If last year’s COP 26 taught us something, it is that we probably won’t be able to achieve the ‘best-case scenario’ of 1.5 degrees temperature increase before the end of the century. Talks are slow, decisions are made but not implemented, many countries are still refusing to participate (or are not present at the table). It may sound disheartening but there is a silver lining – we now have more solutions than we had six years ago. And there are cities and countries willing to implement them. What we do at Modeshift is help those who are willing to change find the necessary knowledge and tools to act upon their determination. Today, we add one more resource to our growing sustainability-oriented library – one that will help you discover the ways in which MaaS can help cities achieve carbon neutrality!
What is MaaS?
‘MaaS: a concept that puts users at the core of transport services, offering them tailor-made mobility solutions based on individual needs.’ – Urban20
We like this definition as it is not overly technical and captures the spirit of the Mobility-as-a-Service movement. It’s easy to define MaaS in terms of ‘different modes of transportation unified by a single platform’ – but this says nothing about the why of the whole movement.
MaaS is a concept that evolved naturally from the existence of various mobile apps aimed at facilitating movement in cities. Apps including Google Maps and Uber, but not only. Adding to this concoction various new modes of transportation (e-scooters and e-bikes, for example) and the rise of the sharing economy, it was clear that the mobility landscape is changing.
Mobility-as-a-Service is an ecosystem – an ecosystem of mobility options that help people move around the city more easily, more quickly and on their own terms. With Maas, people can utilize one platform (one app) to pay and validate on a trip that includes bus, metro and e-scooter.
What is carbon neutrality?
As per the European Parliament’s website:
‘Carbon neutrality means having a balance between emitting carbon and absorbing carbon from the atmosphere in carbon sinks. Removing carbon oxide from the atmosphere and then storing it is known as carbon sequestration. In order to achieve net zero emissions, all worldwide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions will have to be counterbalanced by carbon sequestration.
A carbon sink is any system that absorbs more carbon than it emits. The main natural carbon sinks are soil, forests and oceans.’
Unfortunately, there are no artificial carbon sinks powerful enough to capture all the CO2 that the global economy produces. Meanwhile, due to human activity many natural sinks are beginning to fail – forests and oceans, for example.
Transportation, electricity and industry are the biggest CO2 offenders on a global scale. While drastically reducing our C02 emissions is the only way to move towards true sustainability (and meeting the all-important temperature threshold before it’s too late), it is not a simple and straightforward process. Talks may have helped us move forward with our commitment to carbon neutrality by 2050, but actions are lagging. What can we do to at least offset some of the negative effects of carbon emissions – now?
Carbon offsetting is a global scheme that aims to offset C02 emissions from one industry by making reductions in another. This can be done by switching to clean energy, cleaner business practices, recycling, improving the energy efficiency of buildings, etc. This is where concepts like MaaS come in handy.
By giving people the freedom and convenience to map their journeys according to their own needs and preferences, MaaS can help reduce their carbon footprint by:
- Reducing the number of personal vehicles in the city
- Reducing the number of trips people make with their personal vehicles
- Helping optimize fixed-route public transportation
- Helping in the adoption of on-demand public transportation
Different vehicles have different carbon footprints and if you take a look at the graph below it’s easy to spot the trend. If more people choose to use public transportation and shared mobility options, we can reduce the city’s transportation footprint dramatically. But how can we do that?
How to make public transportation and shared mobility alluring – and thus help achieve the goal of carbon neutrality?
Public transportation is not something new – we’ve had it since the 17th century (yes, the first transportation system was set up in Boston and consisted of horse carts and ferries). While it has become increasingly popular and accessible, it never quite became alluring. This is a very complex topic and one that many experts have spent time dwelling on… To no avail, it seems. Public transportation has chronic issues such as delays, inconvenient routes, inadequate number of vehicles during rush hour, hygiene and vandalism, first mile/last mile, and many more.
MaaS platforms can’t solve these issues, but they can help people overcome their reluctance to switch from car to public transport by helping them make better decisions about their route, and even save money.
MaaS platforms connect passenger demand with transportation supply
Before the advent of micromobility and MaaS platforms, many people were facing a tough choice – use an inconvenient public transportation service which would mean switching several vehicles and walking, or buy an expensive to maintain personal vehicle and face congestion. Two not very optimistic scenarios.
Now, people can opt for the most convenient public transportation service near them, then use micromobility or shared mobility to reach their destination. This is the magic of Mobility-as-a-Service platforms. When the weather is nice, biking or using an e-scooter can take you from the bus stop to your workplace or home. When it’s not, shared mobility vehicles or on-demand services can help. It’s all about flexibility.
MaaS platforms help people save money on transportation
We mentioned that MaaS can also help people save money. This is done by creating special time or distance-based fares that cover a variety of modes – a single ticket for a trip that uses a bus and an e-scooter, for example. Currently, most micromobility services are quite expensive, but under the umbrella of MaaS platforms they can be integrated to improve accessibility. Now compare these flexible rates with the purchase and maintenance of a car. It just doesn’t add up, does it?
MaaS platforms help people save time
Back in the day, if people needed to get somewhere quickly, they couldn’t rely solely on public transit – unless they were in Japan. Delays, detours and traffic jams prevent regular public transit systems from operating efficiently, and to add to that oftentimes the routes were far from optimal to get them exactly where they needed to be. What MaaS adds to the equation is the option to combine different transportation modes and real-time traffic data so that riders can solve their first mile/last mile problem and avoid congestion. They can also avoid spending half an hour waiting at the bus stop as MaaS platforms give them the exact time their vehicles arrive.
MaaS platforms can help create a more livable city
A critical part of the livability standard in every city is transit connectivity – whether people can easily reach their workplace, their home, their friends, and their favorite places. Conventional public transit systems cannot promise this, and riders often have to choose between living in a good neighborhood and having the job of their dreams if the distance between them is a 3-hour commute.
MaaS can help narrow the gap between the citizens’ expectations and their true transit experience in big cities. By providing them with a flexible means of transportation, these platforms can help many people switch from cars to public transit. And if you remember what this means in terms of ecology – we are one step closer to reducing the carbon footprint of the city!
While MaaS platforms will not be enough to eradicate the carbon footprint of a city’s transportation network, it is one of the key factors that can help city management in this difficult task. Every citizen that gives up their personal vehicle for public transit adds up to the fight against global warming.
If your city is considering the implementation of MaaS, contact our consultants today so we can guide you through the process!