

Inept RIOC legal counsel coupled with the extreme passivity of current CEO Seldom Seen Shelton Haynes have the community in a bind. That’s because, when the Tram joined the MetroCard system, RIOC fumbled the deal.

Because the MTA and RIOC are separate agencies, they needed a contract that brought the Tram into an existing system. Roosevelt Islanders hailed it as a great change when they chucked their Tram tokens, exchanging them for slick and easy swipes.

But there was a huge mistake.

RIOC has long been a patronage dump where loyalty and favors contaminate ability as factors in hiring. For that reason, the executive ranks are never filled with the sharpest tools in the shed. Sometimes, they’re just tools.

In an eventually spectacular fail, RIOC’s brain trust signed off on a contract that froze fare-sharing at the then-current $2.00 per ride price. And there was no escalation clause.

Plus, it’s not clear that RIOC had to increase fares every time the MTA did. They did in any case, opening the door to open thievery.

Today, as a result, the MTA rakes in more than 100,000 unearned dollars every month because they keep the extra $.85 for themselves. RIOC foots all the bills while the MTA resists discussing a new deal.

With RIOC as passive as a daisy in spring, the theft continues. Former RIOC President/CEO Susan Rosenthal discussed the dilemma with the board in 2019. Successor Seldom Seen Shelton Haynes ducked for cover.

And Governor Kathy Hochul? She runs both agencies and could break the impasse with a single call. That she hasn’t is a story in itself.

Where Does The Issue Stand Today?

As we see it, the backstory described above drives the entire issue, but no one talks about it, at least not anyone with authority. Thus, a nebulous six-month projection after four years of stalling.

OMNY and the Roosevelt Island Tram will finally marry, but it won’t be until the MTA sucks every dime it can from the old deal. Hochul, Haynes and the boards they control will sit on their hands while Tram riders endure.

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

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