Saginaw Transit Authority Regional Services (STARS) plans to bring back most fixed route services on Monday, August 31st. Weekday Peak Service Routes will also begin, which service many children’s access to local schools. Starting then, STARS EXPRESS Dial-A-Ride Services will be available only to ADA and Senior Riders, and no longer available to the General Public.

STARS Executive Director Glenn Steffens said, “I have been paying close attention to actual research and data – not just Facebook memes – and I am convinced that transit can be safe to ride. That is, if STARS takes the proper precautions and everyone riding plays by the rules. STARS has installed hand sanitizer dispensers, is providing masks, has invested and continues to invest tens of thousands of dollars in cleaning technology, services, and supplies, and continues work on barriers inside the bus for passengers and drivers both. We are doing our part to fight the spread of this virus. Now, I’m hoping that STARS riders do their part when we run those buses. Mask up.”

Riding will come with requirements: Masks, Using Provided Hand Sanitizer, and Social Distancing.

All passengers three years and older on STARS vehicles are required to wear face coverings at all times and use hand sanitizer when boarding. STARS recommends covering infants if possible for their safety. Due to the nature of Covid-19 and the nature of transit, at this time STARS is unable to accommodate passengers who are unable to wear masks for medical reasons. Riders refusing to wear a mask will be denied service. So far, STARS has had 100% compliance with its mask policy while running Dial-A-Ride services for essential trips throughout the summer. STARS has not refused any rides. “We’ve had great success so far, which is a big reason why we think we can take this next step,” added Steffens.

STARS will limit the capacity of buses to make social distancing possible. According to Steffens, “With social distancing at 6 feet, a 28-seat bus can fit about 9 people. Well, that won’t work! When we start putting in passenger barriers, we can fit 16. It’s like your own little clear bus booth. And I think we can do this safely – if all of our riders are wearing masks. With these safety precautions, buses will have a lower capacity than before the COVID pandemic and some riders may have to wait for the next bus if we have a busy route. We’ll do our best to keep up with the demand and put out more buses, but we will need patience and understanding from our riders in those situations. I want convenience at all times, too – but I will not sacrifice safety.”

If Saginaw numbers continue to spike and create a high risk or the Governor places Saginaw County back to Phase 3 of the State’s Covid-19 Recovery Plan, STARS will reduce service to Essential Dial-A-Ride trips only. “Hopefully, the community regains some footing and control. If things start to get out of hand, though, we will have to scale back again,” said Steffens.

Steffens had one final message: “Thank your bus drivers. They are on the front line and I don’t think that people realize that. These men and women have been quietly providing access to dialysis, groceries, food delivery, jobs, and other essential needs during this pandemic, providing over 12,000 rides and food deliveries since STARS closed bus routes in March. When drivers ask you to mask up and use a squirt of that hand sanitizer, please remember their sacrifice, and just smile under your mask and do it.”