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Thursday, December 2, 2010

Operational Kinks And Minor Glitches Being Worked Out On The New Roosevelt Island Tram System, But It's Still Great To Have It Back In Service - More Scenes From the Tram's Grand Opening Celebration

There are still a few kinks in the new Roosevelt Island Tram system that need to be worked out. A Roosevelt Island resident sent in this video last evening just after 6 PM and is heard asking
Are you sure you want to get on this thing

and reported:
Tram stalled just now.
I followed up a little later asking if it was still stuck and received this reply:
it just was stopped for about 10 minutes, I asked and the operator just said there are still a few kinks in the system.
Some residents also experienced problems on Tuesday's evening commute home, the night of the Grand Opening Celebration (Video of the new Tram's maiden voyage over the East River is here). One Roosevelt Island resident reported:
As an Islander, I am keenly disappointed in my first experience with the new tram.  Shortly after 6:30PM, I boarded the north car which stopped 3 times shortly after leaving the loading dock.  We dangled over 2nd Ave. for a few minutes, then finally, the car resumed moving, but at a truly glacial pace, crawling across the bridge for a journey that probably lasted 12-15 minutes.  The south car was traveling at normal speeds and passed us twice, once in each direction.  It was very tense and uncomfortable for us passengers in the car, which was only exacerbated by the incompetent, ignorant tram operators who had no communication skills whatsoever. They never indicated what was happening, nor why we were traveling at such a slow speed. 
I had truly been looking forward to my first ride back, but RIOC needs to make sure all of these kinks are worked out in the system, and to hire competent, confident tram operators.
Another resident wrote this comment to Tram Service Resumption post:
Does a stoppage make news? this evening at around 6.40 pm, the Island bound cabin came to a sudden halt about 2 tram lengths away from the Manhattan side, actually an emergency stop. Their were two operators in the cabin , along a with about 50% load. The two operators had no clue as to what was going on and even admitted it.They fiddled with controls and were finally told on the radio not to do anything. After a five minute wait, they hit the start button and it lurched to an emergency stop again. Next it was a 10 minute wait with no communication to the passengers. All this time the tram cabin was over 2nd ave. Passengers requested that they return to the dock, which was quite close by. REquests were ignored. (dint we hear that the cabins could move independently ?) The tram then crawled, yes crawled over the river with frightened passengers worried that it would come to a halt again. Still not a word from the operator and his buddy. finally it docked on Roosevelt Island with no word of explanation.Apparently the tram personnel claim it was a deliberate sabotage by someone who was pressing an emergency stop button. This was validated by public safety radio which was crackling about the issue , and the arrival of PSD cars. Did the tram people take an unnecessary risk by continuing to try and operate after the sudden stops ? What is the real story ?
I asked Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) VP Of Operations Fernando Martinez about the Tuesday evening incident. Mr. Martinez replied:
With any major infrastructure system, despite extensive testing and inspections, it is normal to experience very minor glitches at the start of operations.  This particular incident  was caused by a dirty filter.  It was immediately addressed, and the Tram was returned to service.   The reaction and comments made by the Tram employees are unacceptable.  I have already addressed my concerns with Poma.  Poma will provide additional training to the employees.

As far as the second day of operation, the Tram operated without interruption.  The Tram was not affected by the wind gust of up to 55 mph.  It was able to operate as designed and remained in service through the entire wind event.  The Tram operated at 4 meters per second or half speed and occasionally slower speeds were needed at the tower crossings.  The old tramway would have  closed at 40 mph.  The new system performed as designed.
I understand that these minor kinks are to be expected, hope that's all it is and am very glad that the Tram is back in service.

Following up last Tuesday's post on the Grand Re-Opening of the new Roosevelt Island Tram and it's resumption of service for residents and visitors, here's some more scenes from the festivities.

The morning began with lots of media coverage and an inaugural ride back and forth for selected dignitaries and members of the press. For the record, I was included in the latter category.

Before the inaugural ride, the champagne bottles were made ready

and the passengers gathered anxiously for their first ride.

Some experienced passengers were relaxing before take-off including former Mayor and avid Roosevelt Island Racquet Club player David Dinkins who reminded riders to hold on for their safety as we began our journey.

Roosevelt Island Historical Society President Judy Berdy greeted Greg, an original Tram Cabin Attendant from it's inception in the late 1970's

right before Greg pushed the button to start the Tram Cabin on it's first scheduled trip across the East River to the Manhattan Station

with RIOC personnel, NYC officials and representatives from Poma, the contractor and operator for the new Tram on board.

We made it safely and quickly to the Manhattan Tram Station

and were greeted by high ranking officers of the NYPD and FDNY

as well as Assembly Member Micah Kellner and Council Member Jessica Lappin.

