RIOC Stumble Again - NYC Ferry To the Rescue

RIOC Labor Day Message: Stand In Line or Stay Home

Updated 2 weeks ago David Stone
Repeat performance - Roosevelt Islanders endure long lines just to get across the East River by Tram.
Repeat performance - Roosevelt Islanders endure long lines just to get across the East River by Tram.
© David Stone / Roosevelt Island Daily

Unimpressed with Saturday's long travel delays, RIOC, on Labor Day, again refused to offer shuttle bus help. Long lines formed again at the Ferry and Tram. Elderly and physically challenged stayed home. But our newest neighbor, NYC Ferry, came through for Roosevelt Island.

Arriving a half-hour early to catch an early afternoon NYC Ferry, Roosevelt Islanders found lines to board stretching back nearly to the Loop Road.

(It's not as if it was unexpected. Routine holiday weekend overcrowding was reported here and elsewhere.)

Trouble was that boats arriving from from Astoria were nearly 80% full when they landed. No more than 20 people could be drained off the line at Roosevelt Island, creating what promised to be two plus hour waits to get on board.

And at the Tram...

Waiting lines for the Tram were similar to Saturday when fair weather prevailed over those inching forward from all the way back to the Visitor Center kiosk.

As each cabin lifted off toward 2nd Avenue, enough people were left behind to fill up the next with more arriving by bus and on foot.

Again, no wheelchairs and few elderly or physically challenged were up for the long waits and crowding onboard, and of course, there were no buses to help out.

But it was beginning to look like, even with the delays on line, the Tram might be the best travel option.

But back at the Ferry...

Before the NYC Ferry rescue, lines to board reached back to the Loop Road.
Before the NYC Ferry rescue, lines to board reached back to the Loop Road.
© David Stone / Roosevelt Island Daily

A friendly, helpful NYC Ferry employee paced along the line, pausing to help new arrivals buy tickets, but warning that, because over a hundred people were boarding for each ride at Astoria, boats were coming already nearly full at Roosevelt Island.

She did everything she could to inform an otherwise restive line waiting for the next Ferry, hopeful that Astoria had run out of passengers. It hadn't, but something unexpected and nice occurred.

As the next Ferry floated down under the Roosevelt Island Bridge on its way to the landing, the NYC Ferry rep announced, "I just heard from my supervisor. They'e sending another boat, just to pick up all of you."

With courtesy and consideration RIOC refused residents, in spite of multiple appeals, our neighbor of less than a week took the trouble to add service that responded intelligently to our needs.

Sure enough, as the Ferry from Astoria boarded the expected 20 or so passengers, barely shrinking the waiting line, another empty vessel tread water nearby. As soon as one pulled out, the other coasted in.

Within minutes, we were finding our balance on deck, on our way toward Gantry Park and beyond, grateful for the thoughtfulness with which our State run agencies, RIOC and the MTA, so often fall short.

Then, It Got Even Better

If you've lived on Roosevelt Island long enough, you might recall the old days when every Tram ride was accompanied by a cheerful greeting and a reminder, "If you're standing, please hold on," something that's rare these days.

Tram operators once chatted casually with passengers who knew them by name as we glided across the East River.

This weekend, I was surprised to hear an operator ask riders to remove their backpacks and put them on the floor, relieving my wife of the routine threat of backpack bashing on every Tram and Red Bus.

I was so surprised, I thanked him.

By contrast, as we rode on the river's surface, an NYC Ferry agent walked through the crowd, explaining what stops were coming up and how to get transfers, if needed. She'd earlier marshaled the line to make sure we all boarded quickly and were on our way without excess delay.

...And this was on an extra Ferry, floated out just for us when a supervisor noticed how far our waiting line had extended.

RIOC could learn a lesson.

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