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SARTA Rolling into the Future

2016-04-14-14-51-39
By Kristie Petty-Cox

In July 2016, SARTA announced that it was seeking to renew its ¼% sales tax levy for a ten year term versus the five years we had done in the past. Chuck DeGraff, SARTA’s Board President stated, “Renewing the levy for ten years will provide the reliable revenue stream we need to fund current operations, enable us to draft and implement long-range plans and give voters the opportunity to hold us accountable on a regular basis.”

    On November 8th, Stark County voters approved SARTA’s renewal of the sales tax levy. “We provide safe, reliable, affordable rides to 10,000 people each day and support approximately 5,000 jobs,” CEO Kirt Conrad said, “We’ve been able to expand our role as a transportation provider and are thankful that the residents of Stark County have once again provided the resources we need to meet their needs and to continue to grow.”
    So what is next for SARTA? Well that’s simple, we keep moving forward with projects and start planning for our future. Our mission is to provide services and programs that encourage an independent, healthy life with access to work, school, medical appointments, shopping and much more. Projects we have been working on and hope to implement soon are:
    • Installing Wi-Fi at the islands at Cornerstone so that our riders can stay connected. We recently installed Wi-Fi in the lobbies of our Cornerstone, Massillon and Alliance Transit Centers. The Belden Village Transit Center has had Wi-Fi since it opened in 2011.
    • Increasing the Saturday 102 from a 60 minute route to a 30 minute route. We are evaluating the budget to determine the funding for this route change.
    • Working to expand our contract services such as those with SarahCare and Kent State Stark’s Global Initiatives.
    • Researching new transit technologies that improve our ability to provide transportation services.
    • Preparing our facilities and staff for the arrival of the new Hydrogen Fuel Cell buses. The first one is due to arrive in early 2017.
    • Installing new TV monitors in each transit center that will provide valuable information for riders on promotions, new programs, service changes, travel training sessions and other relevant information.

    We are dedicated to improving the rider’s ability to live a healthy, independent life and are working on services that will do just that. Some longer-range projects are:
    • Improve the connectivity between routes by increasing the frequency of 60 minute routes by making them 30 minute routes. Routes that we are looking at are the 101, 106, 108, 117, 119 and 139.
    • Develop an Employment on Demand service that is an express or direct route from Transit Centers to a specific place of employment. It would take riders to work and then back to the transit center at the end of the day.
    • Explore a “Childcare Express” service that would be similar to our employment on demand. The draft idea is to take riders from Cornerstone to a specific child care center and then back to Cornerstone. We realize that many riders work and need to take their children to a child care facility and we would like to make that process easier.
    • Create a Wheelchair repair program which would assist riders with wheelchairs to repair their wheelchair. At this time, we are developing the program and applying for grants that would fund this program and are hopeful that we will secure the funding to further develop and implement this for our riders. We are also working to partner with organizations that can fix or replace wheelchairs.
    • Work with the Hall of Fame Village to provide transportation services for the campus.
    • Install the first public Hydrogen Fuel Station in Ohio.

    Moving forward, SARTA is evaluating the recommendations from the 2015 Transit Development Plan (TDP). The recommendations for future service enhancements are:
    • Conduct a pilot for a Dial A Ride service in certain areas that will serve the general public that do not have access to our fixed routes.
    • Explore re-instating Sunday Services for riders to access church services, go to work or run errands.
    • Coordinate with Communities to improve pedestrian access between SARTA bus stops, stores, medical facilities and other destinations within Stark County.
    • Work with Colleges and Universities to provide transportation for their students by creating a program where students receive passes as part of their tuition.

    Moving forward, we will maintain broad-based community support by exceeding the expectations of the thousands of people, including disabled individuals, seniors, veterans, students and commuters who rely on SARTA to deliver safe, reliable and affordable public transportation across Stark County and beyond. We will continue to be a leader in alternative fuels and embrace state-of-the art transit technology that will attract new business and jobs to our community well into the future.

    SARTA Rolling into the Future