Thanks to the recent breakthroughs in transportation technologies, the entire way we travel from point A to point B is changing, creating a new ecosystem of personal mobility.
Several new models have emerged to address transportation needs across various distances, including ride-share, car-share, car subscriptions, and micro-mobility. Each one is a step closer to allowing us to shift our preferences away from private vehicle ownership and toward mobility as a service (MaaS). This relatively new concept has the potential to create a paradigm shift in urban mobility.
MaaS combines various modes of transportation (such as public transportation, ride-sharing, car-sharing, bike-sharing, scooter-sharing, taxi, car rental, ride-hailing, and so on) into a single digital mobility offering based on active mobility and a well-functioning public transportation system. MaaS enables easy mobility and life without owning a car by integrating planning, booking, and payment, as well as en-route information.
In other words, the idea behind MaaS is to use a single app to access and pay for many modes of transportation within a city and beyond; the app will provide options to allow a traveler to choose the most appropriate mode of transportation. The concept of MaaS is made possible by the widespread adoption of smartphones and social media, and ubiquitous internet access.
MaaS aspires to be a single entry point for all possible mobility solutions, allowing for integrated and seamless customer experiences throughout the journey, including payment and insurance.
Multiple factors have contributed to this new shift.
- Efficient: In high-traffic cities, bikes and scooters can move people faster and potentially more safely
- Cheap: The users’ cost-per-mile of operating an e-scooter can be as low as a third of the cost of conventional transportation options, including ride-hailing. Both are heavily subsidized today – so we will need to watch as this evolves. This is aided by reduced battery costs for electric vehicles, making electric bikes and scooters increasingly affordable.
- Eco-friendly: E-bikes and e-scooters are generally friendlier to the environment. They are also better for city planning, given the increased demand for road space.
- Enable access to public transport: An increasing number of people are moving to cities, but fewer people are choosing public transportation due to distance, access to ride-hailing, and historically lower prices. Bikes and scooters address this issue by providing first- and last-mile transport.
MaaS has the potential to bring various benefits to cities. These, of course, depend heavily on the market structure and the chosen operational and governance model, the specific MaaS service, and the involvement and efficiency of all the actors within the MaaS ecosystem, including local/regional/national governments.
MaaS can reduce the need to use or own a car by facilitating easier access to multiple modes of transportation and facilitating more informed decisions about which mode(s) of travel to use in a given set of circumstances. Users are given the option of selecting transportation products or a combination of transportation products that best meet their needs for each journey. MaaS can take into account users’ general travel preferences, such as speed, convenience, comfort, and cost, as well as journey-specific requirements, such as the need to transport large items of luggage, a buggy, or accessibility. This is especially important for users who have a temporary or permanent mobility impairment.
Furthermore, the clear representation of all modes of transportation will increase the transparency of the actual cost of mobility. Compared to owning a private car, the efficient combination of modes may allow users to save money. Assume that access to mobility is easier and that driving and owning a car is less appealing in comparison. Customers may be more inclined to use public transportation in that case and walk or ride a bicycle (to get to a public transportation stop), i.e., they would use a wider range of modes and modes for a trip. These features would benefit not only residents but also tourists, who are less likely to be familiar with and understand the complexities of the local transportation system.
MaaS has the potential to make better use of existing transportation services and resources and improve regional intermodal connectivity. Traditional public transportation services, such as buses, trams, and even taxis, are well-used (even oversubscribed) in city centers during peak hours, but this is not the case in the suburbs and rural areas or for services provided early in the morning or late at night. Improved network performance with more informed and reliable intermodal choices and travel times can be achieved if data sources are unified and transferred between organizations within the MaaS ecosystem. A MaaS Operator, for example, could detect high demand on certain routes during peak hours and direct users to underutilized routes in other modes of transportation. This can also aid in the decision-making process for public investments that are more efficient and beneficial to everyone in the long run.
Social inclusion, reduced isolation, and improved access to services, education, employment, and social interaction may benefit as mobility becomes less reliant on ownership of often expensive transportation assets. MaaS’s personalized approach may serve as an example for developing sustainable transportation solutions for all citizens, particularly those who find it difficult to use traditional public transportation, such as the elderly and disabled, by facilitating access to door-to-door transportation. Mobility is a fundamental right that serves social and economic goals; it is widely recognized that keeping people active improves their physical and mental health. The quality of transportation for people with reduced mobility varies greatly from one area to the next: dedicated solutions are usually organized and subsidized by public authorities or supported by volunteers because “traditional” services (public or private) are too expensive. Personalized services for society’s most vulnerable groups could close the gap and improve mobility.
The potential benefits of MaaS can be summarized as follows:
- Improve the quality and convenience of travel (i.e., on-demand, personalized, seamless, and predictive journeys)
- Redistribute travelers to a most efficient mode of transport
- Reduce overall transport times
- Enable better monitoring, management, and planning of services
- Lower traffic congestion and the environmental impact
- Lessen the cost of mobility, widen the range of suppliers and increase accessibility
- Enable revenue growth for service providers by opening new revenue sources and enlarging the market
Given the diversity of circumstances in different cities and regions, a single MaaS model seems unlikely to be universally applicable. Cities must have a clear strategic vision for developing MaaS systems and forming collaborative partnerships with private companies and transportation operators. A strong public-private partnership is required.
Many public transportation operators lack the authority, control, or commercial motivation to integrate services and remove barriers. Government and local government intervention are critical in encouraging an entrepreneurial approach to transport provision and making underlying infrastructure available to MaaS providers and transportation operators alike.
MaaS is a digital-based service that provides users with transportation and is designed to be accessible to all. However, in its current form, it requires users to be digitally literate, which would exclude certain segments of the population, such as those who are digitally challenged or who do not wish to be a part of the digital majority. MaaS must find a solution to this problem.
For seamless travel and the provision of rich, informative, and accurate information on transportation schedules, service interruptions, pricing information, and choices, data quality, reliability, security, and discoverability are required. Before MaaS operation, unlocking and making available hidden data to support MaaS was a difficult and costly investment. While data privacy legislation is seen as burdensome, it does provide a minimum level of protection to personal users.
Public authorities and public transport operators may also suffer from the lack of resources (financial and human) in data management as this is has not been their core activity. To make MaaS happen, public authorities need to facilitate the access and availability of high-quality data and set the framework to ensure that they get access to data from various (public and private) data sources themselves. Data lacks a common structure or format; similarly, the lack of data standardization, both static and dynamic, is still an issue.
To integrate service into one service provider and unlock the potential of the new sale channel, MaaS Operator needs to be able to purchase and sell the pass/tickets of mobility service providers, including public transport operators and new mobility services to its customers, and here some technological, commercial and regulatory challenges may apply. The first important technological requirement for MaaS implementation is the availability and provision of open and standardized Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) from the mobility service providers. Analog systems, like paper-based ticketing, for example, but also legacy digital systems that are unfit for direct integration may need to be replaced for MaaS deployment. Solutions for this need to be determined at the early stages of the MaaS development. Today, smartphones are the privileged interface with users. Still, with the fast pace of technology, public authorities should keep themselves also open to other technological developments easy to use for different user groups.
Let’s sum up.
For all participants in the mobility ecosystem, MaaS represents a significant opportunity. Consumers want MaaS, according to social and demographic trends and the popularity of various integrated mobility apps. They will vote with their feet to determine which offerings succeed. MaaS will benefit mobility providers by identifying new market opportunities, improving their service offerings, and reducing costs.