Positive spin keeps wheels
turning at Parking & Transportation
by Rebecca Arrington
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
White is having fun running the most under-appreciated department
at the University.
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.
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.
pretty much universally hated, she said of her department.
remains upbeat and animated. She laughs a lot, drawing strength
from that to keep her people energized.
hard to keep everybody positive all the time about what they do,
In March 2001, after being named permanent department head, she
held an all-day meeting with staff members.
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.
it werent for the contributions we make, it would be a free-for-all
and you wouldnt enjoy the central Grounds the way they are
enjoyed now. People with disabilities wouldnt get anywhere
near their buildings, fire and rescue couldnt get anywhere.
If we didnt bus people the last mile to their job site,
you would just have this knot and crush of cars.
White stresses P&Ts 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.
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,
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.
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.
is not a car for an introvert, she said. And driving it
is purely for pleasure and stress relief.
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
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.
bus is big and powerful, she said. It is getting behind
the big wheel. There is great camaraderie.
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.
its been five years since she has driven a bus, she remembers
it fondly and still enjoys talking with the drivers.
love to talk to the new bus drivers, she said. They
are so full of energy. Theyve got a sense of humor and they
want to hear stories.
more open areas are used for buildings, the Universitys
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
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.
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.
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.
help people get to where they need to go, she said.