STARS Gears Up for Bus Routes to Restart at End of August with New Protocols

Saginaw’s bus system, known as STARS (Saginaw Transit Authority Regional Services), is planning to bring back most fixed route services on Monday, August 31. Weekday Peak Service routes, which serve many students who attend local schools, will also be coming back. Stars Express Dial-A-Ride Services will be available only to ADA and senior riders, and not the general public.

Masks will be required for riders age 3 and older. Riders will also be asked to use hand sanitizer that will be provided when boarding, and social distancing will be in effect.

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.”

STARS said it’s unable to accommodate passengers who are not able to wear masks for medical reasons. Riders refusing to wear a masks will be denied service. STARS said it has had 100 percent compliance with its mask policy while providing essential trips this summer.

“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.”

STARS said it will again reduce service to essential Dial-A-Ride trips if COVID-19 numbers spike and the area goes back into Stage 3 of the State’s Recovery Plan.

“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.”