Email signup

Merrifield autonomous shuttle hums along, thanks to new grant funds

The autonomous Relay shuttle travels between the Mosaic District and the Dunn Loring-Merrifield Metro station (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

The autonomous Relay shuttle that has been puttering around Merrifield will stay in operation at least through the end of this year.

Fairfax County accepted additional funding from the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation last week to extend its pilot project through December 2022, as it hopes the recent decline in COVID-19 cases will boost the shuttle’s ridership.

The $208,000 state grant is supplemented by a required local match of 20%, or $52,000, bringing the total amount to $260,000, according to county documents.

“Ridership levels have still been relatively low due to omicron and winter weather, but we are expecting an increase during the summer,” Robin Geiger, head of communications for the Fairfax County Department of Transportation, told FFXnow.

The Relay shuttle opened to passengers on Oct. 22, 2020, in the Mosaic District. It is free to ride and travels between Barnes & Noble and the nearby Dunn Loring-Merrifield Metro station between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Mondays through Thursdays.

A partnership between the county and Dominion Energy, which provided the shuttle, the demonstration project is Virginia’s first state-funded use of a self-driving, electric vehicle in public transportation.

The county enlisted the Virginia Transportation Research Council and Virginia Tech to conduct an independent study of the technology and the service’s effectiveness as a transportation option, but that effort has been unavoidably shaped by the pandemic.

Though the shuttle can accommodate up to 12 passengers, capacity has been limited to three people, including a safety attendant, throughout the pilot to encourage social distancing.

Geiger notes that face masks are also required on the shuttle as long as the federal mask mandate for public transportation remains in effect, which is currently through April 18. Governors from 21 states, including Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, filed a lawsuit against President Joe Biden’s administration yesterday (Tuesday), calling the mandate an example of federal overreach.

Despite the challenges presented by COVID-19 and some more mundane logistical issues, such as drivers illegally passing the 10 mile-per-hour vehicle, the Relay pilot “has been going well” overall, Geiger says, adding that the county has been learning throughout the experiment.

The shuttle will be on display this weekend (April 2-3) at the Mosaic District’s “Art Blooms” festival, a celebration of spring in partnership with the National Cherry Blossom Festival in D.C.

Art Blooms at Mosaic will also feature crafts and farmers markets, a beer garden from Caboose Brewing Company, a wine garden, live musical performances, and various family-friendly activities, such as face-painting and cooking demonstrations.

“[Relay] will not be operating during the festival, but we will be promoting the days and hours of service,” Geiger said.

Recent Stories

Good Friday evening, Fairfax County. Let’s take a look back at today’s stories and a look forward to tomorrow’s event calendar. 🕗 News recap The following articles were published earlier…

Reston Association is seeking candidates for its 2024 Board of Directors’ election. Four seats are open for the election, which will take place in March. Specifically, two at-large director seats…

Zombies, pirates and other virtual characters are about to be unleashed on Tysons, just in time for Christmas. Sandbox VR will launch its new virtual reality gaming experience at 1656…

Do the holidays have you stressed and busy? Worry not about what to wear as Live Fairfax has the Style Survival Guide for this season!

Art House 7 warmly welcomes you to our upcoming Fall 2 session of classes starting on October 30th. We’re thrilled to offer a diverse range of mediums and flexible class lengths, catering to a wide age range, starting from as young as 2, and, of course, providing a multitude of engaging options for adults!

Our classes cover an exciting spectrum of creative mediums, including fiber arts such as knitting, modern embroidery, crochet, and sewing. We also offer classes in ceramics on the wheel, drawing, watercolor, gouache, oil, acrylic, still-life painting, and captivating Japanese Suminagashi and printmaking. One of the highlights of this session is the highly anticipated 5-week “Painting the Portrait and Figure” workshop, led by the renowned local artist, Danni Dawson.

For our younger artists, we have specially designed classes like “Art Exploration through Impressionism” for students in kindergarten through 5th grade, an engaging “Art Together” parent-child class designed for 2–4-year-olds, and a “Teen Taught Art Club” tailored for kindergarteners through 4th graders.

Read More

Submit your own Community Post here.

Winter Wonderland Fundraiser

Proceeds benefit Fellowship Square, improving the lives of 800+ older adults with very limited income and resources by providing affordable housing and supportive services.

Experience a festive holiday fundraiser complete with savory wines & craft beers, scrumptious hors d’oeuvres, exciting

The Nutcracker Ballet presented by Ravel Dance company at Capital…

It is Christmas Eve and Clara has received a Nutcracker. Follow her journey through pine forest where she encounters angels, and snowflakes then welcomed by the Sugar Plum Fairy to the Kingdom of Sweets. This production is the perfect way

×

Subscribe to our mailing list