Mobility as a Service (MaaS) is a web-based application that provides access to multiple transport options with only a single payment channel. Whether you want to take a bus, bike, taxi, metro or ride-share, the service links everything together and presents it on a single interface. If using cars and taking public transit is the equivalent of traditional television channels, then Mobility as a Service is like Netflix – an on demand, immeasurable upgrade.
We’ve all experienced one of those panicked moments where our train is one minute away from departure but the ticket machine generates a “card read error”. By the time you’ve managed to get to the platform, the train has pulled away from the station. It’s instances like this, as well as a growing population and increasing urbanization, that make on demand Mobility as a Service so appealing.
The MaaS concept is broken down into three main components. First, the individual is at the heart of the service and it caters each journey to the specific user. Every mile of someone’s journey, from doorstep to work office, can be mapped out by MaaS. Secondly, it is about mobility rather than transit which includes different modes of transport such as bikes and scooters as options. Thirdly, MaaS provides a seamless integration of transit options, information, payment and ticketing. These core principles make MaaS easy and quick to use and capable of keeping up with the ever-changing needs of commuters.
A huge incentive behind the service is increased urbanization. 55 percent of the world’s population currently live in cities and this is predicted to increase to 68 percent by 2050. A repercussion of these growing cities is congestion and a recent report by Transportation for America revealed that traffic has grown by 144 percent in recent years, despite enormous freeway expansion. A lot of these issues stem from private car use, and the holistic approach to transit taken by MaaS is seen as the solution. Several MaaS pilots revealed a decline in the use of private cars after the system was implemented. For example, when UbiGo MaaS was launched in Sweden, private car use halved and bicycle use doubled. When Smile MaaS was trialled in Vienna, more than 20 percent of consumers used their cars less often. MaaS is therefore proven to reduce congestion, shorten commuting times and it is pro-environment as it shifts travellers from cars to more sustainable modes such as bikes and public transit. If MaaS is implemented in the United States, it would propel the shift away from expensive private cars and towards cheaper and more innovative modes of transportation.
Lots of companies are moving towards MaaS in an attempt to provide a service rather than a single product. Lime is one of them and they have recently taken on Wheels, a pedal-free electric bike. Since Lime partnered with the Los Angeles-based bike company, any consumer will now also be shown all available Wheels when opening the app and it’s just a matter of scanning the QR code to activate the bike. The Lime MaaS app will be tested throughout the United States in Austin, Miami and Seattle as well as Berlin in Germany. Lime CEO, Wayne Ting, highlighted “our whole goal is that.. you can find the mode that’s right for you, that is the right price and you’ll be sure that every mode on the Lime platform is sustainable, is green and is affordable”.
While this all seems achievable given the results of MaaS pilots around the world, is it achievable on a larger scale? David Zipper provides insight on some key hurdles that MaaS providers need to overcome to allow their vision to become a reality. Will the local transport authorities who currently hold the key to the city be open to change and, given the vast amount of competition in the market, is MaaS a profitable business venture? Without clear incentives, local users could default to purchasing transit tickets via MaaS Apps, however local research in Flanders, Belgium thinks not, with only 3% of transactions purchased via mobile phone.
Zipper calls for MaaS companies to rethink their business models and new comer, Float Mobility has done exactly that. By introducing a budgeting component to the standard MaaS formula, Float helps educate the users to see how much they are already spending on their local travel and then provide recommendations for ways the user can improve their journey based on their interests, as well as having the standard price comparison tools featured in other MaaS applications. Without a primary focus on commission based incentives, Float has the flexibility to remain unbiased and really be a partner to both the user, and the cities they live in, by working with local transport authorities by using data to improve the local mobility infrastructure.
More and more cities around the world are testing MaaS and although there are always going to be new obstacles to overcome, this new form of transit provides a whole array of benefits. People have a unique opportunity to reconsider their preferred mode of transport, now is the time to encourage change for the better.
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