Roosevelt Island Tram – New York’s Cable Car
This post is a guide to riding the Roosevelt Island Tram, which some might refer to as a cable car or gondola. Just to the east of Manhattan is a tiny island called Roosevelt Island. The island is about two miles long and only 800 feet wide at its widest point! Because it is largely residential, it is ignored by most visitors to the city. But there are a few interesting things to see on the island, and the ride there on the Roosevelt Island Tram will provide a skyline view of the city like no other! And the ride costs the same as a ride on the subway (MetroCards accepted). And with each ride lasting just 5 minutes, riding the Roosevelt Island Tram could easily fit into your list of things to do in NYC.
Where to Board
Tips and Background
Other Skyline Views of NYC
Check out our guide to visiting New York on a budget for more ways to save money in the Big Apple or read our post comparing the different tourist passes.
Where is the Roosevelt Island Tram?
The Manhattan station of the Roosevelt Island Tram is located on 2nd Ave. between 59th and 60th Streets. The closest New York City subway stations are 59th Street (4,5,6 trains), Lexington Ave/59th Street (N,Q,R trains). The station is also within walking distance from the Lexington Ave/53rd Street Station (E,M trains). There are several bus lines that also run up and down 2nd Ave. We recommend using this Google map for directions to the Manhattan station of the Roosevelt Island Tram. If you are considering a ticket for a tour bus, keep in mind that most companies offer stops relatively close to the tram. Be sure to read our post comparing the different bus tours in NYC.
Be sure to read our blog posts on choosing a New York City subway MetroCard as well as tips on navigating the NYC subway system.
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This is the best part. For adults, the ride costs just $2.75 each way. Those with unlimited MetroCards won’t have to pay anything. All others will have to pay both ways. Still, at $5.50/adult, this is a great deal for a wonderful view. Below is our full list of pricing per trip.
The Tram runs Sunday-Thursday from 6 am to 2 am and on Friday-Saturday from 6 am to 3:30 am. There is a tram every 15 minutes except during rush hours when there is one every few minutes. The bus schedule on Roosevelt Island mirrors the Tram schedule.
About The Roosevelt Island Tramway
- The Tram is not operated by the MTA, but uses the same MetroCard System.
- Fares are the same as the NYC subway ($2.75 per ride)
- Each car holds up to 110 people. About 115 trips per day are made
- The Tram station on the Manhattan side is at 60th St and Second Ave. The closest subways are the 4, 5 and 6 trains or the N, Q and R trains at 59th St. and Lexington Ave.
- Once the Tram lets off at Roosevelt Island you can connect with a Red Bus, which will take you around the island for 25 cents per ride!
- You can see the full schedule for both the Tram and the Red Bus at www.rioc.ny.gov. Go to the “Community Information” tab and select “Transportation.”
- The Tram runs Sunday-Thursday from 6 am to 2 am and on Friday-Saturday from 6 am to 3:30 am
- There is a tram every 15 minutes except during rush hours when there is one every few minutes. The bus schedule on Roosevelt Island mirrors the Tram schedule.
- Up to three children who are under 44 inches (111.76cm) tall can ride for free with one fare-paying adult.
- There are MTA MetroCard vending machines in the Tram Stations, but no ticket agent or ticket booth.
- The Roosevelt Island Tramway has been in many films and TV shows, including Spider-Man (2002), an episode of White Collar (2013) and the film Now You See Me (2013).
Quick Facts About Roosevelt Island (check out our self-guided tour)
- The total land size is 147 acres (60 hectares)
- It was called Minnehanonck by the Lenape tribe, the island’s first residents. The Dutch called it Varkens Eylandt (Hog Island).
- During the British colonial era and beyond the island was privately owned. The Blackwell family was in possession for a long time, and the island’s oldest house, The Blackwell House, is NYC’s 6th oldest house. The island was also known as Blackwell Island for many years, even after the City of New York owned the island.
- The island was privately owned until 1828, when the City of New York purchased it for $32,000. Adjusted for inflation, that would be $680,242 today.
- The New York City Lunatic Asylum opened on the island in 1839. The asylum was often overcrowded, and at some points was at two times their designated capacity. The Octagon Tower was built as the entrance to the asylum. Today it is part of a luxury apartment complex.
- There is a beautiful, Gothic-style lighthouse on the island called the Blackwell island Lighthouse. It was built by the City of New York in 1872 and was used until the 1940’s. The supervising architect for the lighthouse was James Renwick, Jr., who designed St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
- The island was called Welfare Island from 1921 to 1971. In addition to the asylum, the island has a charity hospital and a state penitentiary. The inmates from the prison were moved off of the island to the newly opened Riker’s Island in 1935.
- The island was renamed Roosevelt Island in 1971, in honor of Franklin D. Roosevelt.
- The Roosevelt Island Tramway opened in 1976, connecting the island directly to Manhattan.
Even though this island is tiny, it is worth a visit! You can see the historic Blackwell House (One of the city’s few surviving 18th century houses), the Blackwell Island Lighthouse and the Octagon Tower- all while enjoying great city views! The ride over is particularly special. It is one of very few aerial commuter tramways in North America and shouldn’t be missed!