This article was written for CityChangers.com by Rita Prior Filipe, a PhD student at the Advanced Automotive Propulsion Systems Centre for Doctoral Training at the University of Bath, UK. Rita is currently researching the concept of Mobility as a Service as a way of contributing towards a mobility network that is integrated, accessible, and sustainable. We thank Rita for her contribution.
Through the urban dimensions it touches upon, I want to introduce you to the concept of Mobility as a Service (MaaS) and reaffirm it as the solution to tackle the decarbonisation of transport as well as the needed contribution towards a sustainable transport network: socially- economically- and environmentally. This article aims to prove, by balancing both benefits and barriers to its implementation, that it has the potential to change the way we plan, manage, and monitor transportation.
What is MaaS?
“Multimodal and user-centric by nature, MaaS may very well have the potential to provide an attractive and efficient alternative or addition to private car use and to promote a shift towards sustainable transport modes and a more efficient use of transport networks.”ERTICO – ITS Europe
There is a significant amount of complementary scientific definitions for MaaS, but simply put it stands for having an app on your phone containing integrated and multimodal transport options available to help you get from one place to another. This app should contain several supporting functions such as paying and ticketing options as well as a trip planning assistant.
What are the Benefits?
The MaaS White Paper predicts that, when well implemented, MaaS could introduce the following benefits:
- On the environment, with a significant increase in air quality due to the increase in the modal share of public and/or shared transportation leading to an improvement in air quality and congestion.
- On the transportation network, through offering a mobility service that is tailored to the citizens, therefore reaching out to a wider audience and by using customers preferences to help with mobility management and planning within the city (e.g., public transport timetables).
- In society, by facilitating mobility between excluded areas (suburban and rural) and being adapted to a variety of demographics. It also intends to offer people opportunities to change the way they travel to more active transport modes and walking.
- In business and policy, by introducing new business models as well as creating or strengthening the collaboration between all stakeholders involved, from policymakers to transport providers.
A few trials have already been implemented, with the most successful ones to date being in Sweden (UbiGo) and in Finland (Whim), where participants reported to decrease drastically the use of their personally owned vehicles due to the existing offer of public and shared transportation being robust enough to satisfy their needs. Furthermore, it was verified that user satisfaction with the transport options available during the trial increased and felt encouraged to adopt a healthier lifestyle by using active modes of transport (e.g., bicycles) and walking more.
What are the Challenges?
Even though this concept sounds promising there are still some barriers and challenges to its implementation:
- On the environment, if people use the service incorrectly by making more use of car rental and sharing services it will provoke the opposite effect and decrease air quality by increasing the number of cars on the road.
- On the transportation network, it is imperative that ALL modes of transport are integrated and all stakeholders on board with the service.
- In society, by being implemented only in big urban areas and discrediting vulnerable demographics and leaving out geographically secluded areas.
- In business and policy, by being a new mobility service that is not yet regulated market- and policy-wise, because there is still a lack of knowledge and understanding.
Steps Cities Could Take Towards MaaS Implementation
How can we make use of this concept to our advantage? How can we seize the benefits and opportunities its implementation may provide to our mobility and minimise or defeat the inherent barriers and challenges?
- To prepare for the future, it is always a good starting point to draw on past experiences – in this case, to collect evidence from existing trials on what went well and what went wrong and why that happened.
- The next step should be to characterise the area (urban, rural, both), the population (age, gender, socioeconomic status).
- Data on the transportation passport of the area is crucial: travelling patterns and demand, what are the existing transport modes and provider companies.
- What do we, as a city, have on our side in terms of transport regulation? Is it updated, is there something that needs to be changed or drafted to accommodate a new mobility service such as this one?
- Let’s talk! Create a consortium with the needed stakeholders (policymakers, transport planners, transport providers, user-representative group) and start drafting implementation plans. What are the needed partnerships? How can we ALL benefit from this?
- Provide financing to smaller MaaS implementation stages. Start gradually with smaller-scale projects that will be a part of a bigger one: full-scale MaaS implementation.
It is crucial to bear in mind the following golden rules:
- Throughout an implementation such as this one, constant monitoring and reassessment of the plan will be needed.
- The goal is to increase equality and access to a sustainable transport network; therefore, it is crucial to listen to the service users’ requirements and answer them as best as possible.
- Everyone is needed and can make a change if they’re focused on promoting the much-needed change in transport. Close collaboration and cooperation among the stakeholders should be fostered.
Therefore, careful consideration, planning and monitoring are needed while being implemented. Furthermore, it is crucial to assess the current situation as well as define the goals for the future mobility network.