The autonomous Relay shuttle in Merrifield has had lower-than-expected ridership, and it’s not entirely because of COVID-19 limitations.
Since its launch in October 2020 through February 2022, the vehicle has been out of service half the time, mostly due to technical glitches.
“Primary reasons for partial or no service days are due to hardware and software maintenance issues (57%), systems testing (24%), and inclement weather conditions (19%). Relay cannot operate in moderate to heavy precipitation,” Fairfax County staff said in a budget question-and-answer response released April 14.
The shuttle operates from the Dunn Loring-Merrifield Metro station to the Barnes & Noble from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Thursday.
According to county staff, project engineers have enhanced vehicle and software systems, such as tweaking traffic signals to give the vehicle more time to travel through busy intersections, including Route 29.
Workers also have trimmed vegetation outgrowth along the travel route that can impede the vehicle’s sensor system, slowing it down or requiring a safety operator to manually drive.
“We expect the technology to continue to evolve and that further engineering and functionality improvements will be applied to Relay,” county staff wrote.
The technical issues have been coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic, where Metro ridership at the station there was 10% of its pre-pandemic levels when the shuttle launched.
The county has also addressed problems with drivers trying to pass it illegally. It increased police patrols and added signage to urge motorists to be patient. The shuttle operates at 10 mph maximum.
The shuttle can transport up to 12 people, but because of the pandemic, the county has limited that to two passengers per trip, along with a safety operator. Masks are required, and the vehicle is cleaned extensively between trips.
Multiple researchers have been examining the shuttle’s effectiveness and impact on riders. Joining an effort that also includes Virginia Transportation Research Council and Virginia Tech, the George Mason University School of Business conducted an online “pre-deployment” survey that found:
- 63% of respondents saw Relay as innovative
- 52% thought shuttles like Relay are extremely or somewhat likely to replace current modes of transport
- 49% felt it was environmentally friendly
- 33% indicated that they would use it 1-2 times per month
“Public feedback has been positive, in general, with no major concerns expressed,” county staff wrote. “The public likes the smaller size of the vehicle, compared to standard-sized buses. They also like the accessibility features, which are designed to easily accommodate persons with disabilities as well as senior communities.”
According to county staff, GMU is currently working on an on-board survey and will conduct another online questionnaire at the end of the pilot, which has funding to last through December.
Good Friday evening! Today we published 6 articles that were read a total of 6621 times on FFXnow alone, so far. 📈 Top stories The following are the most-read articles…
Lake Anne’s plaza will once again spring to life this summer with concerts. Lake Anne Live! — an event series that kicked off last year — brings Thursday evening concerts…
The proposed repurposing of Inova Health System’s former corporate headquarters in Merrifield as live/work and workforce housing units got a hearty recommendation from the Fairfax County Planning Commission earlier this…
Are you ready for summer? Live Fairfax has a bucket list of indoor activities, outdoor escapades and trips to explore this summer.
Camps are just the beginning of what’s in store at Art House 7 this summer. We’re thrilled to offer an array of exciting classes for both kids and adults!Rediscover your creativity with some of our AH7 favorites, such as drawing, hand-sewing, modern embroidery, and our popular 3-week Jump into Crochet classes. But that’s not all! We’ve added some fresh and exciting options to our summer class selection, guaranteed to spark your imagination.
To enhance your artistic journey, we have intensified some of our Ceramics: The Wheel classes to a full 3-hour duration. This extended time allows for more creativity and skill development in each class session. If you’re eager for a captivating twist, give Contemporary Still-Life Drawing & Painting a go. Or why not try an immersive outdoor painting adventure? We have a unique opportunity for you to bring your painting skills to life while learning and creating in the great outdoors with our Landscape Painting: Studio and Plein Air class!
We invite you to visit our website and explore our full Summer Session schedule, brimming with a diverse range of classes and camps. Classes and camps begin June 20th. Unleash your inner artist, broaden your horizons, and embark on a summer adventure like no other. Let’s make this a summer to remember at Art House 7!
Potomac Harmony Chorus has a new director! We’re ready
to kick off the season with new music, a new approach, and YOU!
Potomac Harmony is one of 500 choruses in Sweet
Adelines International. We’re a vibrant,
contemporary, inclusive, welcoming, and open community of women singers who
perform four-part harmony, barbershop style, committed to a high level of
achievement through teaching, mentoring, personal growth, and performance. Our vision is to entertain, educate, and
enrich lives through musical expression while promoting the barbershop art
Potomac Harmony recently had our first performance
with our new director, receiving rave reviews! We invite you to stop by any Wednesday
evening and be part of the fun and harmony!
Army Birthday Festival – Free and Fun
Make Saturday, June 10, 2023 a great day!
Come celebrate the Army Birthday Festival at the National Museum of the U.S. Army from 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Rain or Shine!
• Experience outdoor and indoor fun activities, for all
Unveiling of West Ford historical highway marker
Gum Springs will be celebrating 190 years of its founding by freedman West Ford on Saturday, June 17, 2023. To kick-off the celebration, there will be an unveiling of a Virginia historical highway marker for West Ford on Fordson Road