From January 13, 2002 New York Times
For Want of a Piece of Cable, a Tram Was Lost
By ERIKA KINETZ
The Roosevelt Island tram has been out of commission since the day after Thanksgiving, when it was shut down for routine maintenance. The small cause of the large problem was a cable that was a bit too short.
Islanders are deeply troubled. "It's an essential transportation system for our residents," said Matthew Katz, president of the Roosevelt Island Residents Association. About 900,000 tram tickets are sold each year.
Moreover, the sight of the red cable car sitting on a knoll, its windows bandaged with old newspapers, is an insult. "The tram is Roosevelt Island's Statue of Liberty," said Dick Lutz, the managing editor of The Main Street Wire, the local paper.
About 8,500 people live on Roosevelt Island. They now travel to and from Manhattan on the F train or by bus. Since the tram went down, the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation has extended its shuttle bus service to Manhattan.
The trouble started when American Tramways began to replace the haul cable of the tram. The task, performed every three to five years, cost $130,000 and was to be completed by Dec. 20.
But the company cut the cable eight and a half feet short. "Human error took over," said Red Blomer, the company president.
"It's not like going to the fabric store and saying give me three feet of ribbon," he added, explaining that during use the haul cable is stretched by a 76,000-pound counterweight, which complicates the procedure for measuring and cutting the cable.
But by altering the way the cable is attached, American Tramways hopes to recover the missing length. Currently, the cable is wrapped twice around a bollard and secured with steel plate clamps. The plan is to wrap the cable only once but add additional clamps. "It creates the same holding power," Mr. Blomer said.
If its plan is approved by the New York State Department of Labor, perhaps within two weeks, American Tramways said the tram could be running by mid-February. If not, getting a new cable could take several months.
"The overriding concern here is safety," said Robert H. Ryan, president of the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation, which runs the island.
Meanwhile, the 25 people who operated the tram are without work. On Dec. 21, American Tramways put them on an unpaid "temporary furlough."
"I didn't have a choice," Mr. Blomer said. "When our contract to operate the tram is suspended, I have to suspend the staff."
Thats a shame. I was hoping to finally take a ride on the tram this weekend. Oh well it will have to wait I guess.
March 1, 2004
On the Roosevelt Island Tram, Tokens Finish a Farewell Tour
By COLIN MOYNIHAN
Yesterday afternoon, as people traveling on the Roosevelt Island Tramway used subway tokens to pass through turnstiles, they were taking the tokens on their last commutes. Starting this morning, riders on the tram will need to use MetroCards for the first time.
Although MetroCards replaced tokens on New York City subways last May, the tokens had remained the only way to ride the tram between Roosevelt Island and Manhattan. Special buses with giant MetroCards emblazoned on the side are scheduled to arrive at the Roosevelt Island station at 7:30 a.m. today, and transit system employees will help commuters exchange their tokens for the cards.
Going back to the days when it was known as Welfare Island and was known mainly for its hospitals, asylums and jails, Roosevelt Island has in many ways existed apart from the rest of the city. But now its tram, built in 1976 and run by a public benefit corporation created by the state - the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation - will be more fully integrated into the city's public transportation system.
Most of the riders yesterday said they welcomed the change to MetroCards.
"I think most people feel it's good," said Lea Redinger, who lives on Roosevelt Island and regularly rides the tram. She explained that transferring from the tram to the subway used to mean an additional expense, but that with the advent of Metrocards, riders now could transfer to a subway without paying more.
Still, she had some nostalgic feelings about the tokens. A moment after handing one to her husband, Tom Redinger, she demanded it back.
Danielle Beverly, a filmmaker from the East Village, was taking the tram for the first time and was not expecting a token. "It feels old school," she said. "It's kind of sweet."
Others had a different reaction. Carl Ericson, 22, an engineering student who lives in Hell's Kitchen, peered out the window of the tram as it hovered over the East River, then dug a token out of his pocket and marveled at it. "This is like the public transportation that time forgot," he said.
