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The Parking Professional: What is your current position with the University of Cincinnati?
Darlene Bunton: My current position is Director, University of Cincinnati Parking Services. This position includes responsibility for all campuses including a medical center with a teaching hospital. InAugust of this year, I will complete 37 years of service at the university - with 30 years in Public Safety and Parking. I enjoy the opportunity to work with and meet people from all walks of life on a diverse campus.
TPP: Briefly tell us about your campus.
DB: The University of Cincinnati is an urban campus and the largest employer in the Cincinnati region with an economic impact of more than $3 billion in Ohio. The student population is hovering around 37,000. There are over 12,000 parking spaces located predominantly in 11 garages. Lot parking is limited on this urban campus.Auniversity master plan, which started in 1990, removed most surface parking and converted them into green space. Parking Services is an auxiliary with revenues of over $13 million annually and a debt of $10 million annually.
TPP: With both the football stadium and basketball arena on campus, what responsibility do you have during sporting/major events? How has the Bearcats' recent emergence as a football power impacted the campus and your job?
DB: Parking Services has the responsibility for staffing the parking for all sporting and major events that occur on campus.We partner with Athletics, UC Police, Hamilton County Sheriffs and the City of Cincinnati Police Departments to provide smooth and safe access to sporting events.With the recent success of our football program, sell-out games have challenged us to use parking facilities on the medical campus as overflow parking and shuttle sport fans to the main campus. The success has come at a time when budget reductions have occurred, which has necessitated reaching out to other departments at the university to assist in staffing the games.
TPP: Everyone has a unique story about how they really got into parking. What's yours?
DB: In the mid 80s, there was a reorganization in Public Safety, during which time the Parking Director's position became vacant.At the time, I was aware of the University of Cincinnati plans to implement a major overall of the physical environment of the campus, which would impact parking and rates.After much prayer and discussions with my mentor and family, I applied for the position and was selected.
TPP: What's your biggest challenge right now in your day-to-day operations?
DB: Doing more with fewer resources in an ever-changing economic environment.We are also in the process of converting a 20-year-old parking management system to a more robust system.
TPP: What's the biggest misconception about what you do?
DB: That parking is a "cash cow" and over-charges its customer. Most customers do not understand that only those that park on the campus fund parking as we receive no funds from the University of Cincinnati. Therefore, our rates are set based upon the debt and renovations of garages versus surface parking.
TPP: What advice would you have for someone just getting into or looking to get into the parking profession?
DB: Be patient, willing to listen, support your staff and balance work and your personal life.
TPP: You have been an IPI member for more than 20 years; how has IPI benefitted you in your career?
DB: The IPI Conference & Expo have allowed me to stay abreast of the latest and most efficient methods of running a parking operation of this size.
TPP: Who is your biggest influence in life? In your work?
DB: My family and friends have supported me during the long hours and frustrating times of my career. My mentor, Assistant Vice President of Public Safety, who I worked with for 30 years, was instrumental in giving me the opportunities to advance in various roles within Public Safety.
TPP: What is something about you that might surprise people?
DB: I never leave home without a book as I am an avid reader.