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?"