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Parking and Sustainability at Cornell

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard a student or a fellow faculty member at my university complain about the parking situation, I’d be wealthy. I’m pretty certain this is a common complaint at most schools, and I’m very happy to see that Cornell University is considering their parking woes within the context of campus sustainability. Horticulture professor Ken Mudge, at a forum on the issue, hit the nail right on the head about the commuter mindset that pervades American colleges and universities:

Mudge explained that while sustainability is a global issue, it is essential to take steps locally, and now. โ€œWe have to be cognizant of local issues such as the loss of green space and the quality of campus life, he said. โ€œOtherwise, it will be too late, too soon.โ€

He added that people falsely assume that they have the rights to commute and to use as much energy as they can afford. In order to change these beliefs, โ€œThe campus needs a paradigm shift in how we look at sustainability options,โ€ he said. (my emphasis)

Mudge also offered some potential solutions, including smaller parking spaces, making central campus โ€œpedestrians onlyโ€ to deter commuters from driving, and a โ€œpay as you goโ€ system as an alternative to pre-paid parking passes.

I’d imagine that most colleges and universities have pretty hefty carbon footprints, and that commuting to and from class accounts for a sizeable portion of them. We need to start thinking creatively about this problem, and not view it merely as an issue of convenience. We also need to realize that most schools are commuter campuses — residential students, as a rule, are minorities of the student population.

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