As more cities strive towards becoming “Smart”, government officials, along with city planners and investors have recognized the importance of making those cities not only modern and technologically advanced but also citizen-orientated, highly accessible, efficient, and convenient. An essential part of achieving this has to do with creating good transportation systems and improving mobility in urban areas. With the help of new technologies as well as innovative mobility solutions, authorities are now investing in various projects and initiatives that aim to progress the development of such cities, improving their performance and chance of success by giving citizens innovative tools and adding smart infrastructure to enhance mobility in these ecosystems.
Mobility as a Service MaaS is on its way to fundamentally change the way consumers travel and use different types of transport. Mobility as a Service approaches transport from a user-centric perspective and is thought to be a powerful tool in reducing the number of private cars on the road, meeting sustainability goals, and expanding the sector for alternative transport options, making them freely available to the public. Let’s take a more in-depth look into what mobility as a service (MaaS) is, why is it important, how it can benefit communities and organizations, and what steps can be taken toward implementing it.
What is the definition of MaaS?
Understanding what MaaS stands for and its role in cities and communities can mean the difference between practical MaaS projects that benefit local communities and those that only contribute further to the already crowded cities, diverting money and resources away from crucial public transit infrastructure initiatives.
At its core, Mobility as a Service (MaaS) aims to integrate various forms of transport and transport-related services into a unified, comprehensive, and on-demand mobility service. MaaS offers end-users the added value of accessing different mobility options through a single application and a sole payment channel (as opposed to multiple ticketing and payment operations). To meet a customer’s request, a MaaS operator provides an array of different transport options, including but not limited to public transit, active modes such as walking and cycling, ride/car/bike-sharing, taxis, car rentals or leases, and various combinations. MaaS aims to provide the best value proposition for users, societies, and the environment.
A successful MaaS service further encourages new business models and methods of organizing and operating via multiple transport options, with advantages for transport operators including access to improved user and demand information and new opportunities to serve needs that were previously unmet. MaaS strives to provide an affordable travel alternative to using private cars by aiming to be as convenient, and more sustainable, as well as reduce congestion and obstacles regarding transport capacity.
What are the benefits of MaaS?
Mobility as a Service aims to encourage a radical transformation in the way people approach mobility in cities by facilitating a change in citizens’ travel behavior and habits by shifting the focus from traditional travel methods such as private cars and providing, newer, more sustainable modes of transportation that are accessible, affordable and adaptable to traveler’s demands and individual needs. MaaS serves the objective of enhancing mobility in cities by bringing together various forms of mobility ranging from public transit and community vehicles to car-sharing, micro-mobility, and underutilized commercial fleets. Let’s go over some key features, functions, and benefits of MaaS.
Versatile, Integrated Modes Of Transit
MaaS is incredibly versatile and adaptable with the ability to deliver on a variety of desired outcomes. The main three pillars of MaaS are accessibility, inclusivity, and sustainability. Additionally, Mobility as а Service can be implemented in other ways too, depending on the desired outcome. For example, it can offer flexible mobility budgets for employees, promote better health among communities (active travel), improve security and safety, and even act as a lifestyle assistant when integrated with leisure activities and features such as hotels, restaurants, or sightseeing activities.
A few examples of MaaS solutions include various ridesharing apps that refer to the sharing of a ride in a private vehicle, either with the driver or in the case of sharing a ride with other passengers. This transportation method has gained popularity due to its convenience, affordability, and flexibility when compared to traditional taxis or having to drive yourself. By enabling multiple passengers to share the costs of transportation, the financial burden of owning and maintaining a car is reduced for both the driver and passengers, thus promoting a more sustainable urban mobility experience.
In the case of peer-to-peer rental services, it becomes possible for individuals to rent out their cars to other drivers, offering a more cost-effective alternative to expensive car rental services. This form of MaaS offers a chance for individuals to monetize their underutilized vehicles while allowing for a cost-effective mode of transportation that reduces the number of cars on the road. As for micromobility (another component of MaaS), we have the case where a mode that consists of smaller, low-speed vehicles such as electric scooters and bicycles is providing users with a convenient way to complete short trips, travel to larger transport hubs, or complete the first and final mile of their journeys.
Personalized Journeys & Integrated Payments
In our current and traditional transportation models, users typically plan, book, and pay for transport services separately, whether that’s public transit, car-sharing, private taxis, etc. Nowadays most transport providers allow for payment via smart cards, however, that doesn’t include integrated and comprehensive services that link directly to the modes of transport that a user might prefer or need. Users will no longer have to concern themselves with topping up cards, purchasing tickets, or paying for individual fares. Getting from point A to point B will become a fluid, convenient, and integrated experience that streamlines the entire travel experience for residents of cities.
