Ron Fleming
"It's not just knowing where the open parking stalls are," Ron Fleming says of heading Parking & Transportation Services. "You need to be adept at human resources, finance, marketing, statistics, customer care, traffic management, negotiation and sustainable transportation."

Ron Fleming has a passion for an aspect of campus life that most people would rather not think about: parking.

Since becoming director of UC Irvine’s Parking & Transportation Services two years ago, he has instituted the Strategic Mobility Plan, which improved UCI’s biking infrastructure; Project Greenlight, designed to reduce on-campus vehicle emissions; a commuter emissions calculator; and ZotWheels, an automated bike-sharing program.

This month, the International Parking Institute – the largest association of parking industry professionals – honored Fleming with its 2011 Parking Professional of the Year Award and acknowledged him as “a tireless advocate for innovative and cost-effective transportation and parking programs.”

More specifically, Fleming was recognized for “investing in his employees, encouraging them to pursue advanced job training and development opportunities, and spearheading a unique Management Institute in his own department to impart knowledge and insight to new employees.”

Wendell Brase, UCI’s vice chancellor for administrative & business services, says of Fleming: “He’s an example of how innovative ideas, when paired with leadership, produce outstanding results.”

The IPI tribute is the latest in a string of accolades for Parking & Transportation Services. In March, the League of American Bicyclists named UCI a “Bicycle-Friendly University,” and last year the California Public Parking Association gave the campus its Public Parking Program of the Year Award.

Other honors have recognized the department’s environmental achievement, volunteerism, and progressive programs and practices.

“When you work with such a great team and you trust in their abilities, you find yourself in the rare position to witness excellence,” says Fleming, who has 15 years of experience in the parking services industry.

But it’s not all awards and accolades. The director spends much of his time solving problems and addressing complaints. The challenge, he says, is to balance cost, convenience and supply.

Fleming manages an $18 million enterprise that receives no federal, state or campus money and is instead supported by user fees. The largest portion of its budget, 35 percent, goes toward paying off mortgages on campus parking structures.

The high cost of construction and increasing demand for campus space are good arguments against building more such structures and among the reasons Fleming and his staff try to coax drivers out of their cars and into greener modes of transportation.

The entire unit is required to meet the University of California’s sustainability goals, as well as comply with state mandates to reduce carbon emissions. So it offers a broad spectrum of incentivized options that encourage commuters to walk, bike, carpool, vanpool, take the train, ride Orange County Transportation Authority buses, or use Anteater Express campus shuttles – which Fleming likens to “horizontal elevators.”

“You must have a multidisciplinary approach to run an efficient and effective parking operation,” he says. “It’s not just knowing where the open parking stalls are. You need to be adept at human resources, finance, marketing, statistics, customer care, traffic management, negotiation and sustainable transportation.”

The Southern California native learned through experience. Fleming started as a student employee in Parking & Transportation Services in 1996. He left school for a few years but returned to earn a bachelor’s in English in 2004. Throughout, Fleming worked in UCI parking and moved up through the ranks before becoming director in 2009.

He’s currently pursuing a master’s in public administration at the University of La Verne and speaks nationally on sustainability, enforcement and demand management in the transportation industry.

Fleming has high aspirations for his department and hopes to continue to improve its customer service and outreach campaigns. “Our programs are such an integral part of the success of the campus,” he says. “I’m very proud of them.”