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Roosevelt Island Tram Celebrates Increased Ridership on Anniversary

By Amy Zimmer | November 30, 2011 5:36pm

MANHATTAN — The revamped Roosevelt Island Tram celebrated its 1-year anniversary on Wednesday with little fanfare, but with the satisfaction of knowing that since the $25 million renovation, ridership has increased 13 percent.

The tram underwent a nine-month rehab that replaced the cars and cables with a new "dual haul" system allows for the cars to operate on independent tracks rather than like a clothesline as it did before. So far this year, the tram has seen nearly 1.9 million riders, according to Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation data.

"It's been exciting. There's no question more tourists and more locals are using it," said Leslie Torres, president of the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation. "From the tourism perspective, we've done a lot more marketing. For a swipe of a MetroCard you get one of the most spectacular views of New York City."

The tram's cars were made in France, and Torres has noticed that many of the tourists riding them are French.

"They feel very proud of the tram," she said. "Much like the Statue of Liberty, one can say the French have come forward again and put their stamp on New York City."

The island's roughly 13,000 residents have been riding more often, Torres said, because of the improved service.  The island is hoping to get another boost in ridership from a new tech campus, with strong bids submitted to the city for Roosevelt Island from Stanford and Cornell.

The original Roosevelt Island tram needed an overhaul after the 2006 breakdown that stranded 69 passengers 230 feet in the air, RIOC officials had said. That tram was only supposed to last 17 years, but it ended up hauling people daily between the Manhattan's Upper East Side across the East River to the 2-mile-long Island for 33 years.

Armando Cordova, head of tram operations, said that old one was actually "99 in tram years," since the Roosevelt Island tram makes three times as many trips as any other tram, most of which aren't used for commuting.

The new state-of-the-art tram offers bigger windows for a better view on its 3-minute ride every 15 minutes and has its own Wi-Fi system that allows the control workers to know where the cabin is at all times, Cordova said.

"We're really busy," Cordova said, adding that he has spotted several celebs riding it, though he wanted to remain discreet. 

The tram may once again be featured in a "Spider-Man" movie. "There's been some talk of Spider-Man 4 to film here."