FAQs

Energy and Buildings

Mason spends about $9 to $10 million in energy costs every year for buildings at all campuses. In general, academic buildings account for about 40% of this energy usage, while auxiliary buildings (student centers, athletics, parking) accounts for about 40%, and housing about 20%.  The Fairfax campus consumes 78% of Mason’s energy, the Science and Technology campus consumes 21%, while Arlington campus consumes about one percent of Mason’s energy.

For fiscal year 2017 (July 2016 through June 2017), Mason energy-use cost $9.7 million for 805,684 MMBTU. For even more specific information, please email facilq@gmu.edu and provide at least 2 weeks for us to collect detailed data.

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Mason spends over $1 million a year on water and sewer.  For fiscal year 2017 (July 2016 through June 2017), Mason spent $1.5 million on water and sewer and used over 179 million gallons of water.

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Dominion Virginia Power provides power to the Fairfax, Arlington, and Potomac Science Center Campuses. Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative (NOVEC) provides power to the Science and Technology Campus.

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Mason has researched multiple opportunities to install large-scale renewable energy projects, including solar and geothermal energy. However, given the current markets, Mason has not had the opportunity to implement such projects on a large scale. Mason does have some small solar installations on campus.

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In accordance with Mason’s 2010 Climate Action Plan, Mason purchased renewable energy credits/certificates (RECs) from 2010 to 2015 to offset its carbon footprint. Mason purchased 5% of its electricity consumption in RECs for 2011; 10% for 2012 and 2013; and 15% for 2014. Cumulatively, Mason has purchased over 53,000 megawatts to offset its carbon footprint.

In 2016, Mason outlined in its energy policy (University Policy Number 1142) that it will pursue an energy hierarchy of energy conservation, energy efficiency, renewable energy, and then offsets. RECs are still purchased for new capital building/construction projects, if appropriate.

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Mason’s Facilities department has implemented 43 energy savings projects that have saved the university $2.5 million annually over the last decade. Mason has invested in two energy savings performance contracts that included projects such as exterior LED lighting and equipment upgrades. Please go to Mason Facilities Energy Management website for more information about the performance contracts, past projects, current energy fees, and more. For even more specific information, please email facilq@gmu.edu and provide at least 2 weeks for us to collect detailed data.

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You can take steps to conserve energy, on and off campus! These include:

  • Setting your thermostat settings to 70°F in the winter and 76°F in the summertime. Heating and cooling needs are a building’s largest energy use. Dress appropriately to stay comfortable and ease thermostat use.
  • Shortening your shower time to reduce the amount of energy necessary to heat up water – or better yet, take a cold shower!
  • Washing full loads of laundry with cold water.
  • Purchasing LED light bulbs for task lighting, as LEDs are longer-lasting and use less energy than traditional incandescent and CFL lightbulbs.
  • Switching off and unplugging all electronics and electrical appliances not in use, as opposed to using standby power.

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Mason’s goal is to become climate neutral by 2050. If Mason reduces the greenhouse gas emissions from its building energy use as well as its transportation area, that covers up to 80% of Mason’s emissions. Mason reports its greenhouse gas emissions inventory on a regular basis.  In FY16, Mason emitted approximately 102,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCDE). For more details on Mason’s greenhouse gas emissions, please visit Mason’s Annual Progress Evaluation on Second Nature’s website.

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Mason has eleven (11) buildings designed to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified standard or above, and two buildings Virginia Energy Conservation and Environmental Standards (VEES) certified. Mason has many more buildings designed or renovated with sustainability in mind, including lighting and water fixture upgrades. For more information, please visit the buildings section of Mason’s Office of Sustainability website.

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The central heating and cooling plant provides chilled water and high temperature hot water for the university’s cooling and heating needs. To schedule a tour of the plant, please email facilq@gmu.edu at least four weeks in advance with the best times and dates for you.

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Mason’s building energy management system centrally manages common areas, but does not control temperature settings in individual rooms so that residents can adjust the temperatures based on their comfort level. If you believe the temperature is out of range in the common area, please call Facilities customer service at 703.993.2525.

