With the release of its annual report, executives at the Société de transport de Laval (STL) took the opportunity to highlight the contribution made by all its employees. Like all public transit agencies around the world, the STL had an extremely challenging year that upended previously set priorities.
Despite the global health crisis, the STL met the challenge by maintaining its essential service and providing a safe transportation service to customers. Some projects have been put on hold, but larger projects such as electrification have pushed on.
Managing the health crisis: Overwhelming challenge
The STL had to react swiftly and deftly to maintain its service throughout this crisis. As such, internal mechanisms for monitoring, tracking, relaying information and decision-making were put into place to promote effective coordination between all departments.
Quick decisions helped to maintain service throughout the Laval territory and allowed riders to commute safely. Measures taken include daily sanitization of buses, some 63,500 face coverings distributed and enforced, protective screens installed for drivers and signs installed in our vehicles and terminuses.
The STL was the first public transit agency in Québec to roll out a crowdedness estimator that could assess the number of people on board at a specific stop and specific time, based on the average of the last five business days and daily updated calculations. This STL innovation earned the transit agency a number of awards this past year.
As for employee protection, the STL worked with sanitization firms to implement a cleaning and sanitizing protocol in line with recommendations by the Québec institute of public health (INSPQ) and the provincial labour board (CNESST). Right from the start, the IT team mobilized to roll out work-from-home equipment.
Some projects still going ahead but others postponed
Although several partnerships had to be suspended and many activities were postponed, the STL was able to keep several innovative public transit projects on track. The transit agency’s achievements in 2020 included the launch of a new website and a new customer relationship management (CRM) software.
One of the most sizeable projects and challenges in 2020 was the huge electric mobility job site. Despite slowdowns and delivery delays related to the pandemic, the STL kept up the momentum for the rollout of a fully electric bus fleet by 2040. For a successful electric transition and to accommodate this type of vehicle, the STL also started work on modernizing and expanding its facilities.
Lastly, in step with the fully electric bus fleet project, the public transit agency rolled out 30 new bus shelter locations and replaced 27 bus shelters at the end of their lifespan.
A difficult budget year
The health crisis led to a steep drop in ridership, from 19,416,873 trips on the regular network in 2019 to 9,982,029 trips in 2020. That fact, combined with new health measures, meant the STL saw a sharp drop in revenue. STL management applauds the quick action of both levels of government that supported transit agencies with substantial financial assistance to alleviate their budget shortfall.
STL officials said they were pleased to be able to count on the City of Laval’s seamless cooperation in helping them prepare a difficult budget. As a result, they said the 2021 budget will make it possible to provide transit users with a level of service comparable to that of 2019 during peak hours, plus improved service outside of those hours.
Some pleasing results
“The STL was able to meet the needs of Laval transit users during this tumultuous time. We were able to provide the service needed by residents and ensure their safety by deploying a number of measures in the field. I’m especially proud to have had distributed some of the 63,500 face coverings to customers and helped with the quick daily cleaning of our vehicles,” stated Éric Morasse, chair of the STL Board.
“I’m pleased to have been able to count on such a solid team that has quickly adapted to maintain this essential service. While the health situation seems to be improving, the next few years will be challenging, especially in terms of regaining lost ridership and securing stable and predictable funding. But above all, I know the STL can rely on its employee to meet this challenge,” said Guy Picard, STL general manager.