Roosevelt Island Tram MetroCard-only readers

Work On OMNY for the Tram Started Last Night, RIOC Says


Last we heard about OMNY for the Tram, RIOC President/CEO Shelton J. Haynes claimed readers were on track for the second quarter of this year. We’re already six weeks past that, but it kinda, sorta might be happening now. Maybe.

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

It’s increasingly difficult figuring out who is managing what at RIOC. Haynes has not been seen in his Blackwell House bunker in a couple of weeks. President Assistant Vice President Akeem Jamal’s sports car has not parked in his reserved spot either.

Red buses no longer run on reliable schedules, and public safety officers have mostly vanished, shying away from immediate issues.

Secrecy prevails, and so, taking anonymous advisories, for which no one is accountable, requires more than a few grains of salt. Are they reliable? Who says so? Who’s standing behind them?

Out of Town Speaker On OMNY for the Tram

In a strange advisory to “Dear Roosevelt Island Community” on Tuesday afternoon, RIOC said, “Prep work will begin tonight on the Manhattan side of the Tram in anticipation of bringing OMNY to Roosevelt Island.”


First problem: both sides of the Tram are already “on the Manhattan side.” So, this again suggests an advisory written or dictated by someone unfamiliar with the location. Yes, that’s a petty, if revealing, complaint.

But on the other hand, you also can’t “bring OMNY to Roosevelt Island” because it’s already been here for two years. The writer apparently doesn’t know that either.

Here’s the proof:

Roosevelt Island Tram MetroCard-only readers
OMNY readers at the Roosevelt Island subway station. When the MTA installed OMNY readers in the local subway, they did not walk a couple hundred feet south and do the same at the Tram Plaza. RIOC was, of course, silent or – possibly – asleep at the wheel.

The problem is, despite tidal waves of political pressure, RIOC could not get the MTA to install readers at the Tram. And that’s because the MTA has been stealing over $100K every month from Roosevelt Island, and they don’t want to give it up.

Yes, agencies under control of the same governor can steal from each other as long as said governor does not interfere with the larceny. We’re not saying who that governor is, but we’ll give you a hint. Her initials are Kathy Hochul.

MetroCard or OMNY for the Tram?

Way back in March 2004, guided by city council member Jessica Lappin, RIOC and the MTA cut a deal to bring MetroCard readers to the Tram. Until then, riders used tokens sold from booths in the stations.

The fare at the time was $2.00 a ride, and this didn’t just make it easier than tokens giggling loose in your pocket or purse along with a MetroCard, it also allowed free in-system transfers for the first time. And RIOC shared in the funds collected by the MTA.

There was a hitch, though, because RIOC’s legal brain trust did not negotiate an escalation clause. So, as fares rose over the years, the MTA shared only the $2.00 they signed off on. And kept the rest while doing nothing to earn it.

They balked at OMNY, probably, because that would mean sharing fairly with little weak sister RIOC. Even though Tram operations now bleed dark red from losses, no one broke up the thefts. Including that governor we hinted at before and her gentle predecessor Andrew Cuomo.

It’s gotten to the point now that, even if the MTA begins sharing fairly, RIOC will still lose money operating the Tram. And residents will continue subsidizing the Tram, now mostly used by tourists, through the hidden RIOC Tax.

Will the Installation Fix That?

Although it should be a simple matter of fairness or doing the right thing, RIOC’s advisory suggests it’s maybe not.

“While RIOC and the MTA continue to negotiate the terms of an agreement,” the advisory continues, “this work is a good sign that both parties are continuing to act in good faith in finalizing this.”

Well, no it isn’t. Good faith would have been several years ago when everyone was aware of the issues hurting Roosevelt Islanders.

Then RIOC president Susan Rosenthal discussed it with the board as far back as 2019. The bumbling and fumbling of RIOC’s 2004 legal wizards was a little funny four years ago.

Flush with Cornell Tech cash, there was no urgency, inconveniences and losses for riders be damned.

The strange and anonymous “Team RIOC” signed off the advisory, guaranteeing that no one could be held responsible. No finger-pointing here, and maybe no fingers on the keyboard at all.

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