Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Q & A with a member of Board of Directors of Roosevelt Island

David Kraut, a member of the Roosevelt Island Board of Directors answered a few main questions of mine, and residents of Roosevelt Island. This Q & A is intended to inform people of the reason the tramway needs reconstruction.

1) Why does the tram need reconstruction?
The tram is over 30 years old and in recent years has been subject to constant breakdowns. In the most recent occasion a few years ago, the cabins were stuck in the air and it took over 11 hours to rescue the last passengers. We could have gone on fixing it forever, but authorities at the state level thought it best to rebuild it completely.

2) Where is the funding coming from?
Most of the funding is coming from the state of New York, some from the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation.

3) How do you feel about the reconstruction? Whats your opinion? Agree? Disagree?
Since I myself am a member of the Board of Directors of RIOC and voted for the rebuild, I'd have to say I agree. As for how I feel, let me tell you why I cast my vote in favor of it. I suppose we could have gone on repairing the old tram forever. But for me the clincher was that state was offering us the money. As I put it, if you've been holding your old Toyota together with duct tape and baling wire it doesn't matter how good it runs: if someone comes along and offers to buy you a new Cadillac you take it.

4) How do you feel about the people who complain about having more difficult commutes because there is no tram?
They have every right to complain, and their commutes certainly are more difficult. But it can't be helped.

5) Is the shuttle bus alternative seemingly affective?
Only partly. Almost no one is taking the shuttle to and from the Queens Plaza subway station and we will eliminate it on March 31. We'll continue the shuttle service to 2nd avenue through April, and then we'll evaluate it again.

6) How do you think this will affect the dynamic of Roosevelt Island over the summer?
Well that will be interesting to see. We do tend to have more visitors over the summer, and a tram trip is part of their adventure. Obviously, that won't happen.

7) What are your plans for commuting? How do you feel about being so limited in choices as far as your commute.
In the past I've taken the subway or the tram depending on which part of Manhattan I was going to. Now of course I only take the train. But I don't feel "limited" by it, because most New Yorkers take the subway or the city buses or some combination of the two. We need the tram because of our status as an island, but we can make do while it's being rebuilt.

8) How do you address the complaints from residents and commuters? If you could tell them all one thing, what would it be?
I think most people understand the problems with the tram being out. Most of the complaints are whether the subway service is adequate, particularly in the morning rush hour. The F train starts way out in Jamaica and by the time it gets to Roosevelt Island it is already full of commuters from further out. Very often Roosevelt Islanders can't even get on the train. This has been a problem for a long time. MTA just never took our problem very seriously. But since the tram project started the MTA seems to have wised up a little. Morning trains are running more often, and there are MTA supervisors on the platform.

9) What is the expected finish date? Do you think the tram reconstruction will actually be finished by that time?
Scheduled to have one of the two ropeways running by August 31, and the other to be ready shortly thereafter. I heard a report yesterday that construction is actually a day ahead of schedule.

10) How will the new tram benefit commuters? what will it look like/ how will it run? Will there be a dramatic difference?
The new tram will look very much like the old ones, only with more modern, streamlined-looking cars and some machinery differences in the stations and on top of the towers. Technically it is engineered so as to sway a lot less in a wind. And it will operate very differently. The old tram was essentially a single "ropeway". Both cars were connected and they had to move together regardless if there was anybody on them or alternatively if there were too many people and some had to be left on the platform. The new system will be "dual ropeway". Essentially it is two separate trams which can be operated independently. The benefits are: 1. In the rush hour, a tram can go as soon as it is filled, it doesn't have to wait for the other car to be ready. 2. In the rush hour, a tram can make a return journey for more passengers as soon as it has emptied. 3. Trams can run more-or-less continuously. 4. There is no need for both sides to be constantly running. You can run just one side while performing maintenance on the other, or you can just let it sit idle in non-rush times.

Benefit 5 would be the invisible benefit, which is namely that a new tram should require much less maintenance than the old, and be out of service much less often.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

My First Tramway Experience

Below is a podcast featuring a non resident of Roosevelt Island. Marquis Thomas speaks about his first experience riding the tram, being afraid of heights and how the experience was so amazing, he was able to let go of his fear. The experience enlightened him about Roosevelt Island and gave him a view of the different resources available to island residents for their daily commutes.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Tramway MODERNization Project

The Roosevelt Island Tram Modernization Project is moving along and Island residents are coping with the new adjustments to their daily commutes. New tramway cabin designs by Poma are dramatically different with a modernized twist to it's appearance. Even the Stations are getting major upgrades, and will not only be convenient for passenger safety, but easy on the eye as well.

This is the exterior.

This is the expected appearance of the Manhattan station.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Roosevelt Island Transporttion in the News

In the April 10, 2010 issue of The Wire, Roosevelt Islands news publication, on page 10 of 16 there is a photo featuring the tram construction site and overview of its progress.

