SARTA 20 years of Service

By Kristie Petty-Cox

Stark County has a rich history of providing transportation services dating back to 1884. Transportation operated on a local basis and was not county wide. Each city operated its own form of transportation and they did not connect to each other. In the spring of 1997, a county wide sales tax levy (1/4%) was passed and the Stark Area Regional Transit Authority (SARTA) was formed. Over the next several months, staff worked to develop routes that would provide public transportation services throughout the county. Riders were given the ability to connect to various cities for the first time.

SARTA officially began county wide bus service on December 1, 1997 and has been serving Stark County for 20 years!   We have provided millions of rides to work, school, medical appointments, shopping, dinner out and so much more. The SARTA of today is much different from the SARTA of 1997, we have grown and adapted to the needs of our community and the world.

In 1997 when SARTA began: buses pulled into an empty lot in Canton where riders could transfer buses; we operated 13 hours a day; scheduling and planning of operation was done manually; there was no web presence; we provided 1.1 million rides our first year; we operated about 90 buses (Fixed Route and Proline); we ran 30 routes throughout Stark County; the 102 connected Canton to Massillon and was the highest ridership route; we employed about 200 individuals; we received operating funds from Federal and State sources as well as ¼% County renewable sales tax; we were governed by a nine-member Board of Trustees that was appointed by the Stark County Council of Governments, Stark County Commissioners and the cities of Canton, Massillon and Alliance and each Board member served a three- year term.

Since 1997 SARTA has: built four transit centers (Phyllis Byers Alliance, Belden Village, Cornerstone and Massillon); expanded operating hours to 21 hours a day; embraced technology, utilizing computers in all job functions, including planning and scheduling, to operate efficiently; launched a website that has been re-designed twice to remain user friendly; joined Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn to communicate with our riders and the community; increased our fleet to almost 100 buses, with about half of the fleet utilizing Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) or Hydrogen Fuel Cells to reduce emissions; set a record for providing 2.8 million rides in 2014; installed GPS on all our buses and launched PinPoint allowing riders to see where their fixed route bus is at any time; began utilizing software that allows efficient booking of Proline trips; launched GoLine, a program that allows Proline riders to check, book and cancel trips online, and also sends reminders of upcoming trips the day before and the day of the scheduled trip; maintained the route connecting Canton to Massillon, the 102, which still has the highest ridership route and that route has remained relatively the same since 1997; increased employees to about 220 individuals; introduced our Travel Training program which was designed to train riders on how to use the bus services effectively; since 2010, over 14,000 riders have completed the program; developed our Student Services, Veterans Services and Transporting Stark County Back to Work programs that provide bus passes for free or at a reduced rate; become leaders in the use of Alternative Fuels with the addition of the Hydrogen Fuel Cell buses to our fleet; SARTA is the 3rd largest agency in the country and the only one outside of California to operate fuel cell buses in its fleet; additionally, we are the 11th largest agency in the world to utilize the technology for public transportation buses; equipped all buses with air conditioning; had buses travel 3,761,140 miles in a year, 2016; continued to receive funding from Federal and State sources as well as ¼% County renewable sales tax and continued to be governed by a nine-member Board of Trustees that are appointed by the Stark County Council of Governments, Stark County Commissioners and the cities of Canton, Massillon and Alliance with each Board member serving a three-year term.

As SARTA has grown and adapted to the changing community, we continued to provide safe, reliable, responsive and efficient transportation services to thousands of people, including disabled individuals, seniors, veterans, students and commuters. We have also developed services and programs that are aimed at encouraging an independent, healthy life providing access to work, school, medical appointments, shopping and much more. Additionally, we strive to be good stewards with the funding we are provided by embracing technology and alternative fuels to save on operating costs and enhancing the rider’s experiences. We are also a proud community partner working to improve the lives of all Stark County Residents one bus ride at a time. We look forward to serving Stark County for many years to come.

SARTA 20 years of Service

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