Then the POMA representatives popped the Champagne, after having a bit of trouble with the cork,

and RIOC President Leslie Torres made some brief welcoming and congratulatory remarks.

Then we got back on the Tram

headed to Roosevelt Island

to be welcomed by a brass band

and crowds waiting for their turn on the first new Tram Ride open to the public.

David Kramer, Southtown's Riverwalk Developer and bidder for the Main Street retail Master Leasehold,was also present for the Roosevelt Island Tram Re-Opening Day festivities.


But before the public could ride the Tram, came the Grand Opening Ceremonies with remarks by RIOC President Leslie Torres (statement is here), POMA representatives, Borough President Stringer, Assembly Member Micah Kellner, State Senator Jose Serrano and City Council Member Jessica Lappin. Their statements are at the end of this post.

Then the ribbon cutting ceremony

 Tram Ribbon Cutting Image From Duc Le

and after 9 long months, the Roosevelt Island public entered the new cabins to journey on their first trip on the new Roosevelt Island Tram.

At the Manhattan Station we exited the Tram

and then either stayed in Manhattan or returned on the next Tram with another long time attendant Dave

as RIRA President Matt Katz was being interviewed on New York 1

and we enjoyed our East River view.


Upon our return to Roosevelt Island, RIOC Director Jonathan Kalkin was interviewed by the BBC,

RIOC General Counsel Ken Leitner had some fun with the ribbon cutting scissors

and others dug into this Roosevelt Island Tram cake

provided by Alphonse and the other good folks at the Riverwalk Bar & Grill.

Finally, evening arrived and the end of the new Roosevelt Island Tram's first day of service.

There were some kinks as described above, some people tripped over this bump in front of the Tram cabins and the cabins did sway more than I expected near the Tram Towers

 but I sure am glad that the Tram is back in service.

There was one person missing who was instrumental in getting this new Tram approved and that was former RIOC President Steve Shane.

 Image of Steve Shane On March 1, 2010 At Beginning Of Modernization Project

During the Tram ride back from Manhattan to Roosevelt Island, I asked RIOC's VP Of Planning and Intergovernmental Affairs Rosina Abramson if Mr. Shane was invited to the Grand Opening Ceremonies. Ms. Abramson replied that Mr. Shane was out of town playing in a Bridge Tournament. I asked again if Mr. Shane was invited and Ms. Abramson said that she was not involved in the invitation process. I asked her who was and she responded by saying that she did not want to talk further about this subject.

Here's some more scenes from the Roosevelt Island Tram's Grand Re-Opening Day.

Our elected officials had this to say about the Roosevelt Island Tram Grand Re-Opening. From Borough President Scott Stringer:
 The Roosevelt Island Aerial Tram is a New York City landmark that has been sorely missed for the last nine months.

Since opening more than 30 years ago, the tram has become a true icon along the East River skyline

By moving over 2 million passengers between Manhattan and Roosevelt Island each year, the tram has proven to be a critical component to Roosevelt Island's transportation infrastructure

And now with the completion of the Four Freedoms Park on the horizon, the tram is sure to bring even more New Yorkers to the Island

With its increased efficiency, stability and a new State-of-the-Art design, the new tram will provide an enhanced transit experience for Roosevelt Island residents, commuters and tourists alike

We are delighted to welcome the Roosevelt Island tram back into rotation!
Assembly Member Micah Kellner:
Thank you Leslie. Good morning everyone.

I'm so glad this day has finally arrived. Roosevelt Island without the Tram is like Brooklyn without the Bridge. While most New Yorkers struggle to push onto crowded subways and buses each morning, Roosevelt Islanders can once again fly to work every day with the greatest city in the world spread out at their feet.

Originally the Tram was meant to be only a temporary solution until a subway connection to the Island could be completed.

But the Tram became more than just a stopgap measure—it is the defining symbol of Roosevelt Island, a unique form of transportation for a unique community.

While the skyline below has been transformed with time, the Tram remains an icon of New York, immortalized in films like Woody Allen's Manhattan—taking off to the tune of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue—and from Sylvester Stallone saving the day in Nighthawks to Spiderman rescuing Mary Jane, the Tram has been at the center of so many high wire action films. It has even become a fashion statement—you can buy your very own Tram earrings at the Roosevelt Island Historical Society kiosk just a few steps away from here. An accessory no woman should go without.

But after 30 years of service the Tram needed a reboot. And now we have version 2.0—faster, steadier and more reliable than ever before.

I'm particularly proud to have preserved the funding for the Tram upgrade over several budget cycles—ensuring that New York State keeps its commitment to Roosevelt Island's infrastructure.

