How do You Get from an Island to an Island Without a Bridge?

May 17, 1976

The first commuter aerial tramway in North America was officially opened in New York City. This tramway, spanning the East River, serves as a public transit connection between Roosevelt Island and the Upper East Side of Manhattan. (An aerial tramway is a means of overhead transportation in which as many as two stationary cables keep the tram aloft while a moving cable propels that vehicle forward.)

The Roosevelt Island Tramway, according to the New York Times, made its debut “with champagne and public expressions of hope for the city’s future.” The first tram to be launched was operated by a one-time city firefighter named Christopher Devine. New York City Mayor Abe Beame was among those taking part in the inaugural festivities for the Roosevelt Island Tramway. He hailed the new service as “a streetcar in the sky,” and christened one of the trams by smashing a bottle of champagne against it.

The Roosevelt Island Tramway, measuring 3,100 feet (940 meters) in length, reaches 250 feet (76 meters) above the East River at its highest point. More than 26 million passengers have used the service since its debut.

For more information on the Roosevelt Island Tramway, please check out

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