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.

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