Aug. 29-Sept. 12, 2003
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U.S. News ranks U.Va. No. 1 public
William Pease to lead U.Va.’s marching band
Headlines @ U.Va.
For Dom Starsia, the summer of his content

ACC looks beyond athletics with Traveling Scholars Program

‘A great ride’ comes to a smooth landing
Reynolds puts love of numbers to work for University
New orthopaedic surgery chair focuses on today’s broken bones, tomorrow’s new legs
Breast Care Center offers high-tech health, warm environment
Appalachian clinic draws record crowd
Positive spin keeps wheels turning at Parking & Transportation
Bus schedule, escort changes enhance safety
Visa problems take toll on international students
Summer session office losing longtime leader
From bugs to satellites: A symposium on the limits of landscape
McCormick Observatory offers ‘Mars Mania’
All moved in
Pluses and minuses fill balance sheet of Luckson Hove’s life
Transfer students get early start at building community
Positive spin keeps wheels turning at Parking & Transportation
Rebecca White
Photo by Rebecca Arrington
Rebecca White started her Parking & Transportation career as a student bus driver. Now she drives a department that manages 32 buses and 15,500 parking spaces.

By Matt Kelly

Rebecca White is having fun running the most under-appreciated department at the University.

White, 41, drives the Department of Parking and Transportation Services, managing a 32-bus fleet and 15,500 parking spaces, as well as encouraging people to bicycle or walk to get to Grounds.

But P&T is cursed out every time someone gets a parking ticket or is towed, and employees are blamed both for parking woes around Grounds and the garages that are supposed to ease parking.

“We’re pretty much universally hated,” she said of her department.

White remains upbeat and animated. She laughs a lot, drawing strength from that to keep her people energized.

“It’s hard to keep everybody positive all the time about what they do,” she said.
In March 2001, after being named permanent department head, she held an all-day meeting with staff members.

“We talked about what we contribute to this community and about customer service,” she said. “What everybody came up with was that we keep chaos at bay.

“If it weren’t for the contributions we make, it would be a free-for-all and you wouldn’t enjoy the central Grounds the way they are enjoyed now. People with disabilities wouldn’t get anywhere near their buildings, fire and rescue couldn’t get anywhere. If we didn’t bus people the last mile to their job site, you would just have this knot and crush of cars.”

While White stresses P&T’s contribution to the quality of life around Grounds, she says it is a hard sell to other departments because they view it as a regulatory agency. She works hard to give her employees a positive self-image.

Her upbeat approach has paid off through several compliments White has received that P&T employees seem so “chipper.” P&T will be doing more scientific benchmarking in the future, she said.

“Rebecca has one of the most difficult jobs on Grounds, but she approaches her task with an upbeat attitude and a relentless commitment to customer service that are second to none, “ said Leonard W. Sandridge, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the University. “She cares deeply about the students, faculty and staff who depend on her department for a place to park and a bus to ride.”

White keeps upbeat with blues music and classic cars, driving to blues concerts in her canary-yellow 1970 Cadillac Coupe DeVille convertible, listening to her favorite “driving music” group, Southern Culture on the Skids.

“It is not a car for an introvert,” she said. And driving it is “purely for pleasure and stress relief.”

While her everyday “sensible shoe car” is a 1992 Volkswagen Jetta diesel, the Cadillac plays to her desire to drive large things, which is what got her involved in P&T in the first place.

A Fairfax city native, she was a math major at U.Va., planning to work with her father in his computer business. But when she got behind the wheel of a bus in 1982, she was seduced.

“A bus is big and powerful,” she said. “It is getting behind the big wheel. There is great camaraderie.”

Beginning as a bus driver at U.Va., White worked her way up to trainer, supervisor and, at age 25, the assistant director under Al Whalley, a post she held for 13 years. When Whalley retired, she took over the department as interim director and then was named director in January 2001.

While it’s been five years since she has driven a bus, she remembers it fondly and still enjoys talking with the drivers.

“I love to talk to the new bus drivers,” she said. “They are so full of energy. They’ve got a sense of humor and they want to hear stories.”

As more open areas are used for buildings, the University’s master plan calls for parking to be pushed to the peripheries in areas where there is access to highways. Garages concentrate parking, but at a higher price. While surface parking costs about $4,000 a space to build, garage spaces cost between $10,000 and $12,000 each.

“Parking spaces should be plentiful, cheap and convenient, but you can only have two of those,” she said. “If they are cheap and convenient, they are not plentiful. And if they are plentiful and convenient, they are not cheap.”

Over the last 15 years, U.Va. has added about 1,000 spaces to its inventory. But while many lost spaces were made up elsewhere, White said the University is not keeping up with the demand. About 550 spots were gained by barring students from bringing cars in the second semester of their first year.

White wants to focus people on alternatives to driving, such as using public transportation, carpooling, bicycling and walking. The department keeps 23 buses running, using seven full-time and 80 part-time drivers. The buses make about 3 million passenger/trips a year, with rolling peak hours, depending on the lines. The Groundswalk, once completed, will shorten the trip from University Hall and John Paul Jones Arena parking areas to central Grounds. The University also has a bicycle master plan.

“We help people get to where they need to go,” she said.


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