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Mobility as a Service - the next big idea in transport

Bridget Fox's picture
MaaS: Putting Transit Front and Center of the Conversation

Mobility as a Service is widely discussed as the next big idea in transport. Harnessing technology to offer more travel choices can greatly improve personal mobility – but can we do that without adding to congestion and pollution? A new report, MaaS: Putting Transit Front and Center of the Conversation, from US experts Cubic Transportation Systems has some answers.

Mobility as a Service (MaaS) offers people the ability to access and pay for multiple transport modes in one place. So rather than owning a car, you access car clubs, bike hire, buses etc. through one app or server as and when needed. MaaS is a hot topic in the transport world, and a concept that is still evolving .The House of Commons Transport Committee has a live inquiry to which we’ve given evidence, and a host of providers are competing to define and offer different versions of what MaaS might mean in practice. In particular, motor manufacturers have seized on the potential of MaaS to provide a new market for their vehicles, as the impact of dieselgate continues to hit car sales.

In the midst of this debate, a new report from Cubic is timely and helpful. It switches from an over focus on vehicles towards the goals for any service, arguing that the ultimate function of any well-designed mobility system in a city is to better connect people in a way that improves quality of life.

As its author Matt Cole explains, the report sets out to demystify what MaaS is and crucially makes the case for why public transport must be the backbone of MaaS, and a key contributor to its design and implementation.

Cubic offers a clear and comprehensive definition of MaaS, 'Mobility as a Service is a combination of public and private transportation services within a given regional environment that provides holistic, optimal and people-centred travel options, to enable end-to-end journeys paid for by the user as a single charge, and which aims to achieve key public equity objectives'. That means co-ordination to ensure that MaaS meets common objectives: otherwise, services will remain fragmented and risk undermining, rather than enhancing, a well-connected city.  As new providers join the scene, collaboration, not competition, is the best route to a MaaS offer that works for all.

The report makes a strong case that public transport operators are best suited to lead MaaS implementation, given the level of integration and multi-modal provision many already deliver, as well as their responsibility to provide services that cater to all travellers, not only the agile and the affluent.  Such public-led services can help fill gaps in existing provision and fund new infrastructure investment, a virtuous circle that moves MaaS beyond enabling consumer choice to become a practical way to connect whole cities.

Technology is key to MaaS, providing integrated ticketing and real time travel information. The next generation of smart tickets, with truly integrated access to public and pay-as-you–go private provision, are already being developed. Cubic’s NextCity strategy is one example, offering One Account that integrates all forms of mobility.

Co-ordinated MaaS will enable the capturing of travel data that can continue to shape better service provision and inform better transport choices. As Cole writes: “This would not only drive further efficiency of operations but it would also arm cities with the tools needed to encourage greater social responsibility, extending the benefits from the individual to the community as a whole.”

But technology is only half the story. In increasingly congested and diverse cities, getting the right principles to shape how MaaS works in practice is also critical. 

The report proposes ten key objectives that any future MaaS initiatives should look to achieve:

  • Limit congestion, particularly during peak travel periods
  • Reduce car ownership, car usage and the number of vehicles on roads
  • Use existing infrastructure more effectively and create economies of scale
  • Ease pressure on the transportation network
  • Enable better traffic and capacity management
  • Improve the customer experience by presenting the transportation network as an integrated system
  • Cater to all travellers, young and old, able and less-able, the wealthy and the economically disadvantaged
  • Create a model that supports the funding of infrastructure
  • Lessen the overall environmental impact of transportation
  • Work in both driver-controlled and autonomous environments.

We warmly welcome this positive approach to Mobility as a Service, one with public transport at its heart.  

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