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Article categories: Archive News

Lifti services soon to be improved in several ways

Published: 21.2.2023

Vaasa and Mustasaari launched their joint public transport service Lifti in the beginning of July. After the launch, the old circular routes have been replaced by cross-centre routes, the buses drive more frequently and about 20 new bus drivers have been hired. Such great changes have inevitably led to some problems along the way, too, especially when it comes to the new schedules. This year, several improvements are in the plans to increase customer satisfaction.

Lifti is the most extensive transformation that the public transport of Vaasa region has undergone in recent years. Along with this change, the city of Vaasa wanted to make it easier to get around the region by using public transport: to have the buses driving their routes more frequently, to reduce the duration of individual trips, and thus to facilitate more robust traveling between different suburbs, work centres, and other important locations.

– The longer circular routes were often criticized for making travelling times too long. The new cross-centre routes aim to increase the number of quick connections and connections to the city centre, and to make it faster for the citizens to travel from one place to another, says the traffic superintendent Pertti Hällilä from Vaasa’s Public Utility Services.

Grand changes have come with challenges, which has been made visible in social media as well as in the papers. The criticism largely targets the buses being late, and to some extent, the buses not even showing up at the stop.

– We cannot know whether the planned routes and schedules work before they get tested in practice, and now practice has been revealed that some of our schedules are too tightly planned. Some routes involved several important locations, and not all of these were scheduled perfectly, explains Hällilä.

Lifti has also faced some technical difficulties with refuelling the biogas vehicles. There were situations when the tanks were empty in the morning, and some of the buses could not be used. This led to missing some routes altogether.

– This problem was solved in December when Stormossen got a larger interim tank, Hällilä explains.

In addition to the refuelling issues, the journey planner suffered from lack of connection in the shadow regions and faced some malfunctions, depriving users from real-time information on the location of the buses. There were also other technical issues that affected the reliability of the information provided by the journey planner.

The transit company admits the problems

The Lifti services are provided by the transit company Vekka Group Oy, operating in Vaasa for the first year.  CEO Tomi Vasiljev admits the problems that expanding their business to Vaasa has brought along.

– Our services have not met all the standards they should, and for example the large number of new drivers proved to be a challenge. Especially in July, many of our vehicles were operated by drivers who did not know Vaasa well enough, Vasiljev says.

– The drivers’ knowledge of the region has improved over the months, and we get very few negative comments about this anymore. Many of our more experienced employees are to thank for this. They suspended their summer holidays to step in and guide the new drivers when Lifti was launched.

Vasiljev lists several improvements that will be implemented in the year 2023. Vekka Group will pay more attention to the neatness of our vehicles, and we are about to launch a reward programme for well-performing drivers.

– We have plans to educate all our drivers in customer service skills. These courses will go through the principles of good customer service, and we mean to reward the drivers who deliver such good service, Vasiljev tells.

The number of passengers on the rise

After Lifti was launched, more and more citizens are using the public transport service. For example, in July, the number of passengers was increased by 14 % compared to the year 2019 preceding the pandemic.

– Vaasa is one of the few Finnish cities where the number of people using public transport has clearly increased from the days before Covid-19. If the current course of development continues, we can expect to have another record number of passengers this year, Hällilä asserts.

– Having more passengers along is of course fantastic, but it also introduces challenges. The buses are slower when they spend more time on each stop, and the busses might sometimes be very full indeed, Hällilä continues.

The rise in the number of passengers can also be explained by the cheapest public transport fares in Finland as well as the robust information systems and payment options. Paying the fare is made easy with contactless payment and the opportunity to check the real-time location of your buss before even leaving your home.

– During the year 2023 we will introduce more ticket options that serve the needs of, for example, the commuters. Also travel chains will be available in future, making it an option to connect your long-distance travel ticket to a public transport ticket, describes Hällilä.

Customer satisfaction on an average level

At the end of last year, the City of Vaasa conducted a survey to learn how satisfied the citizens are with Lifti’s services. Altogether 469 responses were given to this survey, whose results were specified further by Taloustutkimus, whose interviewers travelled with Lifti for 13 days, talking with the people on board.

– Based on the results, our customer satisfaction can be placed between moderate and good. There are things we can do better and that is what we will do, Hällilä says.

According to Hällilä, several improvements are on their way. Some of the routes will be shortened and the schedules will be adjusted, at the very latest by the summer, so that the drivers will find it easier to follow the routes. We will also listen to needs of the schools with a more sensitive ear and coordinate the schedules with those of school transport.

– The most popular routes will be driven more frequently during the most intensive commuting hours. One of our aims is to improve the routes to and from Sundom. More buses are added to the mornings and afternoons, so that commuting from Näset and Kronvik will be easier, explains Hällilä.

We will do our best to increase the number of biogas busses and thus to promote, even more emphatically than we already do, the option of sustainable, carbon-neutral travelling.

Feedback is welcome also in the future

Lifti has received 1156 feedback entries through the city’s feedback interface. Previously, most of the feedback was received by the transit company whereas now they are addressed to the city. All in all, the amount of feedback has remained the same.

Hällilä talks about the ambitions to respond to customer feedback more quickly by hiring more people.

– We are very grateful for all the feedback we have received – both the positive and the negative. We hope that the citizens will keep letting us know our successes and our points of improvement also in the future! That is the way we can improve Lifti further and further, Hällilä concludes.

Feedback can be given through the city’s feedback interface at (website only in Finnish and Swedish at the moment)