4 Ways Cities are Adopting Mobility as a Service
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Mobility as a Service (MaaS) has now offered a vision for the future of transportation for several years. The ideas are ambitious:
- Providing travelers with the services they need to get from point A to point B under a single payment account;.
- Integrating disparate modes of mobility under one customer experience to better serve the travelers in a city or region.
- Creating the most efficient possible transportation ecosystem with an economic model that promotes journey choices that ease congestion, whether fulfilled by public or private service providers.
MaaS is often referred to as the future of urban mobility, and after years of strategizing and advocacy, MaaS has reached a turning point. Incremental progress has brought us to a position where we can now make MaaS a present reality rather than a future goal.
The keys to pressing fast-forward on this progress are held by public officials and regional governments. Local leaders must take concrete steps to bring MaaS to the residents of their urban areas – here are some of the strongest actions to help make it happen:
1. Turn competitors into partners.
Competition between innovative companies is undoubtedly an asset in developing a fine-tuned transportation ecosystem. But without guidance from local governments, an abundance of ride-sharing or bike-sharing services can flood the market to the point of unproductivity. We must develop a system of best practices for cities and transport agencies to establish partnerships that better serve travelers.
The private sector plays a critical role in MaaS visions, and solutions exist that offer both financial benefit for private companies and social benefit for the city and its residents. Proactive leadership by local governments and transit agencies can ensure that private companies are engaged as partners rather than competitors, leveraging the strengths of each mobility service to enhance one another rather than fight for customers.
2. Establish trust.
One of the thorniest sticking points in achieving MaaS is the “last mile” question – how to serve travelers in the final stretch between a transit stop and their home or office. In practice, ride-sharing, bike-sharing and scooter-sharing have offered an appealing answer to that question, and the popularity of these services among travelers is unquestionable. However, the rise of autonomous vehicles offers further complications: will travelers be willing to share an autonomous vehicle with other commuters? Can they trust the strangers with whom they’ll be sharing a driverless car?
Therefore, trust will become a key currency in the future of mobility – not just between public and private service providers but in an autonomous world also between travelers with the service providers and travelers with each other. Service providers will need to be able to evaluate trustworthiness to ensure the safety of their passengers. This will require further collaboration between local governments and industry partners, combining institutional data (in the form of driver’s licenses, passports, and other methods of identification) with peer-to-peer data like the feedback collected after a ride-sharing journey. As we plan for an autonomous future, this is a question, like so many others, that requires attention and we must get in front of the challenges to ensure that travelers are able to access and use these services with confidence when they arrive.
3. Jump the data hurdles.
Data is a hot topic, with personal user data serving as both a tool for forward
progress and also as a potential means for malicious activity. The public is understandably weary of attempts to leverage their personal data. But to deliver MaaS—a social and technological achievement that would truly empower the end user and improve our cities—we’ll have to convince the public of the need to use some level of their data to offer better services.
Data is an indispensable aspect of MaaS, with passenger data helping to inform travelers of their ideal travel routes and to streamline services to better meet demand. Local governments have an inherent opportunity to speak to their constituents and make the case for the benefits of MaaS. Elected officials, those who will ostensibly guide the development of MaaS and its component services, have the opportunity (and responsibility) to deliver a real quality-of-life improvement to their citizens. I hope that everyone involved—government leaders, industry partners, and the traveling public—will see the potential benefit of using our collective data to improve both journeys for us as individuals, and also to optimize the city and the region as a whole.
4. Follow the frontrunners.
Has the future of mobility arrived yet? Of course, we haven’t reached our final destination, but there are reasons to feel good about our overall progress. A couple cities have made great strides toward the end goal of MaaS, and their successes should serve as examples to other urban areas and regions considering their own next steps.
In Los Angeles the TAP Card system already integrates over 20 public transit operators through a common payment system. Working in partnership with LA Metro, we will soon implement a suite of APIs and a mobile app which will integrate the payment for other modes (scooter-share, ride-share, bike-share, parking, etc.) together with a truly multi-modal trip planner that will allow travelers to plan their trips across all combinations of mobility services. This implementation will essentially deliver the enabling technology for the first two ideas for MaaS outlined at the beginning of this blog.
In the San Francisco Bay Area, the long-standing Clipper Card has also been put to work as the region’s unified transit payment system. In addition to serving the dozens of public transit options available to Bay Area travelers, the Clipper Card also allows you to access bike-share and some parking facilities. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission in the Bay Area has recently contracted with us to upgrade the Clipper to next-generation technology. This upgrade will enable the future integration of other private bike- and scooter-sharing companies, as well as ride-sharing companies, to deliver a first- and last-mile solution to commuters. And until autonomous vehicles are able to transport passengers to their local transit station, the next-generation Clipper system will also be able integrate payment for the remaining parking at bus and train stations and other parking facilities in the region. The single payment account is vital to delivering the streamlined user experience of MaaS – leaders like Los Angeles and San Francisco are helping to lead the way for other ambitious local governments.
When we talk about the future of MaaS, we have to keep in mind that this progress won’t take place on its own. Thought leaders are doing their part to move the conversation, but public officials hold the keys to our progress. Initiative and innovation, not to mention some difficult conversations around establishing trust, are needed to fast-forward MaaS from the future to the present for urban travelers around the world.
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This article was originally published on September 8, 2020.
Update for April 20, 2021:
After the murder of George Floyd we wrote this article as a kind of blueprint, a beginning to a new way of working with equitable resilience in our cities and beyond. Now, as the trial of Derek Chauvin comes to a guilty verdict in Minneapolis and the whole country reflects on the legacy of that verdict, we have to remember another senseless murder – another young Black man, Daunte Wright, at the hands of law enforcement, just miles from the courthouse. Again, Minneapolis is all of us. We have protested, we have voted. We stood up, we spoke out, we have raged about the anti-Black racism. We have seen people come together, we can feel a shift in this country. But there is so much more to do. No equity, no resilience.
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