MTA snafus highlight the tricky transit situation on Roosevelt Island

By Alanna Schubach  | October 17, 2017 - 9:00AM

It was a rough Monday morning across much of the NYC subway system. F train passengers in particular faced substantial delays and crowding due to signal problems at Rockefeller Center and an investigation at Broadway-Lafayette, as Gothamist reported. The issue quickly spread to other trains, causing the transit-induced misery New Yorkers are becoming increasingly familiar with as subway delays worsen from year to year

The scene was especially unpleasant on Roosevelt Island, where locals' sole subway option is the F train, and the F train was out of commission.

Spurned straphangers opted to try the tram over the East River, leading to a line that stretched far down the street.

Andrew Giacalone, press guy for Denmark in NY, tweeted a video of the seemingly endless queue. In the clip he points out that if Roosevelt Islanders could get to the Queensboro Bridge—which stretches over the island but can't be directly accessed from it—it would ease some of the commuting pain. 


Epic rush-hour lines for the tram are not unusual, and Rick O'Connor, who writes the Roosevelt Islander blog, has been tracking the issue.

Compounding the problem is the fact that the tram platforms are currently being renovated, so only one tram car can operate at a time. O'Connor says the construction is expected to continue through the end of the year.

Roosevelt Islanders do have alternatives, though none are especially convenient. One option is NYC's newly expanded ferry service, which stops at Roosevelt Island and continues on to Long Island City, East 34th Street, and Wall Street. The ferry gets crowded quickly too, O'Connor says. 

Then there's the Q102 bus, which goes into Queens and stops near the Queensboro Plaza station—a roundabout way to travel if you need to get to Manhattan. Also roundabout: the Roosevelt Island Bridge, which is walkable but leads into Astoria, not Manhattan. 

O'Connor adds that the Roosevelt Island Operating Corp, which contracts a private company to administer the tram, and operates a Roosevelt Island-only bus, will sometimes provide a shuttle bus to Manhattan when there are transit problems. (The agency did not respond to Brick's call seeking comment.) 

Residents have been demanding another way off the island for quite some time. As a Roosevelt Island native wrote for Brick in 2015, "Transportation is always an issue on Roosevelt Island, especially as the population increases. Longtime residents remember a pedestrian elevator from the Queensboro Bridge to the Island (and a car elevator before that), and residents want it back." 

Despite the transit challenges, Roosevelt Island continues to grow. A 266-unit development went up in 2015, and the population is expected to continue to grow with the arrival of the Cornell Tech campus toward the southern end. The university opened the first portion of the campus recently and has already welcomed hundreds of new students to its dorms. Sales prices have gone up substantially since 2012, and according to StreetEasy, one-bedroom rentals currently run $2,599-$3,345 per month. 


Alanna Schubach

Contributing writer

Contributing editor Alanna Schubach has over a decade of experience as a New York City-based freelance journalist.

Brick Underground articles occasionally include the expertise of, or information about, advertising partners when relevant to the story. We will never promote an advertiser's product without making the relationship clear to our readers.