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NYS Governor's Awards for Pollution Prevention - Cornell University, Ithaca

Cornell University, Ithaca


Cornell had experienced a growth in traffic congestion and parking demand by 1990 that far outstripped the ability of the university environment and surrounding infrastructure to handle it and was anticipating the need to build over 2,500 parking spaces. Over the preceding decade, that growth had been in faculty and staff commuters, while demand from the student population remained fairly stable. It became clear that an innovative solution was needed to reduce the number of single-occupant vehicles brought to Cornell by its over 9,000 faculty and staff each day.

Cornell recognized that building new parking would be expensive, would exacerbate current problems by encouraging greater traffic flow and would ignore their obligation to preservation and responsible stewardship of its greenspace.

Methodologies and Procedures

Cornell raised awareness of the parking problem by increasing parking fees and by developing a three-tiered rate structure that was more in line with local market levels. About 1,300 next-to-worksite, no-fee parking spaces were converted to fee spaces. Alternatives to paying the full-fee for parking on campus were developed.


By securing the cooperation of city, county, and other municipal bus services, Cornell has been able to offer its in-county employees fully-subsidized transit. OmniRiders are not restricted to using OmniRide during the work day; they may use their OmniRide pass any time the buses run. OmniRiders receive ten one-day parking permits every six months, in case they occasionally need to bring a car to campus. Out-of-county commuters pay a subsidized fare for travel outside the county, but still receive all in-county benefits.


RideShare provides incentives for car pooling with other Cornell faculty or staff, by offering discounts and rebates. Like OmniRiders, RideSharers receive ten one-day parking permits every six months for those days when car pooling doesn't work out.

Occasional Parker

Employees who don't purchase an individual parking permit and who don't participate in OmniRide or RideShare--because they are dropped off on campus by someone who is not an employee, or they walk or bicycle to campus--may choose to become an "Occasional Parker." Occasional Parkers receive ten one-day parking permits every six months.


The benefits of Transportation Demand Management Program (TDMP) have spilled beyond the edges of the university into the surrounding neighborhoods, communities, and municipalities. The success of this program placed demands on transit to increase routes and service. As a result, in contrast to statewide trends, ridership has increased initially by 30 percent, and has remained stable or grown since then.

Since the implementation of TDMP on July 1, 1991, there has been a dramatic reduction of fuel consumption and emissions. Over the course of a year (244 work days) there are approximately 10 million fewer miles traveled by Cornell University commuters. This translates into a net annual savings of 417,000 gallons of fuel. Annualized net emissions have decreased as well: carbon dioxide by 6.7 million pounds; carbon monoxide by 651,000 pounds; oxides of nitrogen by 34,000 pounds; and hydrocarbons by 59,000 pounds. The only increase is in net particulate emissions, which have increased by only 732 pounds per year, due to bus route and schedule expansion.

In addition to reduced emissions, the reduction in cars yields less runoff of oil, gas, and anti-freeze, particularly in campus parking lots. Moreover, by averting the need to build extra parking space, additional runoff is avoided.

Participants reap the benefits of free, unlimited-use transit passes, or no fee or discounted parking, or even rebates instead of parking fees. Non-participants benefit as well, even though they are paying a premium for parking. With 2,400 fewer cars coming to campus each day, their commute is easier and they are able to find a parking space more easily.

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