In other news, page 14 of 16 of the same issue, features a letter to the editor with more complaints about the red bus schedule, or lack there of. It seems like RIOC is trying to address the problems with the inconsistency of the bus schedule, but resident commuters continue to express their frustrations.

Annoyed Passengers

The commuters of Roosevelt Island are getting accustomed to the Red Bus system. While some may not be bothered by the changes in their commute, others are a bit annoyed.

Typically, the first stop of the bus is the the tram, then the F train station on the island. The bus would run on the schedule of the tram, boarding customers transferring from the tram to the bus every 15 minutes. Now, there is no tram, but the bus continues to run on that same schedule operating 15 minutes after its reached its last stop. F train passengers have become annoyed by the bus continuing to operate on this schedule and feel that it is pointless since there is no tram.

I personally have witnessed the bus waiting at the last stop while passengers from the F train fill the station, even in cold and rainy weather. In a letter to the editor of The Wire, Roosevelt Island's news publication, reader Susan Cina expressed her frustrations about the bus route and schedule.
" I don't understand why, until the tram is back, the buses can't just run on a continuous route, especially since, according to a bus driver, there is one less bus being utilized for the on island route!"

She also states that there is no indication on the bus route map that the bus would not be proceeding to the subway after the last stop.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Relying on the Red Bus

A substitute for the Roosevelt Island tramway is the red shuttle bus. It typically runs to transport residents from the north end to the south end of the island. According to the Roosevelt Island Operating Corp, it first provided service to residents in 1976 free of charge. in 1990 there was a 10 cent fare and in 1994 it increased to the current fare of 25 cents.
Roosevelt Islanders are relying on one of their last resorts; the red bus along with the Q102 which only goes to astoria, and the F train. The nearest taxi service is in astoria so there is hardly an influx of street cabs on the island.
In the event that the F train wont be running for whatever complications, what will manhattan-bound, island residents do?

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Q & A with a resident of Roosevelt Island

I interviewed resident Patrick, of Roosevelt Island. In this Q & A he states his opinion on the reconstruction, the changes to his commute, and his idea of what the tram means to Roosevelt Island.

1) Before reconstruction, was the tram apart of your daily commute? If so, how are you adjusting to the change?

Generally my daily commute involved using the subway. I take the "F" train to 42nd street which leaves me one block away from my office. This would be about 30 minutes door to door during rush hours. However, on days I'd work late, say past 11 pm, I would sometimes take a car service to the tram. Since the Tram had a regular schedule, I could almost count on the same time in commuting. This would be much shorter than waiting for a subway that late at night.

2) In your opinion, what does the tram mean to Roosevelt Island?

The Tram is to the Island to say the Empire State Building is to Manhattan. It is an icon, tourist attraction and it's unique to the city. This makes the Island special and a beautiful place to live and visit. The site of the Tram as it seems to float over the East River is very eye catching. And for visitors to Roosevelt Island or NYC, the tram is a romantic attraction. It offers a spectacular view of the skyline. It's safe, warm, quiet and yet the idea of riding on wires suspended in midair is exciting. The tram also offers a great alternative to commuting to and from Manhattan quickly and reliably. Again, because of it's regular schedule, one can plan trips off the island with more precision. The subway is reliable, but is less convenient to planning.

3) Do you believe the tram needed to be rebuilt entirely?

I don't know. I am trusting that the engineers know more about it than I do. The tram has been in service from over 3 decades at least. It has been shut down before for about 3 months. (Check the research on this)

4) How do you think this summer will differ without the tram?

I think it will mean very, very fewer tourist will visit the Island which will effect business. It will mean it would be harder to quickly leave the Island for say a visit to Bloomingdale's, to see a film or to commute down 2nd Avenue. Catching the bus from the tram or the N train on 3rd Ave is very fast. I will find it harder to visit stores and shoppes along 1st, 2nd and 3rd Avenue.

5) Do you now feel limited by the only options available for transportation to and from Roosevelt island?

Yes, particularly if traveling late in the city on the weekends.

6) How do you think local businesses of Roosevelt island will be affected by the reconstruction?

As I mentioned above, I think this will effect tourism on the Island greatly during the summer months.

7) Have you noticed overcrowding on the F train during rush hours even more than before?

Actually, no I have not. But I leave rather early in the morning. However, I have not seen more crowding during my evening commute either, but it could be that more trains have been added because of the tram shutdown.

8) Do you think 6 months without a tram is really worth it?

Yes, there was more traffic and use of the tram as the Island population has increased. And anyone who has taken the tram during rush hours will have noted that there's a queue (a wait for the next tram) since there it was just not possible to get everyone on.

9) Do you have any memorable/ frightening experiences while riding the tram?, not really. I've been a bit nervous on a windy day. But I've been skydiving, so I find it kind of fun. Like I said the tram is fun to bring visitors to. Particularly a beautiful friend on a date.