Cameron Pollack / Sun File Photo

Members of the Employee Assembly meeting in the Physical Sciences Building. On Thursday, members met to try and tackle the University's "confusing" parking system.

February 22, 2019

Cornell Looking to Fix ‘Confusing’ and ‘Difficult to Manage’ Parking System

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In an effort to address Cornell’s enduring parking issues, the Employee Assembly discussed the Parking Optimization Study — a proposal introduced last spring — at its meeting on Thursday.

Bridgette Brady, senior director of transportation and delivery services, and Reed Huegerich, assistant director of transportation and delivery services, presented the study, seeking to assess and improve the parking situation on campus.

Currently, most parking permits for students cost $752.86, while parking for employees can vary from $0 for peripheral parking lots — such as the “A-Lot” behind the North Campus townhouses —  to $806.32 in central campus parking areas.

Brady and Huegerich presented the results from community surveys and polls they had previously conducted, many of which highlighted parking cost as a major concern.

Compared to the institutions with similar parking problems, such as the University of Virginia and Dartmouth College, “[Cornell] is at kind of the high end in what we charge, especially the central campus rates,” Huegerich said.

Huegerich further revealed that the complex permit system was a primary issue. Currently, Cornell has approximately 50 different parking permit zones. In addition, there is a “park-down privilege” in which higher permit tiers can park in any lower permit tier space.

“The parking system is confusing for a lot of folks,” Huegerich said. “That gets really difficult to manage.”

Available parking can be obscure, far from buildings, not served by transit or not located in walkable areas, Huegerich and Brady said.

“A lot of people consider a parking permit like a hunting permit … you have a license to hunt for a spot,” Huegerich said.

This has also led to an under-utilization of parking on campus. After collecting data on parking occupancy with a plate recognition vehicle, the study found that many spaces were going unused.

“Even on central campus, 30 percent of the spaces were free [at] any given time, which was surprising,” Huegerich said.

Transportation on campus can also be confusing with a complex bus system and little cohesive signage directing visitors to specific areas on campus, Huegerich said.

To address these concerns, the study recommended three broad changes: a simplification of the permit system, improvement in wayfinding on campus with standardized signage and real-time monitoring of parking occupancy.

“Simplifying the permits … is a low cost solution and it meets all of the goals that we established in this study,” Huegerich said.

This would consist of eliminating park-down privileges, reducing the number of zones and increasing virtual payment options.

The department has also been in contact with TCAT for a possible change in the on-campus bus system. According to Huegerich, proposals include “actually having branded Cornell shuttles that are looping around campus.” These would be color-labeled instead of the traditional numbered lines.

Monitoring real-time occupancy would consist of parking spaces having indicators informing drivers on the availability of parking.

The study’s primary goals were to balance the parking system, encourage multimodal transportation, enable data-driven decision-making and acknowledge and accommodate growing mobility trends.

Previously, the department has solicited community feedback in events such as an open house.