The Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation has evaluated the possibility of implementing various preferences for Roosevelt Island residents in accessing the Tram, and we have chosen not to move forward with these proposals due to various legal and policy constraints. We understand the difficulties this disruption in F-train service has created for Tram riders (especially residents), however, we believe the creation of either a priority line or a reduced fare for residents would violate state law and could have adverse legal consequences for the Corporation.
Under New York State law, the Roosevelt Island Tram qualifies as a common carrier, just like the New York City Subway, the Long Island Railroad, Metro-North or any other mass transit system. Common carriers are prohibited by law from discriminating against people based on their residency. Per New York Transportation Law § 101, regarding unjust discrimination:
No common carrier shall, directly or indirectly, by any special rate, rebate, drawback, or other device or method, charge, demand, collect or receive from any person or corporation a greater or less compensation for any service rendered or to be rendered in the transportation of passengers or property, except as authorized in this chapter, than it charges, demands, collects or receives from any other person or corporation for doing a like and contemporaneous service in the transportation of a like kind of traffic under the same or substantially similar circumstances and conditions.
Likewise, New York Transportation Law § 102, prohibits unreasonable preferences:
No common carrier shall make or give any undue or unreasonable preference or advantage to any person or corporation or to any locality or to any particular description of traffic in any respect whatsoever, or subject any particular person or corporation or locality or any particular description of traffic, to any undue or unreasonable prejudice or disadvantage in any respect whatsoever.
Simply put, we cannot discriminate for or against any group of riders based on their residency, and we believe that either an express line or reduced fare for Island residents would violate these provisions of the Transportation Law.
Additionally, we believe that implementing a resident-only fare would violate the terms of multiple contracts that RIOC has entered over the years with the City of New York and the MTA. The Tram operates under a franchise granted by the City of New York and the New York City Council. Under the terms of that franchise agreement, RIOC must, by contract, charge the same rates and offer the same fares as New York City Transit. Based on the City’s franchise, RIOC then entered into agreements with MTA covering fare collection at the Tram which include the same restrictions. RIOC would therefore be breaching these agreements if we created any new or different service than what is provided in the larger mass transit system.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, RIOC is a New York State public benefit corporation tasked with operating and maintaining Roosevelt Island, yes for residents, but also for all New Yorkers and any visitors alike. RIOC is proud of the iconic Roosevelt Island Tram, and we are proud that it is open equally to all New Yorkers and to the millions of people who visit New York City every year.