Ride The S News - Spring 2023

Image of a bus and people waiting for a bus with the title "StanRTA News"

Free Rides is a Great Investment

Free Rides in July will begin in a few short days! For several years, StanRTA has offered free ride days, weeks, and months to promote public transportation services. This allows potential new riders an opportunity to try the service at no risk and allows current users a chance to travel more extensively and try additional service options. StanRTA’s Board considers these promotions some of the best investments they’ve ever made when it comes to marketing, increasing ridership, and awareness about public transit service in Stanislaus County. Their theory: If people don’t try it, how will they know if it works for them?

Funding for this program is made possible through a grant from the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) under the Low Carbon Transit Operations Program (LCTOP), as well as federal transit funding. An important goal of the free-ride promotion is to reduce the use of single-occupant vehicles. By getting more people on buses, everyone benefits from reduced traffic congestion, pollution, and countless hours wasted on local streets and freeways.

StanRTA will once again partner with Turlock Transit and Merced's The Bus during Free Ride July to provide these no-cost service offerings to the community. Each of the operators have presented this promotion annually the last four years. The systems begin promoting the month-long campaign in June so current riders can avoid activating multi-day passes during the free- ride duration. July is the selected month because ridership is typically slightly lower than the rest of the year, thus the increase in riders doesn’t overwhelm the systems. Free Rides July applies to all of StanRTA’s transit services which includes fixed-route, commuter, ADA paratransit, and demand response services. Each year riders look forward to the free month of rides and the feedback is overwhelmingly positive. To learn more specific information for each agency, such as which services are included, please visit the Operator’s website www.stanrta.org, www.turlocktransit.com, and www.mercedthebus.com .

In addition to Free Rides July, the regional transit operators use the LCTOP grant to provide free-ride promotional opportunities during Go Green Week in March, Earth Day in April, and Dump the Pump Day in June. We look forward to adding more in the future!

March ridership stats and an image of a woman and child on a bus.


The StanRTA Board of Directors approved the creation of the StanRTA Equity and Accessibility Advisory Committee (SEAAC) and took applications to fill the nine positions. The first meeting was held on June 15th, 2023.

StanRTA bus driving under the City of Modesto signThe SEAAC will act as a singular committee to address both ADA and equity issues. The committee’s purpose is to act as advisor to the Board on issues of disability, equity, and inclusion. This regular forum will encourage discussion and review of transit services, including planning, ADA, Title VI, environmental justice, and fare structure prior to those items going to the Board for action. It will also recommend strategies and ideas for improved service to transit-dependent populations and help share information about transportation services to community-based organizations, social service agencies and the community at large within the service area.

The SEAAC’s members and selected chair will provide updates periodically at regularly scheduled Board of Directors meetings. The members will have one representative from each of the five supervisorial districts in Stanislaus County and four representatives, two each from social service agencies and community-based organizations.

Members will serve staggered two-year terms although the first appointees representing social service and community agencies will be appointed for a single year. Ideal candidates are comprised of persons with disabilities as well as other stakeholders and representatives in the community. Ideally, the members with disabilities should represent various types of disabilities (such as vision, hearing, mobility, etc.), as well as diversity in terms of age, gender, race, and economic status. It is also important to have riders and nonriders participate, when possible. StanRTA is excited to incorporate SEAAC’s work to improve transportation for everyone in Stanislaus County.


Image of an elderly man using the ramp on a Demand Response vehicleThe S is pleased to announce the launch of its app dedicated to paratransit riders! Book The S allows paratransit riders to plan and track their door-to-door travel from the palm of their hand.

The app can be downloaded for free from the App Store or Google Play. Once the app is active, riders will need to set up their Book the S account with Customer Service at 1001 9th Street in Modesto. They can also call (209) 527-4900 to set this up. 

A Customer Service Representative will help riders set up an email profile with a username and password. 


StanRTA was awarded the California Association for Coordinated Transportation’s (CalACT) Outstanding Transportation Agency Award for 2023 at a CalACT awards luncheon on Tuesday, April 18. The S is the newest agency to ever receive this award!

StanRTA has been a member of CalACT since the regional transit system was formed in 2021 and was nominated for this year’s Outstanding Transportation Agency Award for its success in merging the former Modesto Area Express (MAX) and Stanislaus Regional Transit (StaRT) systems to form “The S”. During the formation, StanRTA established the core value that transit is a reflection of its users and is successful only when it meets the user’s needs. With that idea and guidance from the Board of Directors, staff was able to establish a new brand that made seamless the formerly fractured route system, created service equity, implemented sound financial and administrative practices and policies that could meet evolving needs, and formed relationships with Stanislaus County’s diverse communities through outreach and marketing activities.

“Each year, CalACT recognizes members that contribute significantly to promoting professional excellence, stimulating ideas, and advocating for effective community transportation. StanRTA exemplifies this recognition this year,” said Steve Chung, Associate Board Member of CalACT. Chung added “This award reflects the respect StanRTA has in the CalACT community.” CalACT has over 300 members, including large and small transit and paratransit operators, social service organizations, government agencies, and commercial vendors. In addition, CalACT is a proactive transit voice in the Sacramento and Washington, D.C. legislatures.

This award speaks volumes to the level of participation StanRTA gets from the community to shape and grow the public transportation system in Stanislaus County. From attending community outreach events and participating in surveys to asking questions at presentations and Council meetings, StanRTA believes this award is a direct result of listening to our riders.

Employee Spotlight

Megan Distaso - Rideshare Coordinator

Megan Distaso is the Rideshare Coordinator for StanRTA where she promotes alternativMegan_StanRTA employee Spotlighte transportation, which includes anything other than driving alone - walking, biking, carpooling, and riding the bus with the Stanislaus community. “These alternative forms of transportation improve traffic and air quality, they can also save commuters hundreds of dollars in gas money each year,” says Distaso.

She began working with the City of Modesto Transit Division in 2006 and moved into her position with StanRTA in 2021. During the year, Megan promotes rideshare opportunities to help increase ridership. “A thriving bus system can improve transportation access to all of our citizens,” she says. Current initiatives include Go Green Week in March and Rideshare Week in October which both promote all forms of alternative transportation and provide free rides on all of StanRTA’s various transit services.

Distaso also helps organize Bike to Work Day in May with the City of Modesto which focuses on cycling as a form of transportation. “I feel good that we are helping people get access to important service, such as medical care, healthy food, employment and education.”