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Most of Mason buildings are open from 8am to 10pm. Building lights are kept on for emergency egress as well as for safety reasons. However, if you believe they are unintentionally left on, please note specifics of the occurrence such as date, time, building, room number (if possible), part of the building, and floor number. You can report this information to Facilities customer service at 703.993.2525 or csc@gmu.edu 24/7.

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Thank you for your interest! Please send your idea along with any available details such as a professional engineering design, funding in place, timeline, and/or maintenance plan to facilq@gmu.edu.

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Gardens and Landscape

Mason Facilities, Housing and Residence Life, Athletics, and Recreation along with their respective contractors manage Mason’s grounds. The Office of Sustainability oversees a few sites on campus organically such as the Innovation Food Forest and the Potomac Heights Organic Vegetable Garden. These two gardens are managed by our staff and students volunteers. Look for our Facebook pages to get more involved.

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These sites were created by Mason Grounds to encourage biodiversity and pollinators on campus. These sites are not usually mowed and are naturally maintained.

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We have five existing gardens on Fairfax campus and one at the Science and Technology campus that need constant care so please consider volunteering or adding to our existing areas. Existing gardens include the Innovation Food Forest, the Potomac Heights Organic Vegetable Garden, the Presidents Park Greenhouse, the Green Studio, and the Child Development Center Garden. Therefore if you are passionate about gardening please get involved to help us maintain our current gardens by joining GOGA (GMU Organic Garden Association) and volunteering. Find the volunteer schedules and information by visiting green.gmu.edu and navigating to the associated pages. You can also find these sites represented on Facebook and Instagram by searching for gmugarden, gmugreenhouse, and gmufoodforest.

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1. There are two composting areas on campus managed by the Office of Sustainability. You are encouraged to contribute your biodegradable waste to the outdoor composts on the Fairfax campus located at the Potomac Heights Vegetable Garden and the Innovation Food Forest. There is also a worm compost in the greenhouse for hands on learning. Consider volunteering at the gardens or greenhouse to learn more and help maintain the composts.

2. Anyone can contribute to the compost piles on campus and here’s how!

Composting Requirements

  • No oily foods, or animal products, like meat, dairy, shellfish, etc. (a little milk is OK, for instance leftover mac n cheese); but too much of these could make it stinky.
  • Good for composting: lots of paper products, and cardboard (ripped up preferably), plus coffee grounds, tea bags, plant debris, veggie scraps, fruit, not-so-oily leftovers, pasta, rice, bread, etc.
  • If possible please cover the fresh waste with other materials in the pile, so it can become dark and moist to allow quicker decomposition and to reduce odor.

Compost at the Potomac Heights Organic Vegetable Garden

  • Site location: the garden is located behind the Potomac Heights residence hall
  • Compost location: toward the back of garden, near the wall of the building
  • Use the compost pile on the left within the wooden walls

Or use compost tumbler

  • Remove the trap door on the tumbler
  • Throw in your waste
  • Put the door back on
  • Use the crank to turn it once or twice

Compost at the Innovation Food Forest

  • Site location: alongside Innovation Hall and near the south plaza entrance to the Johnson Center
  • Compost location: follow gravel walkway uphill toward the Johnson Center until you see an opening to the woods
  • Use pile of fresh compost and not the finished (already looks like soil) pile

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Yes, Mason saves and transplants as many trees and plants from construction sites as funding and conditions permit. Moving trees and plants often causes significant stress on them so calculations are made about the plants survivability and their moving costs.

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To ensure continued maintenance and operations of the artwork, you will need approval from campus stakeholders. Please create a document that proposes your idea and includes as much detail as possible such as height, width, depth, timeline, funding in place, any possible risks associated with it, and maintenance plan during the semester as well as breaks. Please submit that information to facilq@gmu.edu Depending on the artwork and the approvals needed, the process may take several months to a year for placement.

