Subway Cuts Don’t Block this Advocate’s Vision

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Albert’s push for service improvements runs express

By Megan Finnegan

Andrew Albert has a vision for the future of New York City transit. As the chairman of the Transit Riders Council and the representative from that committee to the board, he knows what straphangers need most and also how the can best bring about the changes.

Andrew Albert, chairman of the Transit Riders Council, said there will be some bus and subway improvements despite state and MTA cuts.

In Albert’s perfect world, subways would be faster, more efficient and more reliable. “We’d have a 10th Ave. station on the number 7 line; we’d have a finished full length Second Ave. subway. We’d have lots more options on the commuter rails as to what terminals they’re going to,” he said about his ideal MTA scenario. Albert described the next generation of MetroCards as “smart” cards that you can keep in your purse or pocket and register your fare as you pass by—which make entering stations both faster and safer. There could be more options for unlimited fares, he said, like ones that include the five boroughs and one suburban zone, for example.

Albert’s quick to point out, however, that these are not Utopian fantasies but real possibilities for the near future of the city.

“Some will happen, some won’t,” he said, acknowledging that the state and Metropolitan Transportation Authority budgets will play a factor in the timeline of new developments. “We will get smart cards, some new lines. Beyond that, we’ll get more connectivity between suburban counties.”

We’ve seen some of the changes already, as tests and small-scale implementations. Some lines, like the 2/3, have recently had countdown clocks installed. A bus stop on Fordham Avenue has a pay station, so that riders can pay first and climb aboard at any door. The program has been expanded to First and Second avenues.

Even with promising improvements on the horizon, Albert’s role hasn’t been easy over the past several years. “It’s a challenge to be a rider advocate in the times of cut-backs and retrenchment,” he said. “It’s difficult to get our elected officials to understand how important this is to the life of New Yorkers. These are our cars; this is our way of getting around.”

Albert’s been a member of the Transit Riders’ Council since 1986, and an MTA board member since 2002. By day, he is the executive director of the West Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, an organization that has also seen tough times for the people it serves in the flagging economy.

“People are really just trying to survive out there,” Albert said. He is happy that the Chamber of Commerce can help small businesses on the West Side, like when a gas leak last year forced the Amsterdam Avenue restaurant Good Enough to Eat to close for nine days. The Chamber rallied with the restaurant owner to get it re-opened and generating revenue again as soon as possible.

“It’s just nice that the businesses know that they have an ally. It’s tough in New York City—there are so many rules and regulations, it’s nice that people can call us and ask us things.”

As a transit rider advocate, Albert emphasizes the same precept—that average New Yorkers have a voice and a way to see their causes pursued. He cited the recent protests over doing away with unlimited MetroCards, which the MTA subsequently decided to keep. “People should not downplay their outrage over the MTA, because sometimes it does have an effect.”

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