MaaS Forward into the Future

Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) could be the one of the keys to breaking our addiction to the car. It’s being tested in several cities, but uptake varies greatly and there’s a lot of work to do before its full potential is realized.  

MaaS means fully-integrated route planning, ticketing and payment accessed through a single, user-facing mobility platform or app. A seamless, “one-stop-shop” regardless of how many providers are involved. Done right, MaaS can facilitate the transition from congested, car-centric cities to cleaner, greener urban spaces. And with a potential global market of 2-5 billion USD in the next decade, both public transit authorities and private mobility providers want in. This means innovation and exciting collaborations, but also huge global disparities in terms of implementation.

At present, MaaS falls into three broad categories:  

Private MaaS: A commonly found partnership where public transportation authorities offer tickets via a private mobility provider’s app. MaaS is by definition multi-modal, but it only requires two modes to be included on a platform to qualify as such. It’s a start, but a long way from being a comprehensive mobility solution. And if one of the modes is single- or low-occupancy ride-hailing this could even increase congestion.  

The next level is Hybrid MaaS whereby users access a variety of transit modes through a single platform. However, unless this includes all available transit, it’s an improvement on private MaaS but still not the whole story.  

The goal is Public MaaS which unites all public and private transit modes and providers—from scooters to ride-hailing to busses and trains—under one umbrella. It can also be thought of as a “Hub & Spoke” system (a concept that usually refers to the spatial organization of regional transportation networks). Public transport is the backbone or “hub” through which urban mobility services are accessed; private shared mobility providers are the “spokes” that feed passengers into the system. For example, demand-responsive microtransit providing first-mile, last-mile connectivity to transport networks.

A number of European cities are experimenting with public Maas, and 2020 should see it evolve as transportation authorities learn from experience. For example, state-of-the-art digital technology is fundamental, but bespoke software commissions can be costly, inflexible and slow. Therefore, 2020 is likely to be the year of privately developed, customizable, “off-the-shelf” Fare Payments as a Service (FPaaS) platforms that allow authorities to integrate services into pre-existing apps.  

An off-the-shelf approach also means greater flexibility to adapt to different user profiles and mobility needs. MaaS should be a one-stop-shop, not one-size-fits-all. Residents have different requirements to visitors and MaaS must cater to both. For example, regular commuters will probably prioritize easy ticketing over route planning and are more likely to sign up to account- or subscription-based MaaS or use a city-specific app. Visitors need more guidance but may already have a route-planning app and are unlikely to install another, city-specific one. Therefore, practical MaaS that allows mobility to be accessed occasionally, via pre-existing platforms, is a must.

MaaS should reverse the traditional service-user relationship: Restricting passengers to one type of transit per platform, and obliging them to decipher timetables, routes and ticketing, is the past—anticipating their needs and providing a comprehensive multi-modal solution is the future. At Sholt we believe public-private partnerships are key to making this a reality, so our goal for 2020 is to grow our global collaborations, providing software to run dynamically routed, demand-responsive transit that delivers MaaS to cities and passengers to their destination.

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