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Recycling and Waste Management

Within Mason’s Climate Action Plan, Mason’s goal was to increase its recycling rate to 25%. In 2015, Mason, along with 300 other signatories, signed the American Campuses Act on Climate to reduce Mason’s waste impact, and aimed to increase its recycling rate to 50% by 2018. Given the tremendous annual growth that Mason has experienced, it is a constant challenge to manage its recycling and waste.

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Given the tremendous annual growth that Mason has experienced, it is a constant challenge to manage its recycling and waste. In fiscal year 2017 (July 1, 2016 through June 30, 2017), Mason generated 4,000 tons of waste, 847 tons (21%) of which was recycled. Recycled materials include commingled plastics, metal, paper, cardboard, electronics, mattress, and items from Patriot Pack Out, an annual student residential move-out program. For even more specific information, please email facilq@gmu.edu and provide at least 2 weeks for us to collect detailed data.

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Most areas on campus have recycling containers with multiple streams including: white paper; colored paper; and glass, cans, and plastic. In addition to these, Mason also recycles and diverts the following materials from our waste:

  • Electronic waste (E-waste), including computers, batteries, ink cartridges, and old cell phones. If Mason property, these can be submitted to surplus or placed near a recycling center for pick up.  For personal items, these can all be recycled in the E-waste collection box at the Johnson Center (JC).
  • Personal small appliances in residential halls, such as toasters and printers should be put aside inside individual trash rooms for Housing to pick up and recycled. Please do not put appliances in or near dumpsters and compactors around campus.  For questions, please contact your Residential Advisor (RA).
  • Paints, and any other chemicals, should be recycled through Mason’s Environmental Health & Safety (EHS) department.
  • Auto parts/ Tires can also be recycled through Facilities; please contact facilq@gmu.edu for information.

For a more comprehensive list of items Mason recycles, please visit the Acceptable Materials on Mason’s Facilities, Recycling website.

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Single stream, or commingled, recycling is a process of collecting recyclable goods (paper, plastics, glass, etc.) into a single container. In some remote, smaller campus locations (i.e. the Science and Technology campus), Mason follows that process. However, at the larger Mason campuses, Mason requires all students, faculty, and staff to sort white paper; colored paper; cardboard; and glass, cans, and plastics into separate containers. The university has a multi-stream recycling system for several reasons: the university receives revenue for clean recyclable materials where there is a market demand; it keeps contamination low; and it increases the overall environmental benefit of recycling. Mason reviews this practice on a regular basis to determine whether to change it based on environmental and market conditions.

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It depends! On the Fairfax campus, Fairfax County collects both the trash and recycling and hauls it to the I-66 Transfer station located on West Ox Road. The trash is then taken to Covanta, a waste-to- energy incinerator in Lorton, while the recycling is hauled away to the Northeast Transfer Station in Washington DC by Waste Management. On the SciTech and Arlington campuses, Waste Management collects both the trash and recycling.

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Mason generates revenue from certain recycled materials based on market conditions. For example, Mason received revenue from clean cardboard, white paper, glossy paper such as event programs, and metals at this time.

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Currently, our campus is doing pre-consumer composting at Southside Dining Hall and The Globe. All food waste from these locations go to a composting facility in Prince George’s County in Maryland. Mason is currently exploring composting in other dining halls on Fairfax and other remote campuses.

Additionally, our campus gardens at the Innovation Food Forest and Potomac Heights Vegetable Garden collect individual, small-scale composting. For more information, please view the composting FAQ in Gardens and Landscape.

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Thank you for your interest! Currently there are recycling containers in most common area spaces, interior and exterior, on Mason’s campuses but we are trying to constantly add more. The recycling containers are strategically placed in common areas outside of the classrooms. Please send your idea along with any available details such as a design, funding in place, timeline, and/or maintenance plan to facilq@gmu.edu.

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Please contact Facilities customer service at 703-993-2525 if there are any immediate concerns regarding waste and recycling.

