Pay Back: Richard Brodsky Proposes Road Pricing for Westchester

Please note: This was an April Fool’s Day post…

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State Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, a prominent opponent of congestion pricing, introduced his own plan for road pricing and smart growth zoning regulations in Westchester following New York City Council’s 30 to 20 vote in favor of Mayor Bloomberg’s traffic mitigation initiative.

"New York City? Who needs it?" Brodsky said in a press conference this morning with the mayors of Yonkers, White Plains and New Rochelle standing by his side. "By encouraging walkable, bike-friendly, transit-oriented development, my plan will create new opportunities, preserve our environment, shorten commutes, generate funding for transit and keep the jobs here in Westchester."

Noam Bramson, the young, rising star mayor of New Rochelle said the specifics of Brodsky’s plan raise serious questions, but agreed that smart growth policies provide benefits locally, regionally and nationally.

"A healthy downtown is all about people — diners, shoppers, employees," Bramson said. "It may seem counter-intuitive to some, but from a regional and national perspective, high-rise residential construction in an urban center is sound environmental policy, because it provides an alternative to the urban sprawl that consumes far more energy and land, and because it concentrates population where infrastructure can support it, where mass transit is readily accessible, and where goods and services can be reached on foot."

Brodsky’s plan would levy a $16 fee on non-Westchester residents driving northbound on the Saw Mill, Bronx River and Hutchinson River Parkways. Driving southbound on those highways into New York City would, however, be free. All of the new revenues, Brodsky said, would be plowed back into improved bus and commuter rail service and streetscape enhancements for Westchester towns.

"We have tremendous demand for domestic help and service jobs here in Westchester," Brodsky said. "We need to make sure that our housekeepers, nannies and Starbucks baristas are able to get from their working class Bronx and Queens neighborhoods to their jobs in Westchester."

Towards that end, Brodsky proposed dedicating one lane on each Westchester parkway to peak hour bus rapid transit service along with free "feeder buses" to carry residents of low density suburban neighborhoods to major transit hubs.

On Sundays, according to the Brodsky plan, the Cross County Parkway would be turned into a car-free recreational corridor for joggers, cyclists and even yoga and dance classes. Yonkers mayor Philip Amacone said that his city would set up a Parisian-style bike-sharing program to accompany the Car-Free Parkway initiative.

"Westchester is tired of accommodating New York City residents’ weekend through-traffic," Brodsky said. "This summer, instead of driving to your country house, take the train up to New Rochelle and bike to Yonkers on the Cross County Parkway. That’s what I’ll be doing."

Regional Plan Association President Robert Yaro praised Brodsky’s initiative. "Along with Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC and congestion pricing initiaitive, Brodsky’s plan represents the beginning of a broad, regional transformation." Yaro added, "Plus this is a way better idea than the Assemblyman’s odd-even license plate restriction proposal. That was crazy!"

Upon learning of the Car-Free Cross County Parkway plan Transportation Alternatives executive director Paul Steely White choked and spit a mouthful of coffee into the phone. "For the first time in my life I’m simply speechless," he said. "Wait, is it April Fools Day?"

  • ha

  • Larry Littlefield

    There is a reason he didn’t say weekdays only and $8. Lots of people would have been in favor.

    Many of these roads and bridges were built with tolls. Then the tolls were removed. Then they were rebuilt at vastly higher cost, with the debt service coming from the general tax base.

    BTW Mr. Brodsky, if you take transit to NYC, you can go to a city park or even beach for free. Westchester residents are welcome here, even in places where their vehicles are not. Is the reverse true?

  • momos

    lol

  • Dave

    I assume this is an April Fool’s joke.
    Brodsky should be aware that he cannot discriminate based on residency, so the toll would have to apply to Westchester residents as well.

    Once Bruno is out of office let’s push for the return of the commuter tax. Anyone have Paterson’s feeling on that?

  • Larry Littlefield

    I’m serious, even if he isn’t.

    Exclusionary zoning in the suburbs means more and more of the working class commutes out from the city. Bad transit to pedestrian-unfriendly office parks makes that a lousy, time consuming, expensive ride.

    This is a serious issue, one the Long Island Regional Planning Commission has been thinking about for some time.

    Sure, put an $8 toll on the outcommuters who drive, and use it not only to maintain the parkways but also to subsidize vanpools and more direct buses from the subway end to suburban employment centers. And push future commerical development to the vicinity of the train stations — or back to where the workers are in the Bronx and Queens.

    Anybody here think those are bad ideas?

  • rhubarbpie

    Funny! Almost as good as Council Member Fidler’s argument that the congestion pricing initiative will be a tax on the poor — his sound bite keeps getting repeated on WFUV. He’s kidding, right?

  • Josh

    Heh. Great work.

