Views from the Roosevelt Island Tram

A great way to get a unique perspective of New York City is to take the Roosevelt Island Tram. The tram stretches from Manhattan’s Upper East Side to Roosevelt Island, which is located between the boroughs of Manhattan and Queens in the middle of the East River. Originally constructed in 1976, the Roosevelt Island Tram allowed commuters to travel between the island and Manhattan before the island’s subway station was completed. At that time, it was the first aerial tramway for commuters on the North American continent.


During the four-to-five minute ride across the river, there’s a number of different viewpoints. The best views are on the side of the tram closest to the bridge, near the glass – especially if you want to take photos. Getting a good spot to take photos can be a little more difficult, but not impossible, if the tram is very crowded.

Because the tramway stretches alongside the Queensboro Bridge, there are some interesting views of some of the bridge details. (Even if the bridge is not as beautiful as some of the other New York City Bridges, such as the Brooklyn Bridge or the Manhattan Bridge. And even if there are spots on the tram window!)


There’s the chance to take a photo of the other tram, passing by as it travels the opposite direction.


If you look over the tops of the Manhattan buildings, you should catch a glimpse of the tops of the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building in the distance.


There’s a great view of the street below, if you watch for it, as well as some beautiful roof gardens and balconies.


Of course, it’s impossible to miss the traffic!


And there are definitely views of some of the water towers on top of buildings, another iconic image in New York City.


Next to the tram station on Roosevelt Island, you will find the Queensboro Bridge Trolley Kiosk, a visitor center sponsored by the Roosevelt Island Historical Society. The Trolley Kiosk has information about the island’s history and landmarks, as well as some fun souvenirs.


In order to ride the tram, visitors must purchase a Metrocard at any subway station or from a vending machine at one of the tram stations. A one-way ride costs $2.75, the same price as a ride on the subway or city bus. (You also must pay $1.00 for the card itself, but it can be reloaded over and over.) If you already have a weekly or monthly pass, it costs nothing extra to ride the tram. In Manhattan, you can catch the Roosevelt Island Tram at 59th Street and 2nd Avenue. On Roosevelt Island, the tram station is located right next to the Queensboro Bridge, a block away from the Roosevelt Island subway station, where you can catch the F train.

13 thoughts on “Views from the Roosevelt Island Tram

  1. Did you ever watch the USA show White Collar? They had an episode with an action sequence on the Roosevelt Island Tram where Matt Bomer was jumping around outside the trams. Probably not the best way to ride them but it was a fun episode. These look like they would be a fun ride.

  2. I think spots on the window are an enhancement of through-the-window photos, not that I spotted many in this lot, a marking of reality like the artist’s hand in a painting, or the photographer’s shadow in a photo. My eye was especially caught by the detail of the bridge, the canyons between tall buildings, the water tanks (how recent are they?), and the rooftop gardens. You’re a great tour guide.

    1. There aren’t a huge number of people who live on Roosevelt Island, but some still use the tram to commute. The number decreased significantly once the subway station was opened there though. Most riders are tourists, or on the weekend New Yorkers with children.

  3. My daughter and son-in-law just visited New York City for a long weekend, and had a wonderful time. But I wish I had told them to read your blog first, as there’s so much good information here!

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