But for Karin Greene, a partner in a legal recruiting firm and an Upper East Side resident who travels regularly to Roosevelt Island to play tennis, the tokens were an object not of scorn but of affection.
"I love the tokens," said Ms. Greene, who added that they evoked fond memories from her youth of riding the subways with her cousins. "The token is an icon. We should memorialize the token."
Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company
Farewell, Subway Token
I used a token on Saturday.....
I haven't been on the tram for years. I'd love to use it again sometime soon.
Has the tram system ever been renovated since it's opened?
tramway photos : Midtown to Roosevelt Island, and back.
(Pictures taken July 2003)
Last edited by RedNucleus; August 15th, 2005 at 08:25 PM. Reason: repaired broken (removed ?) links
Really excellent pics. Nice job.
Man, I wish they would just paint that damn 59th already. Really...
April 30, 2006
New York Observed
Riders in the Sky
By JENNIFER DUNNING
ALREADY he missed the tram, even though he'd ridden it for only a week, a new young Roosevelt Islander told a companion as the two waited for the F train to take them to the island. It wasn't having to travel by subway to his job just across the river. There was just something about riding "The Tram."
Roosevelt Islanders tend to gaze up almost involuntarily these days as they walk along the island's only street. Almost two weeks after the tram became desperately marooned in space, trapping passengers for as long as 11 hours, there was still no official word about when it would return. Other news quickly overtook the dramatic rescue of 68 people.
Occasionally the tram is visible, moving along nonchalantly on apparent test runs. But there is usually no sign of it, so tiny and foolishly improbable over the years as it made its sturdy way back and forth high in the air, adorned with colored lights on December nights. To look south after 9/11 and not see the twin towers was, as many people commented, to experience a phantom-limb sensation. So it is, in miniature, with the tram.
It has become a graceful ghost, always just about to prick the air with red, its nighttime progress revealed by the blotting out of one light, then another, as it passed along the swag of lights looping the Queensboro Bridge.
The tram's sensible virtues can easily be enumerated. It represents the possibility of an independent life to scores of residents who depend on wheelchairs. It is the equivalent of reassuring city bus travel to the island's elderly and schoolchildren. As the only viable alternative to subway travel, the tram eases overcrowding as new residential buildings multiply like rabbits across the once-green and spacious island.
But most of all, the three-and-a-half-minute trip from one island to another offers a rare chance to live purely in the moment in New York, no small achievement. Step off concrete and onto a slightly lurching floor as the tram waits in dock. The doors slide closed. A moment of anticipatory stillness and then a push into open space, sailing over Second Avenue and on to parts unknown. Or so it seems. "Hold on while the car is in motion," the mostly silent tram operator advises.
During daytime trips, the world is very much present. Cameras flash as tourists capture New York from yet another angle. There is desultory talk as one islander spies another and a murmured travel bulletin or two via cellphone to family on the other side. The passing tram offers unique views of luxe furniture behind the wraparound windows of Upper East Side high-rises. Racing dots chase after one another in the dog run far below at the edge of the East River.
To the south, the United Nations quietly wrests attention from the upstart Trump World Tower. Tugs and barges chug and glide up and down the river, while high overhead an occasional helicopter buzzes by, wasplike. The bridge is a Richard Scarry jam of nervous cars and trucks.
And yet. You can have taken the trip for years and still feel the strangeness of the insubstantial airborne "ground" beneath your feet. The peeling bridge still looms and recedes in high winds like a large, tipsy dowager exasperatingly intent on conversation. For all the details of everyday life that press in from below, nothing is quite real or as it seems. You are alone in space, helpless, really, but riding as high and triumphantly free as the seagulls of Roosevelt Island, though a great deal more slowly.