Roosevelt Island is an extraordinary place. Riding the Tram, you can hear people of all ages talking in half a dozen different languages about small-town life in the middle of the big city. When visitors ride the Tram to the Island, I hope they know they’re landing in a community like no other in the world.

I congratulate all those who worked so hard to make this project a success, and I’m especially happy to welcome back the great men and women of the Operating Engineers who make the Tram run each and every day.
City Council Member Jessica Lappin:
 The Roosevelt Island tram is a New York City icon.  It’s been in movies and TV shows – but for New Yorkers, and Island residents, it’s more than that: it’s a vital transportation link to Roosevelt Island.

Millions of people depend on the tram each year.  And now it’s modern, safer, and better than ever.  I’m glad this overhaul is complete and the tram is back in service, particularly because the Island is so starved for transportation options.

I want to congratulate Leslie Torres, Fernando Martinez and the entire team at RIOC for all of their hard work making this day happen.

Now we will all be able, once again, to enjoy the unique views the tram offers.  It makes for one beautiful commute.
 and State Senator Jose Serrano:
 As the Roosevelt Island community continues to expand, it is important that its facilities and services reflect that growth. The extensive improvements to the tramway system will greatly benefit New York, as they will continue to ensure a safe, fast, and reliable ride for both residents and visitors of the island for years to come. We have all been anxiously anticipating this inaugural ride, and I would like to thank the RIOC Board and its President, Leslie Torres, for all of their labors, which have made it possible for commuters and tourists to now enjoy the increased efficiency of the modernized Tram."
Here's coverage of the Roosevelt Island Tram Grand Re-Opening from the Main Street WIRE.


Jay said...

Just to put some positive here ...
I have ridden the tram a bunch of times since it has re-opened and I can't say enough good things about!
I love the larger windows, it's generally a very smooth ride ... even in heavy wind, I love, love, love how frequent it is now.
Good job all around for those responsible.
Now if they would just put a tram in between 2nd and 6th and time square ... I'd be set.

Trevre said...

Word, the new tram does kick ass. I do think they don't have it at full speed yet either. During testing I saw it whip across the river at a good 25 mph.

Also is the current tram schedule the most efficient? It seemed like they could run it a little more often, as long as the tram operator has to be there anyways. I am sure there are more complications than this, but why not go for a fast and frequent tram so more people use it.

Anonymous said...

Why can't they just admit that they did not invite Shane? I am truly disappointed that his departure/firing is still treated badly.

Anonymous said...

I can say it is very fast and smooth. I prefer the subway with the old tram , but its so fast I think I might actually start using it a lot.

Anonymous said...

The Tram Cabin Attendants are not incompetant or ignorant. They're just in the infancy stages of mastering this new technological wonder. Give them a little time.

As for Steve Shane, I heard he was invited, but decided not to attend so as not to detract attention from what was really important. The man has class.

Anonymous said...

Still no schedule posted for the tram? My understanding is that RIOC will only be running one cabin back and forth in the evenings. So, for example, if I'm in Manhattan at 10:55PM, what time does the next tram depart for Roosevelt Island?

Anonymous said...

What's the point of only running 1 tram now most of the time? Why spend $25 million and not bother using it? It's not faster or more efficient. It's the same dumb schedule it has always been.

Anonymous said...

If the demand is low outside rush hours why would the RIOC want run both cabins? It probably saves quite a bit on the power bill at the end of the month.

Anonymous said...

The cost savings are in personnel. With the old system, two cabin attendants were required (one for each cabin) at all times. When only one cabin is running back & forth, only one cabin attendant is needed. I heard that RIOC used to employee 24 attendants; with the new tram, RIOC only has 14 attendants.

Anonymous said...

This above comment is right. At night you have a handful of people waiting. It would be wasteful and expensive to pickup with two trams. Similar to using two buses with two driver to pick up 8 people in manhattan. Since the new one is faster we can probably save money with less operators of one tram in off peak with greater frequency. Also the schedule is not set yet as they are seeing what is best base on the use these next few weeks as we reach normal use. It would be unwise to set a schedule without making observations of what works. However its my understanding they are sticking to a similar schedule for now so people can get used to it and so they can see what works.

Ava said...

They are also only running one cabin in the morning prior to rush hour. The non-rush hour trams seem to still be running every 15 minutes. In the morning it was at 6:00, 6:15 (I know because the 2nd bus pulled up and the tram flew away) and 6:30. Not sure about the evening.

Anonymous said...

I took the tram for the first time last night and I was surprised about the bumps we have when the cabin goes over the towers (especially the one closer to Roosevelt Island). I assume this is on a list of things still to be fixed?

skipper said...

Please clarify where the Red Bus will stop at the Tram station. I have seen it both on the south side and the north side of the cross street.
I hope RIOC will realize that stopping on the north side and at the far corner is a great inconvenience to the handicapped and the elderly all the time and to everybody in inclement weather.

