Santa Maria Area Transit announced Tuesday that beginning July 1, the local transit system will resume the collection of fares and incrementally begin to return to full transit service.
The full return comes after 18 months of a fare-free and limited service due to the COVID-19 health crisis. This initial reopening is the first of two phases.
The first phase includes the restoration of twice-hourly service to SMAT Routes 2 and 3 (SMAT’s most popular routes) and an additional trip that will be added to every route for earlier start times across the entire system.
In addition to this reopening phase, SMAT will be extending Route 8 service to the Crossroads Shopping Center on South Bradley Road.
Recommended in the 2020 Short Range Transit Plan, the Crossroads Shopping Center is a key destination for western Santa Maria and Tanglewood residents, but it is currently served only by Route 7 and requires a transfer for many riders.
“The extension of Route 8 will provide riders a single-seat trip to the popular shopping center,” Gamaliel Anguiano, Transit Services Manager for the City of Santa Maria, said in a press release. “We are excited to be able to provide this improved access as we responsibly restore SMAT’s pre-pandemic routes and schedules.”
The implementation of the second phase of the return to full service is scheduled for Aug. 8. SMAT will continue to follow established COVID-19 safety measures throughout the reopening phases to protect riders and drivers, including nightly bus disinfecting on all high-touch surfaces such as door handles, stanchions, seat back handles, grab bars, fareboxes and driver areas. The Transportation Security Administration still requires individuals, regardless of vaccination status, to wear a mask while using all modes of public transportation. Following the president’s executive order and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s emergency order, the mask requirement on SMAT will remain in effect until Sept. 13.
Mr. Anguiano encouraged riders to visit www.rideSMAT.com to view published schedules for individual route start times and to learn more about SMAT and its services.