10 Objectives for Assessing Mobility as a Service (MaaS)
Who will you meet?
Cities are innovating, companies are pivoting, and start-ups are growing. Like you, every urban practitioner has a remarkable story of insight and challenge from the past year.
Meet these peers and discuss the future of cities in the new Meeting of the Minds Executive Cohort Program. Replace boring virtual summits with facilitated, online, small-group discussions where you can make real connections with extraordinary, like-minded people.
The concept of Mobility as a Service (or MaaS) is well known in the transit industry. Generally understood as a vision of transportation that involves the integration of various forms and modes of transit, MaaS has been the subject of a heated debate for the last few years. Some industry leaders see it as a fad – a fancy name for the collection of concepts and ideas about the future of transportation that does little to further actual implementation of pragmatic solutions and technologies. Others think of MaaS as an umbrella term for the proliferation of alternative transit services such as Zipcar, Lyft or BlaBlaCar that have dominated the transportation market in recent years. Then there are those that see genuine potential in the ideas embodied by MaaS and its technologies. But with so many points of view, it is very much the case that where you stand on MaaS depends largely on where you sit.
The situation begs the question: What do we really know about MaaS? With so many points of view, how can we objectively assess the potential of the concept? Is it possible to once and for all decide on its place in the making or breaking the future of transportation? I believe it is – and it can be achieved through an exercise in conceptualization.
Maas: Ground Zero
In order to accurately assess the potential of MaaS, it’s necessary to first establish a proper definition of the concept. From the perspective of the wider transportation network, MaaS that’s dictated by the commercial interests of private mobility providers doesn’t offer much value over the direct monetary gain of the private operator. On the other hand, MaaS that relates only to public transit and excludes other forms of transportation is too limiting. Finally, MaaS understood without considering the context in which it will ultimately operate seems impulsive and unconsidered. For those reasons, I propose a new definition of MaaS – one that looks at the transportation network in its entirety, and takes into account wider implications of the concept on the community:
Mobility as a Service is a combination of public and private transportation services within a given regional environment that provides holistic, optimal and people-centered travel options, to enable end-to-end journeys paid for by the user as a single charge, and which aims to achieve key public equity objectives.
Adjusting the Focus
With a new definition of MaaS, we can now take a closer look at its key stakeholders. For several years, MaaS has been directly associated with the private sector. After all, private companies have dominated the conversations about MaaS in many regions, oftentimes becoming the early adopters of the concept.
Yet, MaaS has a lot to offer to public transit and it’s time to take a closer look at those benefits. Contrary to a common misconception, integration of third-party transit services into the wider public mobility offering doesn’t hurt transit, it actually encourages wider use of public transit, maintaining and even actively increasing ridership. Alternative transit services can address first/last mile problems as well as serve routes that are typically very costly and require a high level of government subsidy (e.g. paratransit), not only increasing revenues for transit agencies but also helping to direct funding and investment back to core transit services.
For that to happen, however, the transportation industry must shift focus – encouraging public transit authorities to assume their place as the backbone of mobility. With public transit at its heart, MaaS can not only benefit individual travelers but make a lasting impact on our cities and communities, improving the standard of living, reducing congestion and pollution and connecting more people than ever to opportunities. In scenarios where public transit agencies take complete ownership of MaaS and are able to define how future mobility offerings should interact and connect with transit, everybody wins – including private operators, public transit agencies, cities, and most importantly, travelers themselves.
Pushing the Gas Pedal on MaaS
Once we accept that public transit is best suited to drive MaaS implementation it’s crucial that we establish objectives that responsible, people-centered, and socially inclusive MaaS must strive to meet. I strongly believe that any MaaS effort should aim to help cities achieve the following 10 objectives:
- Limit congestion, particularly during peak travel periods
- Reduce car ownership, car usage and the number of vehicles on roads
- Use existing infrastructure more effectively and create economies of scale
- Ease pressure on the transportation network
- Enable better traffic and capacity management
- Improve the customer experience by presenting the transportation network as an integrated system
- Cater to all travelers, young and old, able and less-able, the wealthy and the economically disadvantaged
- Create a model that supports the funding of infrastructure
- Lessen the overall environmental impact of transportation
- Work in a driver-controlled and autonomous environment
Setting clear objectives is not only helpful in assessing and quantifying the effectiveness of MaaS initiatives, but it can also help direct investment and choice of technology and agree the appropriate level of regulation.
That’s an important consideration since regulation can be rigid and oftentimes slow to adopt. Cities will need to find the right balance between allowing innovation to grow organically and ensuring consumers’ and cities’ best interests are kept in check. The ultimate goal of a regulated approach to MaaS should promote investment, while making sure any mobility efforts are aligned with broader social equity goals. As a general rule, regulators should play the role of responsible and encouraging guardians: stepping in and correcting the course when necessary but allowing cities to arrive at their own solutions without a negative impact on innovation.
It’s time we recognize that Mobility as a Service can be a truly transformative concept when thinking about the future of transportation and how the integration – of different forms and modes of transport, customer experience, payment and back office functions, can inspire the creation of new transit models.
For that to happen, public transit must act as the driving force behind MaaS initiatives, acting as facilitator of partnerships, enabler of innovation and guardian of cities’ and the public’s interests. If it can do that, it will help MaaS achieve its full potential for the future of mobility.
Leave your comment below, or reply to others.
Please note that this comment section is for thoughtful, on-topic discussions. Admin approval is required for all comments. Your comment may be edited if it contains grammatical errors. Low effort, self-promotional, or impolite comments will be deleted.
Read more from MeetingoftheMinds.org
Spotlighting innovations in urban sustainability and connected technology
Since the Great Recession of 2008, the housing wealth gap has expanded to include not just Black and Brown Americans, but younger White Americans as well. Millennials and Generation Z Whites are now joining their Black and Brown peers in facing untenable housing precarity and blocked access to wealth. With wages stuck at 1980 levels and housing prices at least double (in inflation adjusted terms) what they were 40 years ago, many younger Americans, most with college degrees, are giving up on buying a home and even struggle to rent apartments suitable for raising a family.
What makes it hard for policy people and citizens to accept this truth is that we have not seen this problem in a very long time. Back in the 1920s of course, but not really since then. But this is actually an old problem that has come back to haunt us; a problem first articulated by Adam Smith in the 1700s.
More than ever, urban transit services are in need of sustainable and affordable solutions to better serve all members of our diverse communities, not least among them, those that are traditionally car-dependent. New mobility technologies can be a potential resource for local transit agencies to augment multi-modal connectivity across existing transit infrastructures.
We envision a new decentralized and distributed model that provides multi-modal access through nimble and flexible multi-modal Transit Districts, rather than through traditional, centralized, and often too expensive Multi-modal Transit Hubs. Working in collaboration with existing agencies, new micro-mobility technologies could provide greater and seamless access to existing transit infrastructure, while maximizing the potential of the public realm, creating an experience that many could enjoy beyond just catching the next bus or finding a scooter. So how would we go about it?
Dedicated anti-trafficking actors across the nation are trying to build better systems in big jurisdictions like New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, and in smaller but scrappy jurisdictions like Waco, Texas and Boaz, Alabama. They all share the same need, for stronger interconnectedness as an anti-trafficking field, and more collaboration.
The Forging Freedom Portal is a one-stop shop where a police officer planning a victim-centered operation can connect with their law enforcement counterparts, and the right service providers ahead of time, collaborating to make sure they’re planning for the language skills, social services, and legal support that victims may need. The portal is a place where the people who care most about ending human trafficking, who are doing the hard work every day on the ground, can learn from each other and share best practices to raise the collective standard of this work.