Citizens can gain access to a range of mobility options with ease, with the possibility of personalizing their journeys by setting their preferences so they can prioritize between saving time, money, carbon emission, or comfort as well as their objective for each trip. Perhaps they prefer a particular transport option, desire the most cost-effective route, or require accessible transport. All these choices can be accommodated with MaaS and when it comes to payment, things are even easier. Users can pay for their travel monthly, based on usage and their individual needs and preferences. For example, plans can be divided between urban commuter, family, business, or casual. This can include all public transport options as well as taxis, rental cars, and car shares. On-demand payments are also available every step of the way so that users can choose their preferred mode of transit, making payments seamlessly and automatically, using their smartphone.
Better Urban Environment & Improved Livability
Another important objective of MaaS has to do with meeting sustainability goals by cutting carbon emissions from the transport sector, reducing congestion in cities, improving air quality, and increasing the overall livability of urban areas. By actively engaging in alternative modes of transport, residents can become more active (through cycling, and walking), healthier, experience less stress while commuting, and not have to waste time constantly sitting in traffic. MaaS can be integrated into rural areas too, although this notion poses challenges due to the lack of infrastructure available as well as services that can be provided in less densely populated regions. Mobility on demand (MoD) can be implemented with MaaS for the possibility of delivering better value propositions for citizens.
Why is Mobility-as-a-Service important?
MaaS is a crucial and fundamental framework that encourages accessible and sustainable transport, something which is of great value and importance for the future of Smart Cities as well as those with densely populated regions that are struggling with daily traffic, congestion, bad air quality, and insufficient infrastructure. With the steady growth in the Earth’s population along with the progression in urbanization, there is an increased demand for more resources, capacity, costly infrastructure, better services, and an improved quality of life for citizens.
Boots Economic Development & Addresses Urban Mobility Issues
According to the United Nations, 68% of the world’s population is predicted to live in urban areas by 2050. This poses a major challenge to those in charge of planning the transport infrastructure in cities and we’re already seeing the devastating impact this has had on the environment as well as urban life. City planners and officials are struggling to fill those gaps in terms of resources and capacity as there simply isn’t enough space for the building of new roads. It has been estimated that traffic congestion and the associated delays cost the U.S. economy over $120 billion, annually. Overcrowded roads and highways are already a major issue in the U.S. and aside from financial loss there are also human casualties from road accidents which puts an even greater strain on the economy and the healthcare system.
Public transportation has been looked at as a solution to many transportation problems we see today and has the potential to enhance mobility in cities, however, expansion of mass transit systems is often slow and heavily reliant on tight budgets. Most municipalities are already struggling with repairs and much-needed improvements to current infrastructure such as underground tunnels, steam pipes, the installation of high-speed internet, and new vehicles. There is an urgent need for new modes of transportation that are not only sustainable but also allow citizens of cities to move around more freely, with more choices, improved safety, accessibility, and are generally affordable and convenient for them. MaaS holds the potential to drastically reduce the number of cars on the road and get those passengers to use more flexible and eco-friendly modes of transport for their daily commutes.
Promotes Equity & Accessibility Among Communities
Furthermore, mobility as a service touches on another important aspect in communities as inflation rises along with prices of fuel and costs associated with owning and maintaining a vehicle. MaaS makes transportation more inclusive for underserved communities such as people with limited mobility, the elderly, as well as low-income families. By removing the burden associated with owning a vehicle more members of communities will be inclined to use these transportation options and services whether they are shared or individual. A high priority for MaaS is developing features in various modes that support wheelchair-accessible transport as well as further encouraging use by offering discounts and free mobility wallets to those who need them.
A Transparent & Sustainable Approach to Mobility in Cities
From a sustainability perspective, MaaS plays an important role in the lowering of the levels of CO2 emissions in cities, providing valuable insight and transparency into the value of each transport option. This allows authorities to gain a better understanding of which modes and initiatives work best for citizens and cities so that they can direct their efforts toward that. Strategies and funding for expansion can be developed through these insights, whether that’s for more infrastructure, education, technologies, or other initiatives that promote further use.
This also allows for better tracking of the environmental impact of journeys as well as the integration of more active travel modes such as walking and cycling, along with foot and cycle path friendliness that promotes the usage of such mobility options either independently or in combination with other forms of sustainable transport such as public transit or e-mobility options.
Organizations can benefit from MaaS in a variety of ways, most notably by reducing the need for company cars and related costs, such as maintenance, insurance, and fuel. This is particularly useful for companies with large fleets. Organizations can further benefit from the integration of data and insights provided by MaaS platforms which allows them to strategize and make better and more informed decisions that optimize mobility performance and operations. Furthermore, organizations that implement MaaS to attract, inspire, and retain employees by introducing sustainable practices, modern mobility solutions, and decreased commute costs.
How can governments and organizations get started with MaaS?
Any Mobility as a Service (MaaS) project requires far more than just a fancy app. A well-thought-out backend system is of fundamental importance to ensuring integration between different provider data that maps all processes for the central user, including payment and back office management. In the instance that an intermodal trip needs to be canceled or altered, cross-provider booking also must be reversible. The development of a good system is required to manage such complexity, which often exceeds traditional transport companies’ capacities. Additionally, contractual agreements need to be made with mobility service providers for the necessary integration, along with cooperation with payment and verification service providers.
