Thursday, February 10, 2022

NYC Council Member Julie Menin Demands OMNY Fare Collection System Installation For Roosevelt Island Tram - It's Up To RIOC Says MTA, RIOC Says Roosevelt Island OMNY Installation At The Whim Of MTA, Can Mayor Eric Adams Solve This?

When will the Roosevelt Island Tram Stations 

be included in the MTA's One Metro New York (OMNY) 

system is a question often asked by Roosevelt Island residents.

The MTA's OMNY future does not appear to be coming to Roosevelt Island anytime soon.

Responding to the Roosevelt Island Twitterverse last month, the MTA reported it is up to the Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC): 

... to add OMNY to their fare collection systems.

But, during a September 21, 2021 Community Board 8 Roosevelt Island Committee meeting, RIOC CFO John O'Reilly said:

... Roosevelt Island and the Tram was set in a priority listing, not with our input but basically unilaterally by the MTA, that they were going to do the Long Island Railroad first and PATH next and then we were going to be third on the list after they got Staten Island, Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn done.

We were scheduled to have negotiations and discussions with them in the spring of this year to negotiate the new contract. We were given the vendor's name who was supplying the equipment and we made contact with them. The last I heard from them was February 2020 right before the pandemic hit...

... We were scheduled to have everything done by the late fall, early winter of this year or early winter of next year so we will be in position to be in play by January 1st 2023 when that was their deadline to have everything in place. 

I don't know if they've extended that deadline or not...

... We're basically at the whim of the MTA on this one. We did everything we could to try to get them to move us up on the priority list and renegotiate the contract and do everything we can but the pandemic hit and then everything kind of fell off ....

Today, Roosevelt Island NYC Council Member Julie Menin, Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright and State Senator Jose Serrano issued this press release demanding OMNY installation on the Roosevelt Island Tram. According to the February 10, 2022 press release:

Council Member Julie Menin Demands OMNY Installation on Roosevelt Island. Tram Commuters can not access OMNY free transfers or utilize fare-capping pilot program. RIOC Missing Out on Critical Funds By Not Using OMNY 

The Offices of New York City Council Member Julie Menin, New York State Senator Jose M. Serrano and New York State Assemblymember Rebecca Seawright have requested the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC) advance the timeline for the installation of the One Metro New York (OMNY) system on the Roosevelt Island Tram. The letter sent by the Office of Council Member Julie Menin addresses RIOC President and CEO Shelton J. Haynes as the Roosevelt Island Tram remains the last MetroCard only station within the MTA system.

RIOC is a New York State run public-benefit corporation that maintains and develops Roosevelt Island, operates a Public Safety Department, and also provides services such as the Roosevelt Island Tramway that enhances the residential island community. It is one of the few forms of mass transit in New York City not run by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, but uses that system's MetroCard. 

With an annual ridership of over two million people and daily use in the thousands, the Tram currently is one of the most reliable services for traveling into Midtown Manhattan and a way to avoid crowded subways cars on the F train that travels to Manhattan and Queens. Those who forget or are not in possession of a Metrocard, cannot use their smart technology such as smartphones and watches, which could also have their payment readily available. If passengers used OMNY earlier on their trip, a free transfer is not available and passengers cannot take advantage of the weekly fare cap. Starting at the end of the month, New York City transit riders who utilize OMNY will pay no more than $33 per week for unlimited rides on the MTA’s local buses and subways.

In addition to not having OMNY integrated with the tram, RIOC is also currently missing out on collecting full revenues from Metrocard rides due to an outdated agreement with the MTA that did not account for fare hikes, as RIOC only receives $2.00 for a Metrocard swipe. Adopting OMNY technology provides an opportunity to collect full fares and create a fairer agreement. 

“Roosevelt Island residents shouldn’t have to be inconvenienced by a fixable transportation issue. The Tram is vital to our residents, and making it affordable and modernizing the technology will be a benefit for tram riders and RIOC alike as they’ll finally get the funds they deserve,” said Council Member Julie Menin.

"New Yorkers across the city currently have the option of paying their fare by tapping their contactless smartphones, cards, and other devices using OMNY, and Roosevelt Island Tram riders should be no exception. With the substantial growth of the island in the last few years, ease of access to transportation options has become more important than ever, and I look forward to seeing RIOC advance their timeline for modernizing the current payment system,” said State Senator José M. Serrano. 

"The clock is ticking. The MTA is moving forward with its plan to fully implement OMNY. The Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation is late to the game. RIOC must come forward with a timetable to deploy the OMNY system while also ensuring that Tram riders continue to benefit from seamless payment and transfers," said Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright. 

“Very few Roosevelt Islanders remember when Matt Katz spent years advocating for our Tram to accept Metro Cards (it didn’t just happen). For a ridiculously long time we had to use outdated tokens that were no longer used anywhere else at the time. I remember listening to my neighbors, particularly those with families who were financially burdened by the extra expense…here we go again. Why can’t RIOC be proactive and reactive in support of our financially burdened neighbors and prioritize this change making it happen NOW and truly support the people who need it the most,” said Lynne Strong-Shinozaki, resident of Roosevelt Island and Chair of the Community Board 8 Roosevelt Island Committee.

Below is February 10 letter sent by the Roosevelt Island elected officials asking RIOC President Shelton Haynes to implement the OMNY system on Roosevelt Island Tram by the end of this year.

 and the full CB 8 Roosevelt Island Committee (chaired by Ms Shinozaki) OMNY discussion with RIOC CFO John O'Reilly.

During yesterday's NY State Assembly Budget Hearings, NYC Mayor Eric Adams told Ms. Seawright that he is:

... is looking forward to that Tram Ride. It is one of the greatest attractions in the City...

Perhaps Mayor Adams can help facilitate the future of OMNY installation coming to the Roosevelt Island Tram sooner rather than later.

I asked RIOC for any comment on the matter earlier today. No response yet.

UPDATE 2/11 - According to RIOC President Shelton Haynes: 

Simply, we agree with many points our new city councilmember and elected officials have made. RIOC is equally disappointed with the lag in integrating OMNY at the Roosevelt Island Tram stations. We welcome and support the advocacy, although somewhat misplaced, as we have implored the MTA and their integration partners to ensure Tram riders have access to the same benefits enjoyed on other forms of New York City public transportation. Further, and for some time now, we have been aware of the fare disparity and our CFO has been actively working to engage the MTA on renegotiating the fees in an effort to close this gap.
I replied: 

What is the obstacle in getting OMNY for the Roosevelt Island Tram? When was the last time Rioc and the MTA discussed the matter?
UPDATE 2/15: UPDATE 2/17: Below is letter sent today by RIOC President Shelton Haynes in reply to the Menin/Seawright/Serrano OMNY letter.