Roosevelt Island Tram outfitted with OMNY tap-to-pay system

The Roosevelt Island tramway.
Photo by Dean Moses

Riders of the Roosevelt Island Tram can now pay for a trip on the city’s only aerial cable car using OMNY, making it the city’s first transit option not run by MTA to be outfitted with the tap-to-pay system.

The tram, which was the nation’s first commuter cable car when it opened in 1976, connects Roosevelt Island to the east side of Manhattan. The scenic ride costs $2.90, the same as the nearby F train, which stops on the island of about 11,000 residents but operates underground.

But until Thursday, the tram’s riders had to continue using a MetroCard to pay the fare, even as the city has outfitted all of its buses and subway stations with OMNY.

That’s because the tram is run not by the MTA, but by the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation, a separate government agency that also operates the island’s network of free buses painted a distinctive red, and is responsible for parks, planning, and development on the island.

“Today’s a big milestone for our OMNY program,” MTA Chair Janno Lieber said at a press conference on Thursday. “Riders can now tap and go to get onto the Roosevelt Island tram. I’ll point out, this is the first OMNY expansion outside of the subways and buses that are the heart of the MTA service.”

Other places the MTA intends to roll out OMNY include the JFK AirTrain, which costs $8.25 from Jamaica to the airport and is accessible only with a MetroCard. The AirTrain is run by the Port Authority, which also operates the region’s three main airports.

Lieber said Thursday that riders can expect OMNY installed on the AirTrain within “three or four months.”

The addition of OMNY to the tram comes just days before the F train is set to mostly shutter service to Roosevelt Island until 2024. The agency is set to start track replacement work in the 63rd Street tunnel carrying the F line on Monday, Aug. 28, and the F will be rerouted to the E line.

The MTA will still run F trains as a “shuttle” service connecting Roosevelt Islanders to the Lexington Avenue/63rd Street station in Manhattan and 21st Street-Queensbridge stop in Queens, with trains coming every twenty minutes on a single track between 5 a.m. and midnight. Q95 buses will also provide free shuttle service to and from the island.

The MTA initially intended to fully phase out the MetroCard and replace it with OMNY by the end of 2023, but those plans are on hold indefinitely.