Along with Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, and the dawn of a New Year, Stark County residents will have another reason to celebrate this holiday season: the Stark Area Regional Transit Authority’s (SARTA) 25th Anniversary year beginning on December 3.
Like Thanksgiving and Christmas, SARTA’s upcoming birthday provides an opportunity for us to reflect on the past and take a nostalgic trip down memory lane—or, in SARTA’s case, the millions of miles of lanes, roads, avenues, streets and highways our vehicles have traveled on since our first rider climbed aboard on the chilly Monday morning that marked the beginning of the system’s quarter-century-long journey.
To be honest, no one was quite sure if the public would use the new countywide transit service, but one year and 1.1 million rides later, it was clear that SARTA was on the road to success. The overwhelmingly positive response fueled growth that continues to this day. Service to outlying areas of Stark County, Akron, and Cleveland via the longest fixed route operated by a transit system in the U.S., was added, hours of operation increased from 13 to 21, and the Belden Village, Cornerstone, Alliance, and Massillon transit centers were opened. As a result, ridership hit an all-time high of 2.5 million in 2014 and demand for the system’s 30 fixed routes, Proline ADA, and Success Express service remains strong today.
Along with adding and enhancing service to meet the needs of the community, SARTA has developed and deployed cutting-edge transit technology, including EZfare, SMART Card Tap-Card fare payment, and SARTA PinPoint by MyStop, that make it easier and more convenient than ever for riders to reach thousands of destinations across Stark County.
SARTA’s use of technology goes beyond how people ride to include what they ride in. Under CEO Kirt Conrad, who joined the system in 2009, SARTA has become a national and international leader in the use of low and zero emission vehicles and today operates the third largest fleet of hydrogen fuel cell powered (HFC) buses in the Western Hemisphere.
Now that we have looked back at SARTA’s impressive past, it’s time to share our New Year’s resolutions, starting with our ongoing commitment to sustainability. The system will continue to acquire and operate full size and 12-passenger HFC vehicles, will open our hydrogen fueling stations to the public, and play a key role in the campaign to secure a large federal grant that will fund the development of a hydrogen hub in the region.
The system is also undertaking an impressive capital campaign that includes the construction of a new Massillon Transit Center and expansion of the Gateway headquarters facility.
And as always, SARTA will constantly find ways to meet the transportation needs of the people who depend on us, including the people who are using our newest service, Wayne County Transit.
All in all, it has been a wonderful 25 years filled with incredible memories and the promise of great things to come. Happy holidays from all of us at SARTA.
SARTA 25th Anniversary