Where in the world? 35,000 maps guide roamers

Market turns into Preston turns into Barracks turns into Garth. Got that? Try giving directions to out-of-town friends, and you'll get a first-hand feeling for how confusing Charlottesville's streets can be.

Roger Friend, owner of Blue Wheel Bike Shop, wonders if there's some kind of "Soviet" phenomenon behind the city's transportation woes. "It can't be too obvious how to get anywhere," he jokes.

Things may just get a little easier, however, thanks to a new non-profit, The Alliance for Community Choice in Transportation. The Alliance recently released 35,000 copies of a glossy fold-out map designed to inform residents and visitors of the wealth of transportation routes and resources in Charlottesville.

Have you ever wondered how to attach your bike to the front of a CTS bus? Of course you have! But in a guide otherwise loaded with how-to advice, some may wonder at the absence of a street index or an actual bus schedule.

Alliance director Tobin Scipione acknowledges these omissions, but cites the Alliance's reluctance "to overwhelm users with too much detail." However, she points out that the obvious highlighting of the twin giants, Route 29 and Route 250, makes it "fairly easy to orientate your location." The addition of the actual location of the bus stops certainly points you in the direction of an up-to-date schedule.

A "constant work in progress," according to Alliance board member Scott Adams, the guide– if it proves popular– may get multiple, updated printings.

Inclusion of both UTS and CTS bus routes indicates a clear intent to serve both the UVA and downtown communities. UVA even paid for the printing of 15,000 copies to distribute with the welcome packs to all incoming first years.

Scipione regards the map as a "tangible tool" to help students go "somewhere other than the Corner." But Yuliya Shebalkin, a third year at UVA, doubts that the guide will be fully used by the student population.

"This is so massive," she says while unfolding the map. "Using this in public would be dorky."

One hopes that the horror of appearing to be a tourist (albeit an informed one) won't deter UVA students from using the map. But Wahoos aren't the youngest beneficiaries: Scipione sees great potential for future spin-off maps, including a "kids' guide to getting around."

On April 2, the Alliance joined forces with parents, volunteers, and teachers at Greenbrier Elementary School to urge all Greenbrier students to walk to school that day.

Raising funds for such programs– and for the maps– is of primary importance to the nonprofit, but so far donations have been generous.

The $10,000 price tag for the printing the maps was covered by a grant from the DMV, cooperation from local transit companies, and a slew of business sponsors (including The Hook).

The map seems to have left few transportation stones unturned. In addition to the bus routes for UTS and CTS, it also shows Greene County Transit, JAUNT– as well as safe routes for bicyclists.

Perhaps its biggest draw is its mapping of Charlottesville's best-kept secret, the Rivanna Trails. In an Alliance press release, Diane Foster of the Rivanna Trails Association expressed excitement over her role in the map's creation.

"It was a fun and rewarding experience to partner with all the different interest groups," Foster explains, "to produce one map that displays both recreational and transportation opportunities in our community."