The mystery of those moments suspended in reality is even more potent at night. "Oh, what a beautiful city!" as the old hymn goes. Conversation on the tram tends to be muted, except at theater-emptying time. The landmarks have largely disappeared, replaced by streams of traffic headlights on the avenues below and by the necklaces of lights lacing the many bridges that are now more visible in the night-sky panorama. The cars crossing the Queensboro Bridge are now intimate, unknowable little worlds in distant motion. The dark river seems almost nonexistent.
The world falls away. The silence becomes immense and enveloping. There is just you and black air and earth, and sometimes not even that. The air is more liquid than the river, a distillation of peace and the sense of old skin falling away. Is fear more manageable here in the dark? "Everybody get out and push," a blithe young tram operator suggested one night years ago as the tram ground to a halt in midair.
THEN Roosevelt Island lies ahead, growing larger slowly. Are men and women staring out from the windows of their new apartments to the north, wondering at the glittering nightscape before them? Have the daytime fishermen been replaced by lovers or drug dealers to the south, at the edge of open land on the island's southern tip that is almost Hebridean in its water-fringed green sprawl? Do mice, or shadow cats, or a lumbering Canada goose up late feast in peace on the remains of a sandwich left for them by a kindly orderly at the nearby hospital? You will never know. Or care, perhaps.
The comparable experience, someone suggested, is riding the Staten Island Ferry. Much closer is leaving the heightened life of the stage and heading into the dim no-man's-land just beyond. Ahead lies a backstage crowded with familiar shadows and the prosaic halls that lead to dressing rooms and the stage door out. But for those few moments in between, a dim blue bulb the only light, you have stepped beyond the fairy-tale mirror, into the tunnel down the rabbit hole. Then, "Hold on as the cabin docks," a gruff, bored voice intones as the tram bobs down to land. And you are back in Kansas.
Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company
^ Ode to a Tram.
Nice. Just the way it is.
May 19, 2006
Tram to Get an Overhaul, and an 8-Month Break
By THOMAS J. LUECK
The Roosevelt Island Tramway, which has been grounded until the fall for repairs, will undergo an overhaul beginning in 2008, with virtually all of its towers, cables, cars, motors and other parts replaced or rebuilt, the agency that operates the tram said yesterday.
The agency, the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation, said that the work was expected to idle the tram for eight months, beginning in April 2008, and that a target of January 2009 had been set for reopening.
It was unclear how the overhaul would change the appearance or use of the tram, an urban apparatus of creaking cables, towers and gondolas dangling over the East River that is familiar to millions of Manhattan residents and visitors. Officials said that they were not considering moving the tram, but that nearly all of its components would be re-evaluated, and could be replaced.
The cost, estimated at $15 million, is to be covered largely by the state, and Gov. George E. Pataki vigorously supports the project, a spokeswoman said yesterday. "We are going to put up the money for this," said the spokeswoman, Lynn Krogh.
"The governor believes that the Roosevelt Island tram is a unique and vital element, not only to the New York City transportation system, but to the residents of Roosevelt Island," she said.
Details of the plan were presented to the board of the state-controlled operating corporation late yesterday. It authorized spending up to $1.5 million for planning and design work, to be performed by Parametrix Consulting, a Denver engineering company that has designed mountain trams in the West.
The plan would provide an unexpectedly ambitious long-term solution to mechanical problems that have plagued the 30-year-old tram, which broke down on April 18 and stranded 68 passengers in the air, some for 11 hours.
The episode underscored the difficulty of maintaining an aged system of electronics, diesel motor backups and duplicative wiring in an urban tramway unlike any other in the world. It also provoked questions about whether the tram was worth the trouble, since a Roosevelt Island subway station, which opened in 1989, has attracted far more riders.
But Herbert E. Berman, president of the corporation, said it was committed to maintaining the tram.
"Residents deserve it, and the city of New York enjoys it," Mr. Berman said at a news conference outside the island's station.
