Out-of town motorists driving along the FDR highway on Manhattan’s East Side have been perplexed by the red and white lifts slowly climbing across the sky since the tram’s introduction in 1976. For many New Yorkers the Roosevelt Island Tramway has become the city’s most beloved quirk. Originally built as a temporary commuting solution for residents on Roosevelt Island in the East River, a lack of sufficient infrastructure to replace the tram kept it open. Though a subway stop now exists on the island, the tram’s public acclaim has kept it running.
Each cabin of the aerial tramway can hold 125 people. The tram departs from Second Avenue-59th street, climbs some 250 feet at 16 miles per hour and sets back down on Roosevelt Island. Though somewhat obstructed by the adjacent Queensboro bridge, 360 degrees of glass offer views of Uptown, Downtown and Midtown unlike any other in the city. In fact, until 2006 the Roosevelt Island Tram was the only aerial tram carrying commuters in the United States (Portland built one in 2006). Visitors may not be able to see the Statue of Liberty from here but riding the Tram is truly a unique New York experience–one filled with more commuting New Yorkers than picture-happy tourists.
Visitors wishing to stay close to the tram should look for an apartment on the Upper East Side.
- This fully furnished 1-bedroom rental in Upper East Side (NY-14504) is located in a mid-rise elevator building, blocks from the tramway.
- This 1-bedroom apartment in Upper East Side (NY-14707) is located on the ground floor of a townhouse and has its own private garden.
If you have missed the previous top New York Views read:
#5: Liberty State Park, Jersey City New Jersey
#4: Empire – Fulton Ferry Park, Brooklyn
What do you think about our choice for the best Manhattan view? Let us know below.
It is worth noting that the tram was originally conceived to be a temporary solution to the island’s lack of subway service. Prior to its building, passengers traveling to Roosevelt Island had to ride a trolley across the Queensboro Bridge, which was equipped with an elevator to take people down to the island. It was also featured in the 2002 version of Spider-Man starring Tobey Maguire and Kristen Dunst.
The greatest entertaiment in New York City is Indee either free or very cheap. You actually don’t have to live in the Roosevelt Island to enjoy the spectacular view from this air tram. This is also the case for the Staten Island free ferry ride. ThingS like these are what make me say “I LOVE NEW YORK!”
It a very good idea to have that tram in the Roosevelt Island back then when it was a nesecity. However today it has become an attraction rather than a method of transportation to the island’s visitors.
For a historical note please note that the trolley stopped running in 1957 as the construction of the then Welfare Island Bridge to then Welfare island from LIC deemed the need for the trolley to be obsolete.
The Tram was not constructed until the early-mid 1970’s when the island was reborn and rechristened Roosevelt Island and new housing was created. As stated above the Tram was expected to be temporary but even today is more than just an attarction.
Approximately 30% to 40% of the island’s 12,000 residents that commute off (approximately 9,000 per estimates) the island each day count on the tram for that purpose. The other 60-70% use the subway which was finally completed in 1989. For approximately 13 plus years the Tram was the only direct route from RI to Manhattan which it is considered part of.
How fun is this?! I never knew that the Rooselvelt Island Tram existed. I will definitely put this on the list of things to try in New York City!
We have visited New York several times, and this is the first I heard about the Roosevelt Tram.