September 3, 2008

C.U. Plan Prepares for Population Increase

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“Poor air quality, massive parking lots, traffic jams and delays are integral parts of life in many parts of the United Sates, but they don’t have to be a part of our future here,” said Bill Wendt, Cornell’s director of Transportation and Mail Services. Wendt’s optimism about Ithaca’s future can be attributed to the Transportation-Focused Generic Environmental Impact Statement released today, which examines the future of Ithaca’s transportation in light of presumed population growth in the next 10 years.
The Cornell-sponsored report, t-GEIS, strives to analyze how neighborhood streets surrounding Cornell’s campus can be used most efficiently and serve the community in a manner that is environmentally sound. The study is divided into three primary sections of analysis — existing conditions and known initiatives; potential impacts; and potential mitigations — and examines four potential decade-long population growth scenarios.
According to the plan, Cornell has the resources to offset both a .1 percent and .5 percent-increase in population per year for 10 years. However, the study shows that population growth of 1 percent per year could not be completely mitigated by municipal infrastructure projects. Potential traffic-related issues that have residents concerned include increased crash rates, traffic delay, noise and pollution, according to the report.
Strategies to avoid such transportation issues addressed in the report include relying on alternatives to single-occupancy vehicle commuting such as walking, bicycling, transit use, park-and-rides and carpooling.
According to the survey, only 9 percent of Cornell employees currently walk to campus, while 31 percent of graduate students and 70 percent of undergraduate students walk. Over half of Cornell employees drive alone, and only one-third of the survey’s respondents said they would consider carpooling.
The t-GEIS complements the Cornell Master Plan, which was developed around the same time and was developed by many of the same key staff members, according to the study. While the CMP focuses more on long-term changes to Cornell’s physical campus over the next 30 to 60 years, the t-GEIS has focused its efforts on transportation issues in the next decade.