Anonymous said...

Assuming the bus will stop on the north side (which is the only logical choice because of the one-way street Main Street is now in that part of the island) something should be done about the crossing of the street to get to the bus. A cross walk with STOP signs for the cars and curb cuts would do wonders. Maybe RIOC could either narrow this street or build a bay for the bus to pick up passenger right in front of the tram station. That way not the entire street needs to be crossed.

Anonymous said...

Assuming that the Red Bus will stop at the old location at the south side of the cross street, all it involves is for the bus to go around the circle and make the stop at the tram before continuing to the subway station - not unlike what it was before the West Road
became a one way street to make room for more cars.
The walk by passengers will be significantly safer and also shortened

Anonymous said...

How would that be possible, anonymous from 8:07pm? Since the Main Street loop is now one way down there the bus has no way to stop right in front of the tram station unless it goes a bit around the round-about and backs up into the spot on the south side.

Am I missing something?

The bus stopping on the north side is no big deal at all if the road would be closed for car traffic and the RIOC places a cross walk with stop signs at the exit of the tram station.

Anonymous said...

What's truly ridiculous is that the Red Bus schedule appears to be being timed at the southbound Riverwalk stop instead of the Tram stop. Thus, in the evenings and on weekends, you have people getting off the tram and waiting up to 15 minutes in the freezing cold while, for much of that time, a Red Bus sits idling 150 yards away at the Riverwalk stop. If this is the schedule, there will be absolutely zero incentive for me and thousands of other Islanders to take the tram to the Island during the winter.

Perhaps the Red Bus will return to the old system of being timed by the Tram schedule. If one must choose an arbitrary system by which to time the Red Bus, it may as well be a system that's aligned with the Tram schedule. Of course, that proposal would be met by the screaming of subway riders who bitched about how the Tram-timed schedule made the buses too crowded by the time they reached the subway stop. Let the old folks freeze down at the Tram stop in the meantime.

Anonymous said...

The new bus routing and subsequent new parking spaces on the West Rd were probably conceived to improve island transportation for River-walk car owners.Serving the tram station has become secondary.

Anonymous said...

Nice to blow $25 million on a new Tram that most of the Island will not want to use.

Anonymous said...

2 Million riders a year, poster above.

Anonymous said...

makes no sense, poster above.

Anonymous said...

Most of the passengers would prefer "it (the bus) goes a bit around the round-about and backs up into the spot on the south side" . It would be preferable to the haul from the north end of the road most of the time and winter is coming

Anonymous said...

Crossing a street is now a "haul"? I am speechless. What is wrong with us if we don't even want to walk a few steps anymore? I agree that the crossing should be made safer: buses only, a cross walk, or even maybe make the street narrower or build a passenger loading bay. But complaining that walking 10 more steps is unacceptable is just silly.

Oh, maybe the bus fare should be bumped up to a dollar. Maybe that will refocus the complains.

Anonymous said...

in fairness, it's not just the fat and lazy who are at issue, it's also the wheelchair-bound and elderly.

ultimately, the north-side versus south-side issue is minor and immaterial. the main point is that during non-rush hours, whether it stops on the north side or the south side, the red bus should already be parked and waiting for tram passengers when they disembark.

Anonymous said...

Yes, of course. A pedestrian crossing with curb cuts on both sides will do fine to accommodate disabled folks and senior citizens. If they can walk from their door to the bus stop across the street to catch a bus to the tram they sure can cross a, even at the current time, safer street to catch the bus back home.

I agree with the second point. The schedule should revert to how it used to be with the old tram. It worked well back then why wouldn't it work this time around.

Anonymous said...

to be clear, my first point (at 11:34 am) wasn't that it's unacceptably dangerous for disabled and elderly people to cross the street. it was that there are people for whom something that to some is a very simple matter is, in fact, a "haul."

Anonymous said...

Crossing Main Street is an unfortunate necessity for many elderly/handicapped people (increased by the replacement of
the old stops in front of Island House and Rivercross by the stop at Good Shepherd Plaza in the middle of nowhere) but moving the bus stop at the Tram Station from the south side to the north side of the street is not necessary - just a bad idea.

Anonymous said...

Could somebody explain to me how the bus stop can move to the south side of the street with the current flow of traffic? It's all one way now and the bus comes in form the east. Without some maneuvering it is impossible to have the bus stop with the door towards the tram exit.

Am I missing something obvious here?

Anonymous said...

Regarding above blog (12/8 7.47pm)
the writer should go and see the conditions for him/herself.
"Some maneuvering" will amount to the buses making wide left turns coming and going,but otherwise the same as the drivers did in the past

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