In 2010, Cornell launched Big Red Bikes, one of the first free university bikeshare programs. Photo credit: Cornell Chronicle.

Sustainable transportation

Moving toward 100% Clean, Renewable Energy on Campus
Electric vehicles aren’t the only option to transition college transportation systems away from fossil fuels. Promoting transportation options that use less energy like public transportation, walking and biking will also play a key role in shifting America’s colleges and universities to 100 percent renewable energy.
Better transit is a key building block of a clean energy future

Transportation accounts for 30 percent of energy demand in the U.S., and surpassed electricity generation as the leading source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States in 2016. While our electricity grid is getting cleaner, many vehicles used for everyday travel still rely on dirty fossil fuels. Expanding existing transit services and developing new transportations options are key to reduce the dependence of campuses on fossil fuels.

Campuses are reaping the benefits of sustainable transportation

Reducing vehicle trips benefits universities in several ways:

Quality of Life: Fewer cars make campuses cleaner and more enjoyable, with less noise and exhaust in the air.

Town-Gown Relations: Reducing driving can help avoid the seasonal influx of student cars and the resulting traffic in neighborhoods close to campus.

Recognition: Sustainable transportation boosts colleges’ green credentials and makes them more attractive.

Accessibility: Many colleges offer free or discounted access to transit services, as well as their own shuttle bus and night-time transportation services.

Colleges and universities are well-positioned to take on transportation challenges

College campuses are perfect places to develop sustainable transportation:

Physical Attributes: Campuses are dense hubs of activity that concentrate living, working and learning spaces. Walking and biking can often be the quickest and most convenient mode of travel between campus buildings.

Convenience: Biking is an ideal fit for many college campuses, where travel distances are short and students tend to have limited incomes and low rates of car ownership. College towns have some of the highest rates of bicycle commuting in the country, and at least 90 universities have developed bikeshare programs.

Real Estate: Many universities have strong financial motivations for limiting the use of cars, which consume valuable campus real estate. Instead of building parking lots, campuses can focus on buildings and public spaces.

Safety: Cars can make campuses less pleasant and more dangerous. As a result, universities are creating car-free spaces that are walkable, bikeable, convenient and safe.

Students, faculty and staff at University of Louisville can use the Cardinal Directions service to plan local trips and find carpools.
To reduce transportation emissions, University of Louisville embraces bicycles

The University of Louisville has made bikes a centerpiece of its efforts to reduce reliance on fossil fuels.

Upon finding that 79 percent of employees and 65 percent of students were driving to campus alone, the university launched Earn-a-Bike in 2012. Under this program, students give up their right to a vehicle parking permit for two years in exchange for a $400 voucher for local bike shops. The program received widespread media coverage and inspired similar programs at other schools. The university also installed more than 600 new bike racks, bike fix-it stations containing tools and tire air pumps, bike lanes, and a campus bikeshare program. As a result, the percentage of students who commute primarily by bike doubled from 4 percent in 2010 to 8 percent in 2015.

Since launching its bike voucher program, the University of Louisville has expanded its commitment to further shift away from fossil fuels and to reduce the number of students and faculty who commute to school in their car alone. In 2016, for example, the university launched an online transportation portal allowing students to gain access to a wider variety of transportation options, including buses and carpools.

Cornell relies on public transportation for sustainable commuting

Cornell University works to reduce vehicle usage to cut down on energy waste and keep its campus free from congestion and pollution.

Cornell combines restrictive on-campus parking with free bus passes and easy membership access to the fuel-efficient vehicles of the Ithaca CarShare service to reduce the need for personal vehicles on campus. The university has a RideShare program for faculty, and encourages students to use the ride-sharing app Zimride for rides home.

As well as providing motorized alternatives to individual vehicles, Cornell has a student-run bikeshare program and promotes walking to get around its beautiful Ithaca campus.

Cornell is also part of Way2Go, a community mobility program that educates the community on available mobility options at the county level and provides transportation professionals opportunities to learn from the community and understand its needs.

Today, 89 percent of students and 47 percent of staff commute sustainably around Cornell’s campus.


Call on your college, alma mater and the the higher education community as a whole to lead the transition to 100 percent renewable energy.