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Stormwater

George Mason University’s Land Development division within Facilities manages Mason’s stormwater program. This program oversees the stormwater sewer system on Mason’s campuses and permits land disturbance construction projects in compliance with all local, regional, and federal laws and regulations. Please visit the Land Development website on Mason’s Facilities website for more information. For any additional information, please email facilq@gmu.edu.

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There are approximately 23 stormwater BMP facilities on Mason’s campuses to address the campuses’ stormwater needs. The addition of facilities requires the identification of areas with problem and adequate plan and engineering based design to resolve it. Professional engineering design, funding in place, timeline, and maintenance plan are require in order to be evaluated.  Approval and implementation process may take 1 to 2 years.

Please consider helping us to maintain existing facilities. Locations with BMP facilities include the Tidewater and Piedmont Residence Hall buildings area, Potomac Heights, West Campus Parking, Science and Technology Campus, and Point of View in Fairfax County. Ask us how you can to help at facilq@gmu.edu.

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Mason is required to meet a 5 percent reduction in nitrogen, phosphorus and suspended solids by June 30, 2018, and additional 35% reduction of these pollutants by June 30, 2023. More about Mason Chesapeake Bay TMDL Action plan can be found on Land Development website.

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Due to regulatory and compliance issues, ongoing maintenance, as well as risks associated with stormwater features, all requests must be reviewed and approved by Mason Facilities. Please email your request to facilq@gmu.edu.  Engineering design, funding in place, timeline, any risks associated and maintenance plan are required in order to be evaluated.  Access to stormwater features and BMPs facilities will require accompaniment by Facilities staff.  Please also provide options on desired dates and times for your site visit.

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There are several past and ongoing stormwater research projects on our campus.

  • The Mason Water Forum is a project created to encourage collaboration and communication on the topics of water science, policy and education between the Mason community, 4-VA members, K-12, other institutions and the public. More about their work can be found on the Mason Water Forum website.
  • Mason Pond and Waterways were used as a test bed for National Stormwater Monitoring Project. More about this project can be found on the GMU National Stormwater Monitoring Project website.
  • Floating Wetlands on Mason Pond was a yearlong project that brought together art and science students and was designed to clean the water as well as to spur ecological awareness. More about the project can be found on the The Rain Project website.
  • Green Roof on Rappahannock project examines different aspects of environmental sustainability in infrastructure. It is led by faculty and students from various departments.
  • The GMU Piedmont Rain Garden is a joint project of George Mason University’s Sustainability LLC, Office of Sustainability, Office of Facilities Management and Office of Housing. It is a demonstration of how rain gardens can be used to filter stormwater runoff so as to prevent sediment and pollution from running into our streams, rivers and estuaries such as the Chesapeake Bay.

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Yes. You can do a stormwater related project as a part of your senior design course, as an Undergraduate Research Scholars Program (URSP) scholar, or as a part of a faculty led student team. In addition, Patriot Green Fund (PGF) enables students to conduct research and implement scholarship-related projects that demonstrate environmental leadership and benefit the Mason community and surrounding region. You can apply for PGF funding to support your stormwater related research or infrastructure improvement project. Several RS designated courses also give you an authentic research or creative experience.

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The Mason Pond is a major stormwater feature, a tranquil location for enjoyment and relaxation, and occasionally used for research for classes. Mason Pond was built in 1989 with an average depth of 5 feet. It is regularly measured for its chemistry for compliance and research reasons. Please refer to earlier questions to learn more about research work done on Mason Pond.

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Part of the Student Apartments area is located within a resource protected area (RPA) next to a stream which drains to Mason Pond. The Student Apartments will be demolished in the near future.  The area will be converted to open space/green area with no building construction expected for the site in the next few years.

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Facilities Land Development division hosts at least two stream clean-up events annually. Usually these occur in Fall during the 9/11 Day of Service and in Spring during the Earth Month (April). Please check the Office of Sustainability Facebook page for exact dates or email facilq@gmu.edu.

