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
Why one city decays and another thrives can sometimes seem random. So, trying to foresee downrange why the future will happen in City A and not City B is hard. Moreover, to imagine that there is one formula that all 7.8 billion of us should adhere to, wherever it is we live, is clearly nonsensical.
In our work, we study, research, and rank places to determine what the best practices are to increase economic prosperity, social equity, and quality of life. Ultimately, the question we want to answer is: What is it that makes a city a place of the future? In our research, one thing has become clear to us: next-gen talent is the fuel for the future of place. And by extension, jobs of the future will happen in places of the future.
Digital twins and AI analysis would offer significant benefits to organizations across all sectors. By providing a comprehensive look at a geographical area and its infrastructure and assets, these technologies will enable smarter and more targeted field planning optimization. It could help digitize field surveys, offer new levels of remote engineering access, and enable contact tracing around COVID-19.
The focus will continue to shift away from the data itself and towards its relationships. The connections between data are where the most powerful insights lie. With enough data points, organizations can look to analytics to better understand the context and “see” the future.
AI at scale and emerging data technologies truly illustrate this connectivity and potential. Although it’s an emerging field, the benefits are limitless.
In my business, we’d rather not be right. What gets a climate change expert out of bed in the morning is the desire to provide decision-makers with the best available science, and at the end of the day we go to bed hoping things won’t actually get as bad as our science tells us. That’s true whether you’re a physical or a social scientist.
Well, I’m one of the latter and Meeting of the Minds thought it would be valuable to republish an article I penned in January 2020. In that ancient past, only the most studious of news observers had heard of a virus in Wuhan, China, that was causing a lethal disease. Two months later we were in lockdown, all over the world, and while things have improved a lot in the US since November 2020, in many cities and nations around the world this is not the case. India is living through a COVID nightmare of untold proportions as we speak, and many nations have gone through wave after wave of this pandemic. The end is not in sight. It is not over. Not by a longshot.
And while the pandemic is raging, sea level continues to rise, heatwaves are killing people in one hemisphere or the other, droughts have devastated farmers, floods sent people fleeing to disaster shelters that are not the save havens we once thought them to be, wildfires consumed forests and all too many homes, and emissions dipped temporarily only to shoot up again as we try to go “back to normal.”
So, I’ll say another one of those things I wish I’ll be wrong about, but probably won’t: there is no “back to normal.” Not with climate change in an interdependent world.