The Roosevelt Tramway is a modern tramway that links Roosevelt Island with Manhattan.
The tramway is not operated through the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Leitner-Poma operates the tramway instead. Regardless, you can still use your MetroCard to pay.
There are several places to experience a beautiful view of the city’s skyline, but the view from the tramway is unique because it takes you along the skyline.
Roosevelt Island Transportation History
In 1909, Roosevelt Island residents had only one way to reach the rest of the city – A trolley car. The trolley car would take passengers to an elevator on the Queensboro Bridge.
The trolley car was even the last to be taken down in the US because it was the only means of transportation between Roosevelt Island and Manhattan.
Around 1957, a bridge to queens was constructed, and the trolley cars were replaced by regular buses.
Roosevelt Island soon saw an increase in housing projects that made it necessary to build more means of transportation from the island. Three options were considered – a ferry, an aerial tramway, and an elevator.
The aerial tramway was chosen and was constructed by Von roll (a Swiss industrial group). The tramway station started its operations in 1976.
But the tramway was meant to solve the island’s transportation issues for only a short time (in hopes of completing a subway connection to 63rd street).
The subway connection stalled, and the tramway became a permanent source of transportation. Over the years, the tramway was repaired and refurbished, especially after two incidents where passengers were stuck over the East River for hours.
In 2010, the tramway got renovated and modernized – a project that cost up to $25 million. It has been in use ever since.
Roosevelt Island Tramway Operation
- The Roosevelt Island Tramway has two cabins that travel back and forth separately.
- The tramway travels about 115 miles per day.
- Each cabin can hold up to 125 people and is suspended by its pair of cables.
- The tramway travels 3,100 feet (940 m) in 3 minutes at 16 mph (26 km/h).
- The cabins run along the north side of the Queensboro Bridge.
- The tramway runs every seven and half minutes except on busy days.
- The tramway’s highest point is 250 feet (76 meters) above the East River.
Roosevelt Island Tramway Hours
- Sunday to Thursday: 6 AM – 2 AM
- Friday to Saturday: 6 AM – 3:30 AM
- Monday to Friday Morning Rush Hours: 7 AM – 10 AM
- Monday to Friday Evening Rush Hours: 3 PM – 8 PM
- Rush Hour schedule applies on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Independence Day.
Roosevelt Island Tramway Entrance
What You Need to Know Before Riding The Tramway
- Only MTA Metro Cards are allowed means of payment.
- The Roosevelt Island Tramway follows the same fare structure as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
- The tramway is free for up to three children. A paying adult must accompany the children.
- The ride is free for children that are 44 inches tall or shorter.
- Children more than 44 inches tall have to pay the adult price.
- You can buy a MetroCard at the tramway Station.
- There are no MTA booths in the tramway station; the only option is to use vending machines.
- You must fold your strollers or shopping carts at the operator’s request.
- Animals are not allowed on the tramway unless they are in a container.
- Animals in a container are not allowed to inconvenience other passengers.
- Animals that are allowed are Law enforcement dogs, service animals, and animal guides. (They should still be leashed or harnessed).
Check out the video for the complete Roosevelt Island Tramway guide.
Roosevelt Island Tramway Tickets
You can buy the tramway tickets from vending machines inside the station. Tickets are free if you have a Metro pass. Otherwise, it will cost $3.25 per person (one way).
You can buy the tramway tickets from vending machines inside the station. You can also buy a MetroCard at the tramway station.
Address and map
Address: 254 E 60th St, New York, NY 10022, United States
How To Get to Roosevelt Island Tramway
To get to the station, go to the 59th Street and 2nd Avenue intersection. The location is easily accessible to everyone, including tourists.
Once you arrive in front of the Plaza Hotel (59th Street and 5th Avenue), walk east for about 20 minutes on 59th Street until you reach Roosevelt Island Tramway Station.
Tips for the best experience on The Tramway
- Remember that the tramway is primarily a means of transportation? It can get cramped inside the cabins. If you want a less crowded experience, try hopping on at Roosevelt Island. A cramped cabin can ruin the experience, especially if you’re stuck in the middle.
- Depending on where you’re coming from, it might be hard to get on the tramway from Roosevelt Island. In this case, consider going on a weekend since commuters would typically be more on weekdays.
- The two best times to experience the view from the tramway are at sunset and night – when the lights make the New York skyline view even more breathtaking.
- The tramway ride on its own can seem a little underwhelming for tourists since it is just a 3-minute ride. I would advise you to couple the visit with a tour around Roosevelt Island.
- Locals might find the experience no different than taking the equally jampacked subway, but at least they can enjoy the East River and the city rather than inside the subway.
- If you can’t escape riding the tramway at a busy hour, try finding your way to the back of the cabin on the right side (If you’re coming from Manhattan). You’ll be on the side of the Queensboro Bridge and several skyscrapers. If you’re going from Roosevelt Island, stick to the left side.
Bonus Tips for A Visit to Roosevelt Island
There is a visitor’s center in a streetcar kiosk near the tramway terminal. They sell cute souvenirs and hand-drawn maps of Roosevelt Island.
- On the island, you can visit historic structures such as:
The Octagon: was the entrance to the New York City Lunatic Asylum.
The Blackwell House: One of the oldest buildings in New York.
The Smallpox Hospital: opened in 1856 and was the country’s first hospital dedicated to treating smallpox.
Chapel of the Good Shepherd: was designed by the architect Frederick Clarke Withers.
- Visit the Four Freedoms State Park for book readings, yoga classes, kite flying, public talks, and music performances. It’s also a great spot to watch the Fourth of July fireworks.
- Plan a getaway from the city and stay at The Graduate Hotel, with photos of the Roosevelt family and the famous FDR’s “Four Freedoms Speech” in each room.
- Visit The Lighthouse at the northern end of the island.
- Visit the RIVAA Gallery, which exhibits works by local artists and hosts poetry slams and jazz sessions.
- Have a picnic at Southpoint Park (at the southern end of the island)
Fun Facts About Roosevelt Island Tramway
- The Roosevelt Tramway was the first aerial tramway that was used as public transportation in North America.
- The tramway started operating in 1976.
- The tramway has carried more than 25 million passengers.
- The tramway has appeared in numerous films, including City Slickers with Billy Crystal, Nighthawks starring Sylvester Stallone, Dark Water (2005), and the 2002 Spider-Man.
- The Roosevelt Island Tramway used special tokens before they were replaced by subway and bus tokens, and later by the MetroCard.
- The tramway is wheelchair accessible.
- The tramway owners are the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation — a public company that has run Roosevelt’s island services since 1984.
- There are only a few means of public transportation in New York City that are not operated by the MTA. The Roosevelt Island Tramway happens to be one of them, even though it accepts the MTA’s MetroCard and allows free transfers to the subway system.
- The Roosevelt Island Tramway remained the only tramway used as public transportation in the US till 2006.
- The tramway’s original cabins (before the renovation in 2010) are just like the Skyride to Grouse Mountain in Vancouver, Canada.
In conclusion, this short ride that offers spectacular views to its passengers is often called the most exciting view in New York City. You don’t have to wait for any other reason to visit.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q: What means of payment does the tramway station accept?
A: The tramway accepts the MetroCard, which you can also buy at the station.
Q: Does the tramway fare cover the cost of going and coming?
A: No, you have to pay for each trip separately.
Q: Does the station accept transfers?
A: Yes. You can use your MetroCard to transfer from the bus or subway.
Q: Where in Manhattan is the tramway located?
A: You can find the tramway on 2nd Avenue (between 59th and 60th Streets).
Q: What body of water does the tramway cross?
A: The East River