10 Objectives for Assessing Mobility as a Service (MaaS)

By Matt Cole

Matt Cole is a thought leader in Mobility as a Service and President of Cubic Transportation Systems.

Jul 17, 2018 | Mobility, Technology | 5 comments

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:

  1. Limit congestion, particularly during peak travel periods
  2. Reduce car ownership, car usage and the number of vehicles on roads
  3. Use existing infrastructure more effectively and create economies of scale
  4. Ease pressure on the transportation network
  5. Enable better traffic and capacity management
  6. Improve the customer experience by presenting the transportation network as an integrated system
  7. Cater to all travelers, young and old, able and less-able, the wealthy and the economically disadvantaged
  8. Create a model that supports the funding of infrastructure
  9. Lessen the overall environmental impact of transportation
  10. 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.

Discussion

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5 Comments

  1. What a refreshing and well presented analysis of MaaS. Really enjoyed this blog. Lets hope we can move the conversation about MaaS forward and benefit all.

    Reply
  2. Well I can agree with 7 of the above which is a good start. :-)

    Reduce car ownership is really a consequence of MaaS rather than an objective in it’s own right.

    Cater to all travelers is just not realistic in one model unless it allows for different tiers of service.

    Funding for infrastructure? Well we’d all like to know where that’s coming from but MaaS probably shouldn’t be burdened with having to provide it.

    You make a lot of good points in the blog though and it’s good to have some discussion points to investigate.

    Thanks for the post.

    Reply
  3. Thanks for this article.

    I think that the approach that you gave to MaaS helps the development of public transport policies based on this concept of MaaS, centered on users.

    The determination of objectives in SMART form for each stakeholder, with the State as guarantor, I think, it will add a lot of value to the MaaS concept supporting different areas: Mobility, Health, Environment, Economy, Industry, Technology, Labor, Education and so on.

    Thanks again.

    Reply
  4. I agree that PTAs may have to lead the transition of the mobility eco system, but that doesn’t mean that they should be the operators or “have full control”. Yes, PT need to be the backbone for MaaS to be cost effective and sustainable, but a PTA may not be the best actor to deliver a MaaS service that can compete with car ownership (and thus lowering the use of cars and free up urban space).

    PTAs are local or regional, politically controled and often subsidised organisations that in most cases aren’t even allowed to compete on a commercial market, bundling and selling taxi, rental cars, car sharing etc. But this also means that a commercial MaaS-operator shouldn’t take the right to resell and bundle PT for granted. The PTA is in a pole position and should use that to govern the MaaS market by developing contract models that leads to (commercial) services that will benefit the city or region and increase the use of sustainable modes.

    This is exactly what we are set to do in Stockholm when the UbiGo service that was developed and tested in Gothenburg, will be (re-)launched in september. One of the most important things that will be evaluated after running the service for about half a year is if we have reached new hard-to-win customers for SL (the PTA), that our pricing is fair, that we are not overusing the subsidies, that the reselling is revenue neutral, that we can share data and that we have a transparent process.

    Cubic has very good products and services and a good track record, but as other IT platform providers and many consultancy companies, they seem to push PTAs to take the role of the MaaS-operator simply because they would be good customers as they have been before in other applications, especially compared to start-ups or established commercial actors, even if they might create greater value for both the society and customers by co-operating closely with the PTAs.

    Reply
    • Hans,

      The objective of PTA’s at the heart of MaaS is to put them in control, but not to necessarily let them own and operate. At an absolute minimum, the PTA needs to regulate operations in the city in order to maintain a healthy balance of traffic over the entire transport network for all citizens and businesses. Some PTAs will be happy with this approach, other PTAs we have spoken to want to take a more proactive approach and actually engage in technology development and customer management. There is a sliding scale for all PTAs and cities, at one end it’s pure regulation, at the other it’s regulation and technology/customer/system ownership – and each city/region has to decide for itself where it wants to be on that scale.

      I truly believe in MaaS and how it can benefit cities as a whole and not just PTAs. I’ll be interested in how it goes with Stockholm. I will be there in September so I’ll be sure to look out for the advertising and get feedback fro my friends there on their experience. I really hope it’s a booming success!

      Reply

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