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MaaS appeal

Mobility as a Service (MaaS) – a flexible transport system where users pay an all-in-one fee to use trains, buses, taxis, bikes and even hire cars – sounds great, but what are the barriers to it taking off? We spoke to the experts to find out.

René Lavanchy, Journalist
10 October 2018

Mobility as a Service (MaaS) – a flexible transport system where users pay an all-in-one fee to use trains, buses, taxis, bikes and even hire cars – sounds great, but what are the barriers to it taking off? We spoke to the experts to find out.

Mobility as a Service needs to feel as good as owning your own car

We are trying to ask the big question of what would be comparable – what would be big enough – so people give up their cars. Transport is roughly a $10tn global market, and 85% of this goes on owning a car. That car is used roughly 4% of the time. It’s crying out for a productivity leap.

Cars are great, but MaaS is about offering options for people who don’t want the hassle of ownership but would still like the convenience. There’s such a big number of people who don’t see the value of MaaS yet. It’s a business trying to fill a market void.

We started the Whim app platform in Helsinki in late 2017. In six months, with not much marketing, we’ve had 50,000 people register as users. It’s like when people said that 4G would never reach small towns or rural areas – it will come, it just takes a while. This is where good regulation comes into play.

Sampo Hietanen is CEO and founder of MaaS Global, developer of the Whim app

More data about users’ experiences can take the strain out of journeys

Just by gathering good information and serving it back to transport users, there’s an opportunity to reduce delay and improve satisfaction. If passengers had better information about their door-to-door journey, such as which of their options included a section of walking, then I’m sure a greater proportion of trips that included an enjoyable, safe, convenient and quiet walking route would be made.

If MaaS introduces competition, then customer satisfaction and feedback is part of the attraction of that setup. Those that provide a good service will flourish, while those that don’t will fail. You can have competition for each leg of the journey. The MaaS platform can switch transport providers based on customer feedback and performance.

We help monetise mobile phone data with transport operators and others; we’re looking at door-to-door journey patterns. One of the building blocks for successful MaaS solutions is gaining a better understanding about the journey patterns and trip purposes in a city or region. We collect 9 billion data points a day; it’s not cheap, so you’ve got to be convinced that there’s some value in storing it.

Simon Babes is managing director of consultancy Movement Strategies

Transport companies are still reluctant to get on board

MaaS will exist in the future, but it needs time. We need transport operators to collaborate with a MaaS operator, and the market is not ready to do this. The technology is a piece of cake – the biggest challenges come from the policy, business and customer side. The transport operators should invest in and develop application programming interfaces to communicate data to the MaaS platforms. That’s where you need government intervention, and the policy framework to incentivise operators.

Whether MaaS will lead to more sustainable forms of travel is still an open question. We’ve done market research for London, Birmingham, Manchester, Luxembourg and Budapest. It is not like 50% of the population will shift to MaaS services. The market research sample showed 20% of the population is interested. In reality it is closer to 10%, but that is still in line with policymakers’ goals. Even a 1% reduction in private vehicles would be a huge achievement.

Maria Kamargianni is head of the MaaS Lab at University College London

MaaS can get more capacity out of the transport network

Populations are growing and cities are getting bigger. Building more roads and more track isn’t the way out of it. The case for MaaS is about trying to take the current transport network – public and private – on to a highly efficient method of operation, and to run mobility networks accessible through an account that doesn’t require cash, as cash collection involves extra costs.

We ran a proof of concept in Greater Manchester. A lot of the activity was real-time passenger information supporting the booking, real-time disruption management and re-routing, and some behavioural nudges. The nudges were “you’re going to find it easier to get to work, and here’s why”.

More than 20% of participants were more willing to use active travel – cycling and walking – than before the trial. Integrated ticketing was a positive finding, as was the instantaneous rerouting and advice on journeys. Users referred to it as a concierge service.

Nathan Marsh is intelligent mobility lead director for UK and Europe at Atkins

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