SARTA targets Massillon, Navarre, Green with new bus routes

SARTA announced this week it is adding express routes in western Stark County and around the Akron-Canton Airport in order to get employees to work before 6 a.m.

CANTON SARTA wants to make it easier for some people to get to work earlier.

The transportation company is adding more loops in the Massillon and Navarre industrial areas and around the Akron-Canton Airport so that employees can get to work for early morning shifts, officials said on Thursday.

Two express loops will be added in each area, SARTA Executive Director and CEO Kirk Conrad said.

The early loops are set to begin Feb. 17.

The routes will operate under the new brand Success Express.

Conrad said it will be the first time in SARTA’s history that employees riding the bus can get to work by 6 a.m.

SARTA will host two meetings about the new routes at 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

The 10 a.m. meeting will be held at SARTA headquarters, 1600 Gateway Blvd. SE. The second meeting will be at Cornerstone Transit Center, 112 Cherry Ave. SE. During the meetings, staff will provide details about express routes, scheduled pickups and drop-offs.

Strengthening Stark outcome


The earlier routes came out of discussions with employers through the Strengthening Stark initiative — a countywide economic development push focused on growing and attracting businesses, developing a strong workforce, and improving and marketing available sites.

“There is a watershed change in the way we are interacting with employers. It’s a much more interactive process facilitated through the Stark Development Board,” he said. “What we are seeing are outcomes of Strengthening Stark.”

The Stark Development Board has been conducting meetings with employers, Conrad said.

“We’ve been asked,” he said. “We have never been able to support the 6 a.m. work trips especially in the outlying areas.”

Changes to scheduling and an infusion of state funding has allowed SARTA to add the routes, Conrad explained.

The loops target specific employers such as Fresh Mark, Shearer’s and Sterilite in Massillon and Nickles Bakery in Navarre.

The other routes will drop off at Cintas in Lake Township and Hilton Garden Inn, Fannie May and Special Pack in Green.


Job connections

Hrishue Mahalaha, an economic adviser for Strengthening Stark, said getting to work is one of the obstacles people face when getting a job.

“The key barriers that pop up are housing, childcare and transportation,” he explained. “It’s preventing those who want to get jobs from finding good, meaningful employment.”

Mahalaha said partnering with agencies like SARTA, Ohio Means Jobs, Goodwill and other organizations has offered solutions to these barriers.


Employer-specific routes is something SARTA has been considering for some time, Mahalaha said.

“We are working to see if we remove transportation as a barrier does that mean we can effectively and efficiently connect people to jobs,” he explained.

Job seekers often find themselves stuck in ruts: “If you don’t have a car, you can’t get a job and if can’t get a job, you can’t get a car,” he said.


Strengthening Stark recently submitted a request for $100,000 to The Fund for Our Economic Future — “an alliance of funders ... from across Northeast Ohio, who pool their resources and collective know-how to strengthen and sustain the regional economy in ways that also increase access to opportunity for all people,” according to the organization’s website.

The Fund for Our Economic Future believes a healthy economy is necessary to advance its mission.

If the $100,000 award is granted, Mahalaha said, a large portion would go toward subsidizing the cost of transportation for job seekers, while the remaining would be used to recruit talent for jobs and to help employees retain their jobs.

“More and more we think of Strengthening Stark as more of a movement that allows us to bring more and more great partners together and allows us to tackle challenges and issues that are so big that collectively we can solve it together,” Mahalaha said.

Demand is there

Navarre Mayor Bob Benson is excited at the prospect of buses returning to his village.

It’s been many years since a SARTA bus traveled to Navarre, he said.


“We’ve been talking about this forever,” Benson said. “It’s a good start to get people to work. There is a demand.”

The Massillon loop will travel to Shearer’s and Sterilite, both located off Navarre Road.

Benson said the route will service employees who will work at Hendrickson USA, a manufacturing facility under construction in Prospect Park. The company is the first to build on land on the former County Farm property, and is expected to open this spring. The company will bring 100 to 300 jobs over the next five years to the area.

The mayor said there are many businesses, such as the Towpath Trail YMCA, and residents who have asked for bus service. He’s hopeful the interest in the Navarre area could spur additional service.

SARTA also announced route changes in other areas of the county that will take place to increase efficiency and meet rider demand.

On SARTA Route 107, a short leg off E Nassau Street in East Canton will be added to provide service to Dollar General and Save-A-Lot.

Route 113 will swap inbound routes to Cornerstone in Canton with the 118, and add a short leg off Maryland Avenue SW to provide service to Canton City Schools’ Adult Career & Technical Education Center.

Finally, Route 118 will swap inbound routes to Cornerstone with the 113.