GETTING AROUND - Local Transportation
New to Virginia?
Within 60 days of arrival, you must apply for a Virginia driver's license, and within 30 days obtain state registration for your vehicle through the DMV (804-497-7100) at 2055 Abbey Road (near the Giant grocery on Pantops). Immediately after registering your vehicle in Virginia, you must obtain a state safety inspection from any private garage offering the regulated service– it always costs $16 for cars and $12 for motorcycles– unless there's something wrong, and then you have to pay for repairs.
Road rules- local licensing
Local vehicle owners are no longer required to display what we used to call "personal property tax" decals, and police can fine those who still display them. (Frankly, we don't understand exactly how Charlottesville and Albemarle revenue chiefs can figure out if you've registered your car here since both localities have eliminated decals.)
Virginia's sometimes wacky rules of the road
Here are some state laws you may or may not have heard of:
Keep frontin': Virginia automobiles must have both front and rear license plates.
No radar love: Unlike the other 49 states, Virginia bans the use of radar detectors.
Don't pimp my ride: Tinting your windows too dark is strictly forbidden, as are neon lights and undercarriage glow.
Yak attack: Unlike many other states, Virginia has not outlawed dialing while driving– unless you're under 18 or a school bus driver. However...
No texting: Since 2009 texting while driving became illegal.
Walk this way: Pedestrians at intersections– even lollygagging UVA students– always have the right-of-way.
Light rain: If your windshield wipers are on, your lights must be on.
I can't drive 80: As of July 1st Virginia raised the speed limit to 70mph on a large number of highways, but beware, driving over 80mph will earn you hefty fines under the theory of "reckless driving."
Embarrassed kids: All children under age eight– that's right, eight– must be properly secured in a child safety seat or booster seat.
Footloose: Virginia drivers must always have their shoes on while driving.
Beginning July 1, 2012, if you get convicted of a single DUI, you'll have to have an "ignition interlock device" installed in your vehicle, which is a breathalyzer you have to blow clean through (less than 0.8) to start your car.
We have two separate bus systems: one run by UVA and one by City Hall:
UTS - From the North Grounds to Fontaine and as far east as Washington Park, this University-run service has every-ten-minutes passes on some busy routes and offers free rides to students and locals alike. 924-7711
CAT - The city's bus service has 15 routes and welcomes bicycle riders by offering bike racks on all buses. Regular fare is 75 cents for a one-way trip (children 5 and under ride free), but you can buy a monthly pass for $20 or an unlimited-use Day Pass for $1.50, which can be purchased on any CAT bus when boarding. Reduced fares for seniors citizens (65 and older) and the disabled are available with a CAT Reduced Fare Card (application available at the Downtown Transit Station on E. Water Street). UVA student, faculty, and staff IDs are accepted as fare on CAT buses. Youths 6 to 18 years old ride free during the summer with a special CAT Summer Youth Ride FREE ID card. In addition to the summer program, CAT offers a year-round free ride program for Charlottesville High School students. 970-3649.
The best central city free ride is the CTS free trolley which looks like a San Francisco cable car but travels on rubber tires between the Corner, UVA grounds, and downtown every 15 minutes from 6:40am until 11:30pm Monday-Saturday. On Sunday, the trolley runs every 30 minutes in the morning and every 45 minutes in the afternoon from 8am until 5pm.
–->For inter-city bus transportation– Greyhound/Starlight Express, as well as trains and planes– we have more information on our travel page.
Charlottesville and Albemarle have made strides in increasing the number of bike routes in recent years, and bikers can check out the city's website for some tips on bike safety as well as bicycle friendly trails. There are also several biking groups and shops in the area for cycling fans. In Virginia, bicycles must follow the same laws as motor vehicles, including riding on the right side of the street, obeying all traffic signs and signals, yielding to pedestrians, and using signals for turning and stopping. At night, bicycles must have a white front light visible for 500 feet and either a red rear-reflector visible for at least 600 feet or a red taillight visible for 500 feet.
Riding a bike on the Downtown Mall is punishable by a fine. Ditto for riding on the handlebars of a bike. And since 2011, in the city, any kid age 14 or younger on a street, sidewalk, or bicycle path must wear a helmet when riding a bicycle, scooter, or even a "toy vehicle."
The city has a "community bike" shop that teaches patrons how to repair, build, and maintain bikes that they can keep. Charlottesville Community Bikes aims to promote environmentally friendly transportation and accepts donations of tools, bicycles, and parts.
Thanks to the area's long history, many roads have different names along a single path, usually changing as a city street moves into the county and becomes a road. Here's a handy tip-sheet:
Emmet Street=Seminole Trail=U.S. 29
Ivy Road=University Avenue=Main Street=Downtown Mall
Avon Street=9th Street
Park Street=Rio Road (pronounced "RYE-oh")=Hydraulic Road
Garth Road=Barracks Road=Preston Avenue=Market Street
Fifth Street=Ridge Street=McIntire Road=John Warner Parkway (eventually)
Roads get busy around here during traditional rush hours– not to mention around noontimes when roads clog pretty heavily. Companies that engage in RideShare programs like car pools and van pools can get juicy tax deductions. 295-6165
Average commute time: 15.5 minutes city and 21.8 minutes county (national average is 26)
Working at home: 5.2% city and 7.1% county (national average is just 3.3%)
To save room for residents, some neighborhoods near UVA and downtown require $25 per year parking permits. You'll know because you'll see the street signs. The permits, which expire each August 31, are available through the City Treasurer's Office. 970-3146