Despite hundreds of successful test runs in recent weeks on a new electrical system, which has replaced the one that failed in April, the corporation said yesterday that much work remains. Two backup systems, one of them custom made in Switzerland, still need replacing and must be in working order before service resumes.
Ten to 12 weeks of work are still required, Mr. Berman said, at which point the tram will have been out of service for nearly four months. Then, the system must be inspected by the State Department of Labor, he said.
"The overhauling of power and backup systems should allow resumption of the tram for the short term," Mr. Berman said. He said the work now under way had been budgeted at $500,000.
He said the corporation hoped to attract ferry or water taxi service to the island to provide alternatives for traveling to Manhattan, particularly during the planned overhaul of the tram.
Catherine Johnson, a vice president of the operating corporation, said it had considered beginning a complete overhaul of the system immediately after the breakdown. But she said the work would have idled the system for too long, perhaps as much as three years, because of the long lead times required for engineering, design work and procuring parts.
She said the corporation planned to create a tram using components already tested on others around the world, making it easier to maintain and repair.
The operating corporation is a state panel created to manage and develop Roosevelt Island, which is controlled by the state under a 100-year lease from the city. Before the breakdown, it had set aside $3.9 million for work on the tram, which can be used to cover current repairs and pay a portion of the planned overhaul.
Besides being retained to plan that project, Parametrix has long advised the operating corporation, and is directing the current repairs.
Jim Fletcher, a Parametrix consultant who appeared yesterday with Mr. Berman, said it had taken 10 days of testing to track down the culprit in the breakdown, which turned out to be a faulty control mechanism in the wiring.
Although the prospect of another prolonged shutdown of the tram in two years has brought a new source of irritation to Roosevelt Island residents, some said yesterday they were relieved by the state's long-term commitment to keep it running.
The island's 17-year-old subway stop, on the F line, has become so crowded that Manhattan-bound riders find it impossible to squeeze into packed cars during the morning rush, residents of Roosevelt Island said.
"The tram is extremely necessary," said Sherie Helstien, secretary of the Roosevelt Island Residents Association. "It is time to stop any speculation about taking it out of service."
Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company
New York Times
August 25, 2006
Roosevelt Island Tram, Version 2.0, Nears Its Rollout
By ANTHONY RAMIREZ
Workers performed a rescue drill on the Roosevelt Island Tram Thursday. Service, halted since a breakdown in April, may be restored Friday.
It wasn’t a frigid spring evening. Exhausted men, women and infants weren’t stranded above the East River and First Avenue. And Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg wasn’t giving a midnight briefing under the glare of television lights.
But yesterday afternoon, the Roosevelt Island Tramway — grounded since April 18 when an equipment malfunction stranded 68 passengers in midair, some for 11 hours — was headed toward a return to service, perhaps as early as tomorrow.
With a refurbished electrical drive for the two-car tram, which resembles a ski lift, and new backup electrical and nonelectrical drives, officials promised a safer and more reliable ride.
In the event of another midair stall, officials also promised a less excruciating wait for passengers: there would be food, water and blankets on board for 125 people, the top capacity of a tram car, as well as a miniature toilet, a bucket with a privacy curtain.
Additional cellphones to back up onboard phones would ensure communications with authorities.
What happened in April “was an unfortunate experience, but it was a learning experience — it taught us what had to be done,” said Herbert E. Berman, president of the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation, the state board that runs the island. “It has been done.”
Technicians put the tram through a series of tasks yesterday, including a mock evacuation with an orange canvas bag and a similar drill with a metal rescue cage, which was successfully used to rescue passengers who were stranded over the East River in April. A crane was used to rescue the passengers over First Avenue.
Two hundred pounds in weights, rather than a person or mannequin, were used to simulate a passenger in the drills. The tasks were all performed successfully, but the New York State Department of Labor must first approve the tram’s return to service.