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Sustainable Food and Mason Dining

Mason currently grows about 2,000 pounds of its food on campus annually in the Presidents Park Greenhouse and serves it in the dining halls. The produce is harvested each week and served the next day! It is the most local and freshest food available on campus. The greenhouse is equipped with hydroponic equipment that allows year-round food production with less labor and water than outdoor farming. Anyone can volunteer and help to grow and harvest Mason’s freshest produce. Check Presidents Park Greenhouse Facebook page to get the volunteer hours. You can also suggest more fresh food in Mason Dining’s customer surveys.

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There already is a hydroponic system on campus in the Presidents Park greenhouse. We recommend you volunteer there to get hands-on-experience and education on how hydroponic farming is installed and maintained. Please search for the GMU Greenhouse on Facebook to get the updated volunteer hours.

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Mason has the Honey Bee Initiative where you can volunteer and get hands-on experience maintaining honey bee hives, attend classes about honey bee biology and apiary logistics, and work with community groups throughout the region and internationally to promote honey bee conservation. Please go to bees.gmu.edu or email bees@gmu.edu for more information.

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Transportation

Mason has a Transportation Master Plan that was created in 2011 and acts as our guiding vision. With over 14,300 spaces on three campuses, Mason is focusing on maximizing utilization of existing parking and reducing single occupancy vehicle (SOV) use by offering sustainable and cost effective alternatives, instead of expanding space quantity.  Mason may consider building more parking in the future as supply is near capacity at peak times at the Fairfax Campus. The Transportation Master Plan is available on Transportation website.

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Transportation receives no tuition dollars or general funds to operate at Mason. All aspects of transportation at Mason must be paid for by parking fees and a small portion of the student fee. These fees go toward services that maintain parking facilities/service and also include building up alternative transportation options available to Mason students, faculty, and staff such as expanding routes and creating infrastructure to improve bus and shuttle capacity for the free Mason Shuttles and CUE buses that move over 1 million people a year. It also covers rebate programs, operations, and maintenance. The list goes on toward widening and improving sidewalks, trails, and wayfinding signage.

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The 750 spaces on the West Campus lot and adjacent Rapidan River Road provide a lower cost opportunity for students, faculty, and staff to park as well as reduce the number of cars on the east campus. Throughout most of the year, there is shuttle service from the West Campus to East Campus every 15 minutes, Monday-Friday.

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Yes, Mason offers multiple ways for faculty, staff, and students to save money or time by not driving alone to campus including:

  • Commonwealth Commuter Choice: Mason offers full-time employees up to $260 per month of tax-free financial support to cover the cost of commuting to Mason via public transportation or vanpool.
  • Bike Commuter Choice: Mason also offers faculty and staff a Bike Commuter Choice option. If you bike to work 8 times per month, you will receive two complimentary parking passes per month. You also have access to shower facilities on campus. For more visit Transportation Bikeshare Commuter Program website.
  • Both Commuter Choice programs above also offer access to the Guaranteed Ride Home (GRH) Program. The GRH provides peace of mind in case an emergency arises or you cannot find a ride home. It is designed for employees who rideshare (carpool/vanpool), use mass transit (bus, train), bicycle, or walk to work at least two times a week. It is absolutely free to sign-up for and free to use. Once you register you can use the GRH service up to four times a year. For more visit Commuter Connections Guaranteed Ride Home website.
  • Additionally, all students, faculty, and staff can receive a complimentary U-lock and bike light for registering their bike with the Parking and Transportation Office. For more visit their website.
  • If you have any questions about your transit benefit, please feel free to contact Parking and Transportation at transpo@gmu.edu or 703-993-2828.

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As stated in the transportation master plan, the goal is to fully utilize existing parking supply before building more parking. Mason is working on its ParkSmart certification, which is the green parking garage certification that is overseen by the U.S. Green Building.

