Mobility-as-a-Service: Coming to a City Near You Soon…

February 2, 2018

Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) has been defined as:

A combination of public and private transportation services within a given regional environment that provides holistic, preferred and optimal travel solutions, to enable end-to-end journeys paid for by the user as a single charge.

To some this means the end to car ownership and the reliance on public and shared use mobility solutions. To others this is a vision not based in reality which makes wild assumptions about people’s ability and propensity to abandon their cars. The reality is that MaaS-type services will become piece-meal solutions that many will adopt. Solutions such as integrated single payment for complete journeys, linking multiple mobility accounts under a common single transit account, and use of multi-modal planning tools to determine a journey are all a part of the MaaS model. The resulting ecosystem will be an environment where better information and better connectivity help cities and organizations face increasing urbanization and demographic shifts while also providing safe, efficient, and functioning transportation that customers expect.

A number of programs are ongoing globally in the realm of MaaS, with the most prominent being run and organized by MaaS.Global in Helsinki, Finland. Their success has generated global interest in the concept and has also led to massive changes in the way transport data is managed within the country. Changes to Finland’s laws have enabled open data access between transportation providers. This will further enable the MaaS service and allow riders to plan and execute seamless journeys. But setting up this legal framework is only the first step; the next phase will look at integrating passenger data from airports, airlines and ferries to allow journey planning for people coming and going from the country.

This change in the country’s law has enabled MaaS.Global to offer its own subscription based integrated mobility app, Whim. The app allows subscribers access to a variety of transportation options, from taxis to rental cars, to public transport and bike share. The app learns users’ preferences and syncs with their calendars to intelligently suggest ways to get to events. At the start of December, the Whim app offered a new package, Whim Unlimited, the world’s first unlimited travel plan. The subscription offers transit services on all modes of Helsinki’s public transport for a monthly fee of €499, as well as access to unlimited taxi rides under 5km and bike share services (when they come available in Spring 2018). The Whim Unlimited monthly subscription also provides access to rental car service.

Will users switch from paying for a car loan, insurance, car tax, parking fees, etc. that comes out to more than €500 on average if they could have all of their mobility services delivered to them for the same price? Time will tell.

In the interim, the €49 Whim Urban monthly package provides subscribers unlimited use of the Helsinki Public Transport system and a capped rate of €10 for all taxi rides under 10km, as well as car rental available from €49 per day. This lower cost solution has garnered a good amount of interest with over 6,000 people subscribing in the first week alone.

Helsinki is an ideal location to launch MaaS Subscription services for a number of reasons. Not only are the transit services cost-efficient, timely and well regulated, but the taxi services are also regulated and therefore deliver a high quality of service. The geographic location and layout of the city also make delivering combined services in a city the size of Helsinki (pop. 628,000) a relatively easy solution. Helsinki is a major success compared with MaaS.

Global’s second launch site is the West Midlands in the UK, an area with a population in excess of 5.6 million being served by multiple deregulated bus companies, several train operating companies, and a diverse population geographically spread out. West Midlands is also reliant on both public and private transportation and has a GDP per capita well below that of Helsinki. It has yet to be seen if and how this region can embrace MaaS.

There is continuing growth in interest of MaaS in Europe, but the exact solution delivered to the consumer varies on the country, region, and the interpretation of what MaaS is. There are numerous examples such as UbiGo in Gothenburg, Qixxit run by Deutsche Bahn in Germany, Smile in Vienna, and Moovel in Germany. The MaaS Alliance group, formed from ERTICO (ITS-Europe) is spearheading interoperability between these and other solutions in order to focus on common standards, definitions, and data formats. Their reach is now going beyond Europe as more and more private companies, public agencies, and trade associations realize the potential of MaaS.

Transport for New South Wales in Australia recently integrated the privately owned and operated Manly ferry service into their public transportation smart card solution called Opal. This seemingly simple step shows that public and private transportation services can be integrated for the benefit of the end user. Miami-Dade County in Florida is also looking at the concept of a mobility marketplace to centralize access to mobility data. This will allow MaaS services to integrate with a trusted data warehouse, enabling a combination of public and private resources that will deliver mobility benefits to its residents. Finally, in Chicago the integration of bikeshare into the Ventra public transportation account solution again demonstrates the first step towards a MaaS-type solution.

An expansion of MaaS in a number of locations is imminent. It is apparent that there is a desire in many places for better integrated and managed mobility services. These individual examples are demonstrating the customer need and the capability for cities to offer integrated mobility solutions. MaaS may not happen overnight, but the road to MaaS is delivering benefits one step at a time.

The views above are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Eno Center for Transportation.

Learn more about the basics of MaaS with the video below:

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