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Happy birthday to NYC’s awesome, overlooked aerial tram

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Go ride it today

The Roosevelt Island Tram, which connects the Upper East Side of Manhattan to Roosevelt Island in the East River, turned 40 this week, which means that for 40 years it has operated as New York City's most overlooked, most unique, and most stunningly beautiful commute. If you haven't ridden it, do so immediately. It only costs the equivalent of a single subway ride.

First opened in 1976 as a temporary measure while the island's subway station was being built, the tram has since become a permanent — and thrilling — way to get between two points in the city. As subway ridership climbs into dangerously unsustainable territory, the tram stands as a reminder that getting around a densely urban environment doesn't have to be a masochistic experience.

To celebrate the tram's birthday, The Verge's social media maven Kirsten Frisina and myself took it for a spin and recorded the whole thing on Facebook Live. We talked about the tram's unique place in the city's transportation hierarchy, as well as what happens when a power surge knocked it out of commission a decade ago, trapping over a dozen commuters hundreds of feet above the East River for up to 12 hours. (Spoiler alert: there was peeing into bottles.)