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Besides 16 dedicated parking spaces for EV’s (and others for carpool) and celebrating those who choose alternative transportation with Bike to Mason and Alternative Transportation days:

  • Mason has committed to a green future by investing in the infrastructure necessary to support electric vehicles (EV). Multiple EV charging stations are located throughout campus in each of the parking decks.
  • Preferred parking spaces for fuel-efficient cars are available at the Arlington, Fairfax, and SciTech campuses for faculty and staff; students can participate on the Arlington campus.

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Arlington: Mason currently sponsors a Capital Bikeshare station on the Founders Hall Plaza. To learn more about bike share in Arlington County, please visit Bike Arlington Capital Bikeshare.

Fairfax: Mason does not currently have a bike share program on the Fairfax campus however the University is in discussions with the City of Fairfax, Fairfax County, and the Town of Vienna to work collaboratively to bring more bike share opportunities to the region. To learn more about bike share in Fairfax County, please visit their Transportation website.

SciTech: Mason does not currently have a bike share program on the SciTech campus.

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Your best bet is to understand your comfort zone and do a little research on trails in the area to see what is right for you. Below is a sample of the bike trails available in the area by county/city as well as trails within the Commonwealth of Virginia.

  • Arlington: Bike Arlington has materials to help bicyclists plan safe routes, including a comfort map.
  • City of Fairfax: City of Fairfax trails are shared by bicyclists, pedestrians, runners, dog walkers and other users.
  • Fairfax County: Bike Fairfax Interactive map has comfort ratings to help bicyclists choose their routes.
  • Loudoun: For more visit Loudon County Bicycle and Pedestrian Information page.
  • Prince William: For more visit Prince William County Trails and Blueways Directory page.
  • Commonwealth of Virginia: For more visit Virginia Bicycling Federation Virginia Bike Routes page.

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Mason offers 6 shuttle routes including free shuttles from campus to the Vienna metro (one from Sandy Creek Transit Center; the other from the Global Center), to/from the Burke VRE train station, between the Fairfax and the SciTech campuses, between the Fairfax Campus and area shopping centers and to/from the West Campus. Shuttle schedules are available on GMU Shuttles website. Please note that during holidays, school breaks, and over the summer the shuttle schedule is adjusted.

  • You can track the shuttles in real time by downloading the RideSystems app or visiting Mason Ryde System page to see when the next shuttle is arriving. For an overview of the RideSystems app, please see GMU Shuttle website.

The CUE Bus is a bus service operated by the City of Fairfax, which Mason subsidizes so that with your Mason ID, you can ride free. There are two routes – the green and the gold. In addition to destinations around the City of Fairfax, both routes also travel to the Vienna Metro. There is a CUE bus stop on the Mason Fairfax Campus next to Rappahannock River Parking Deck.

  • You can track the CUE buses in real time by visiting the Fairfax City website and searching for “city apps”. You can also download Transit App for Android.
  • For additional information on alternatives, please see our Transportation Guide.

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Started in Fall 2014, the Patriot Lift program provides limited campus transportation service to those students, faculty and staff requiring long- or short-term assistance getting around campus. All students must receive prior approval from the Office of Disability Services or Student Health Services. All faculty and staff must receive prior approval from the Office of Compliance, Diversity and Ethics. This program is a partnership between Parking & Transportation, Office of Disability Services, Student Health Services, and Compliance, Diversity and Ethics.

Note: Patriot Lift is not provided for off-campus locations, and is staffed by students so services are only available when school is in session. For more information, visit Parking and Transportation Services Patriot Lift page.

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  • Charter Bus: Mason has contracted with Reston Limousine to provide shuttle services for the University. They can also be contacted to provide charter bus service for your Mason department or organization.
  • Motor Pool: Mason no longer has a motor pool comprised of Mason-owned vehicles. The University has contracted with Enterprise to provide vehicles for faculty, staff, and students who are on state/university business. Conditions apply and training may be required. Please call the Motor Pool at 703.993.2442 with any questions.

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We appreciate and value your feedback. Please contact Parking and Transportation at 703-993-2828 or via email at transpo@gmu.edu.

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