  • fdr

    Dave, you keep talking about when Bruno leaves office. Where do you think he’s going?

  • Peter

    Brodsky does know that the parkways through Westchester can’t accomodate buses anyway, doesn’t he? The bridges are all too low.

    It was an intentional move by Robert Moses to discourage poor people who couldn’t afford cars from moving upstate.

  • AHT

    “New York City? Who needs it?”
    — please. Without the salaries all the commuters of Westchester are earning in the city and taking home, there wouldn’t be any call for the baristas, nanniess and maids. Brodsky wants his cake and to eat it too, and we all know how well that always works.

  • Dave

    Bruno is a republican majority leader in a democratic controlled state senate. Am I completely off-base in thinking this will lead him to be shown the door?

    Can someone who knows the convoluted and inefficient workings of NYS politics help? CQ?

  • rhubarbpie

    Dave:

    The Democrats don’t have the majority in the State Senate, mostly due to districting deals over the years that have pretty much ensured that the Republicans would control the senate and the Democrats the assembly.

    With a fair amount of luck and a lot of hard work, the state senate could go Democratic in the next election or two — there’s a one- or two-vote majority right now for the Republicans — but this is getting increasingly unlikely.

    And, as always, be careful what you wish for: Malcolm Smith, the Democratic Senate minority leader, is no prize, as the Working Families Party has just discovered (not a shocker to the rest of us, but apparently to them).

    It will be a bit harder for the Republicans to stay in power if Bruno is indicted, but that’s not something to count on either, though he is under FBI investigation. Nothing to do with prostitutes, other than the everyday prostitution of his office.

  • ddartley

    I love it. And I believed it almost all the way to the end.

  • Will Fisher

    And here I was braving all the April’s Fools jokes well from the blogs I read. This is the first one to actually get me. Kudos to Streetsblog for really fooling me.

  • Good job, streetsblog! (Of course, it’s almost not a bad idea…)

  • Komanoff

    I wuz fooled too. Maybe I was extra gullible ’cause a dozen years ago I made a similar proposal, for real, for Long Island in a Newsday op-ed. You can read my pitch and the semi-hysterical reaction here.

  • Clarence

    Wow, this is just awesome! Amazing that Brodsky has come around!!! In other news, this morning I ran into David Weprin on a bike and he told me he wasn’t waiting for the $8 fee to start his bike commuting.

  • Congestion Pricer

    BRILLIANT!!!

    (referring to the April Fool’s joke, of course)

  • Mike D

    Komanoff, I liked your op-ed and was surprised by the stupidity of the opposition. Clearly, you addressed the regressivity issue with the sales tax cut.

  • Komanoff

    Thanks Mike (No. 19). The problem might have been that the respondents were reacting to a one-sentence summary read to them by the Newsday editor. Still, in their shoes my first question would have been, What is he proposing to do with the revenues? (duh)

  • Shirley Temple

    Ho ho ho, man, this reminds me of when they said the revenue from fare increases was going to be used for mass transit improvements.

    What’s next? Congestion Pricing revenue used towards mass transit improvements too?

    Ha ha ha, fool me once!

  • I know, right? Let’s be smart and never dedicate funding to anything, because we are so streetwise and replete with abbreviated cliches.

  • Ian D

    Remember last years’ April Fools post? It turned out to have almost come true!

    So if the minds of Streetsblog were able to peer into a crystal ball last year, then what’s that say about Brodsky’s Westchester plan? Mid-’09 implementation, anyone?

  • galvo

    good april fools joke!
    i am worried that a lot of mr brodsky mentality concerning public transit is true though.
    has anyone heard of any proposals in westchester or rocklnad for public transit improvements to midtown?
    you would think if they were progressive they would be working on adding bus rapid transit routes into Manhattan central business district.
    saw mill parkway is a straight shot to 59 street. BRT along the length of the saw mill
    seems to be a workable solution. The height of the parkway buses is not an impassable obstacle. short school buses and access a ride vans currently use the saw mill parkway, i think i have seen full size school buses also on the Saw mill parkway. Custom Multiperson passenger vans definitely could run the length of the parkway.
    The saw mill parkway speed limit is currently 50 mph through most of Westchester,initiating BRT from Rockland to midtown via the saw mill parkways could solve lot of congestion problems and not turn the bordering neighborhoods into parking lots.
    Instead of fighting congestion pricing why not start affordable methods for the people in central westchester and rockland to get to midtown.
    westchester and rockland need to get on board and develop people movers.
    the banning of buses on the parkways is a dinosaur mentality, many of the restrictions were implemented to keep the poor car-less people from utilizing state parks such as harriman.
    the thinking need s to reversed, private cars in the state parks should be curtailed and full public transit to the state parks implemented.

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