Catherine Johnson, vice president for operations for the Roosevelt Island Corporation, said that in April an uninsulated wire shorted out the primary drive system that pulls the two tramcars in opposite directions over the East River. Fine-particle debris also knocked out a backup drive.
Roosevelt Island has spent about $500,000 to fix the electrically driven primary drive system and add a second electrical drive system as well as a diesel-driven system. If all this failed, a diesel-driven rescue cage would stop next to the stricken car and take passengers to safety.
For some passengers who were stranded, however, the repairs and the new features were not enough to get them back on the tram.
Wanda Rivera, 37, a nurse who works on Roosevelt Island, is afraid of heights and was not rescued until 4 a.m. the day after the car stalled.
“When I saw the news van,” she said yesterday in a telephone interview, “and they were testing it, running it back and forth, it just brought back flashbacks,” and then she uttered a shivering noise. “I was stuck up there over the water — creepy, kind of — I got an eerie feeling.”
In the months since the accident, Ms. Rivera has been riding the subway on the F line. “I can’t take highs and lows!” she exclaimed. “I can’t take roller coasters, and the tram would be a roller coaster to me.”
Lee Anne Siegel, 31, a former restaurant training manager, was trapped in the same car as Ms. Rivera but with her infant daughter, Riley, in a stroller with no diapers or baby food. It was the first and last time Ms. Siegel ever took the tram.
She said she was glad that more communications had been added to the tram. In April, the onboard phones failed when the cars stalled. Passengers used their own cellphones to talk to family members. Police on bicycles on the 59th Street Bridge used clicks on a flashlight to signal their cellphone numbers to passengers so the authorities could check on the passengers’ conditions.
The most annoying thing, Ms. Siegel said, was the lack of reliable information. “For the first three hours,” she said, “it was another five minutes and we’ll be moving, then only another 10 minutes and we’ll be moving, another half-hour and we’ll be moving.”
Would she return to the tram now that it has been repaired? “No!” she exclaimed. What about the toilet and privacy curtain, now on order and set to be installed inside the car?
“Wow,” Ms. Siegel said, pausing. “It’s one of those things you never want to have to use.”
Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company
AM New York
September 1, 2006
Roosevelt Island tram back in action
By Chuck Bennett
amNewYork Staff Writer
The iconic Roosevelt Island tram went back into service this morning, four-and-a-half months after multiple equipment failures left nearly 70 riders dangling above the East River.
"It's a wonderful thing," said Councilwoman Jessica Lappin (D-Manhattan). "The residents of Roosevelt Island have been suffering without it."
Regular service started at 6 a.m. Friday. Greenlighted by state regulators, the tram was tested for 16 hours Wednesday and Thursday.
The tram, which is loved by Roosevelt Island's 9,000 residents and sightseers alike, had been idled since April 18, when 68 people were trapped for 11 hours. The main power drive and back-up diesel power generator failed.
As a cable car prepared to leave for the city, Andrew Alimonti, 30, said he was relieved that service had resumed.
"For us it was very difficult,"' said Alimonti, who lives on Roosevelt Island but works in the city. "I'm very happy."
Alimonti didn't have any reservations about taking the tram.
"No, I'm not nervous," he said.
About $500,000 was spent refurbishing the tram system, according to Herb Berman, the president of the Roosevelt Island Operating Corp., the state agency that operates the tram.
"It is unlikely that what happened last time could happen again," he said.
But, just in case the unlikely happens, the gondolas will now be stocked with an emergency supply of food, water, blankets, lights, and even a temporary makeshift toilet (essentially a bucket and curtain), Berman said.
The tram, which started operation in 1976, is still scheduled for a massive $15 million overhaul in 2008. During that time the tram will be out of service for an estimated six months.
In the mean time, Lappin said, residents are just relieved to get their tram back. Weekends were particularly tough because track work on the F train, which passes through Roosevelt Island, often kept one platform on its sole subway station closed.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Copyright 2006 AM New York
a bit like switzerland