Campus Use of Mass Transit

Cornell is TCAT's largest customer, accounting for roughly 71% of annual ridership...


Campus Use of Mass Transit is a Neutrality goal in the Cornell Climate Action Plan (CAP).



Increase the use of mass transit by the Cornell community through the OmniRide Program and enhanced outreach for Cornell employees during the onboarding process.

Goal: Expand the use of public transit and reduce parking demand at Cornell by providing discounted and no-fee transit access to Cornell employees and students.

Cornell offers its employees and students partially- or fully-subsidized transit through the OmniRide transit program. Students who are new-to-Cornell (roughly 6,500 active annually) and employees who enroll in OmniRide have anytime, anywhere access to TC
Cornell offers its employees and students partially- or fully-subsidized transit through the OmniRide transit program. Students who are new-to-Cornell (roughly 6,500 active annually) and employees who enroll in OmniRide have anytime, anywhere access to TC

Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit, Inc., usually referred to as TCAT, is a private, non-profit public transportation operator, managed jointly by Cornell University, Tompkins County, and the City of Ithaca.

Cornell offers its employees and students partially- or fully-subsidized transit through the OmniRide transit program. Students who are new-to-Cornell (roughly 6,500 active annually) and employees who enroll in OmniRide have anytime, anywhere access to TCAT buses with their Cornell ID card; Cornell pays the fare.

Students who are not new-to-Cornell and student spouses can purchase deeply discounted OmniRide privileges ($200; the comparable TCAT pass is $600). Access to the buses is gained by using the Cornell ID card at the fare box. Eligible Cornell employees, retirees, and affiliates also receive fully-subsidized ride privileges on TCAT buses within TCAT zone one, Monday- Friday. The number of eligible riders was approximately 15,000 in December 2013 – 10,000 of whom are faculty and staff.

Cornell’s OmniRide program is part of the University’s Transportation Demand Management strategy and has been highly successful at reducing parking demand at Cornell since its inception in 1990. By avoiding the need to build hundreds of extra faculty and staff parking spaces, Cornell has experienced a notable cost savings benefit through the OmniRide program.

Since March 2011 a representative from Transportation Services has participated in Cornell’s employee onboarding program to ensure that all new hires to the university are made aware of their transportation options, including the OmniRide program, car sharing, carpooling, and ride sharing. Transportation staff are able to provide new staff members with an objective view of the various travel options and information about incentives to encourage the use of alternative commuting methods – before employees make a commuting decision. From March 2011 through June 2013, a total of 1,299 onboarding appointments were held, and current projections indicate that there will be more than 1,000 onboarding appointments between July 2013 and June 2014. The total number of OmniRide passes issued to employees has increased by 26% in the past three years - from 1,586 passes in 2010 to 1,974 passes in 2013.

Student OmniRide participation has expanded by 35% in the past 6 years, from roughly 4,000 riders in 2005, to 6,500 riders in 2013. In 2012, 741,000 TCAT rides were purchased by Cornell students (3,705 passes @ $200 each), and 1,070,000 free rides were given to Cornell students using OmniRide passes. Because of the substantial increase in ridership, the university is currently realizing a $1M deficit for the free pass program annually - and this deficit is growing. For the past few years, Cornell has been using proceeds from the Campus to Campus (C2C) bus program to offset the OmniRide deficit. The Transportation Team is proposing to study the financial implications of C2C expansion and the possibility of using this revenue stream to offset TCAT deficits.

The Transportation Services eBusiness site offers TCAT OmniRide passes for sale, so that Cornell community members can purchase or appeal their passes online. The list of valid Cornell riders is updated daily and sent to TCAT.

Next Steps

  • Evaluate possibilities and determine how to fund the OmniRide program sustainably. Study the financial implications of Campus to Campus expansion and the feasibility of using this revenue stream to offset TCAT deficits.
  • Include temporary staff, as well as permanent staff, in the transportation outreach program for new hires.

Resources

  • Continuation of the OmniRide program depends on adequate fares and partner contributions to meet TCAT’s operating and capital expenses.
  • May need additional support to enable Transportation staff to provide onboarding outreach to temporary employees.