This can be quite overwhelming for some agencies, with some even wondering if it’s worth the trouble at all. Experts argue that any transportation network, no matter how well-developed, has service gaps and struggles with first- and last-mile connections which cannot be served by public transport alone. These new mobility solutions offer a chance to close the existing gaps for scheduled services, meeting the most diverse mobility needs of travelers.
So how can governments and organizations get started with MaaS and do only complex integrations guarantee future success for such initiatives? Any MaaS project can only be as attractive to users as the offers that are linked to it through the platform. That is why the integration of the appropriate providers for MaaS is key to a successful project. Regional transport companies can approach their MaaS goals in several stages and approaches without initiating a large-scale project that integrates everything at once. For example, already acquired and existing travel information can be supplemented with initial intermodal travel suggestions through which travelers will be made aware of new offers on the app. For this to work, the user interface needs to remain clear and user-friendly. Once such a path has been established, further additions can be introduced such as ticketing, integrating it step by step.
What are the options for getting started with MaaS?
MaaS platforms are still relatively new and in the early stages of development when it comes to businesses, offering varying levels of services. Basic MaaS platforms often allow single mobility companies to offer booking and payment on their platforms for a single travel mode. The next level allows for the integration of routes and mode options but does not include booking or payment options. Further options consist of shifts in categories that offer integrated routing, booking, and payment options for various modes of transit. Furthermore, it’s also possible to build on this to provide subscription options as a way of complementing these services. The most comprehensive options include policy control and levers that allow governments to shape offerings as a way of supporting public goals.
MaaS solutions can be tailored to specific target groups, as well as to the requirements and goals of the operator. The most common way to get started with MaaS is a step-by-step approach such as an existing journey planner app that is supplemented with additional transport modes, offers with information, booking, and ticketing options that are integrated into existing platforms. It is also possible to achieve an open-platform approach, in which the MaaS application from different providers retains access to a common MaaS platform as a basis, with various brandings and the respective front ends remaining. This means that not every traffic provider will be required to adopt the same configurations and the depth and scope of integration can be tailored to the requirements of each provider.
Real examples of MaaS in action
Some notable examples of successfully implemented MaaS services include European leaders such as Helsinki, Vienna, and Hanover who have done incredibly well in promoting connected, intelligent, and green mobility for its citizens. Let’s take a look at a few ways in which MaaS has been implemented as a way of improving services and mobility, assisting citizens of those cities in their day-to-day travel.
Helsinki aims to promote multi-modal mobility with a click
Helsinki was among the first to introduce integrated, multi-modal travel as a way of meeting the needs of its inhabitants. The Finnish capital developed an application called Whim, allowing travelers to organize their trips, quickly switching between any mode such as cab, metro, light rail, bus, car, or bicycle. The app combines a variety of functionalities for increased convenience for its residents, whether that’s locating transit stations and vehicles, checking schedules, and availability, or receiving guidance on all aspects of their journey. Users can book, pay, and validate trips, and tickets (including seasonal tickets for each mode of transport), through a variety of packages and subscriptions that best suit their needs.
Vienna emphasizes green mobility that’s affordable, integrated, and convenient
Vienna is a city that is very focused on ecological transport, giving priority to pedestrians, with multiple cycling paths throughout the city and restrictions on cars from the city center. Public transportation is almost entirely electric, and residents describe it as “reliable, well-maintained, and safe”. In 2017, the Austrian capital launched Wien Mobil, an application consisting of an annual subscription that costs 365€ to spend 1€ per day on mobility. The app allows travelers to locate different mobility services close to them, such as public transportation, self-service bicycles, car-sharing, cabs, and scooters as well as check the availability of parking spaces. Wien Mobil organizes travel in a multimodal way and is very useful in managing trips, which is why one-third of Viennese people are avid users of the application.
Hannover prioritizes accessible mobility for its citizens
The city of Hannover in Germany, on the other hand, has looked at MaaS as a way of making urban mobility accessible to all of its residents. In 2016, the city launched its MaaS application called “Mobilatsshop” or “Mobility Shop” through the combined efforts of the GVH transport authority and a public transport operator (Ustra). The app allows access to various public transport services, car-sharing services, and cabs, calculating the best routes through any mode of transit. This includes bicycles, public transport, cabs, VTC, scooters, or rental cars. Travelers can book their trip by choosing their means of transport and paying directly on the application which is accessible to people who have an annual pass for public transport. Today, the application is accessible to everyone at the affordable price of 9.95€, covering all transportation modes in the city.
As government authorities move from regulating transport as a sector to regulating transport as a service, they will be presented with a new set of challenges regarding the careful planning, integration, and execution of MaaS. They will need to recognize the balance of priorities in emerging transportation trends and act as facilitators of partnerships, enablers of innovation, and protectors of cities and people’s interests, ensuring a future where MaaS and cities operate in synergy while keeping a healthy balance of shared vehicles on roads.