We live in a sharing economy. People are giving up their desire for exclusive ownership in exchange for accessing a variety of services on demand. Why own DVD’s when you have Netflix? Why shop anywhere else but Amazon Prime when you can get door-door service? Need to exercise? Don’t bother with a traditional gym pass when you can access every workout studio in your neighbourhood through the Class Pass app.
“Technology is paving the way for the subscription economy’s disruption to every industry, and transportation is not immune to this shift,” - Tal Shalit, CEO, Betterez.
What is Mobility as a Service?
MaaS is a subscription service that enables consumers to access a diverse number of transportation options on demand. This concept follows similar ‘as a service’ business models that are transforming industries across every sector, and it provides the best transportation options available to meet a passenger’s need in a given place at a given time.
Imagine hopping on a bike to get to your bus station, where you would then travel to the nearest airport to fly to a city for a same-day business trip. What if that entire trip took less than 90 minutes because you were using the best travel options at that time based on real-time data? Check out this video which illustrates the Future of Mobility.
Why it’s a Smart Move
Consumers are demanding speed, convenience, and access. It’s no surprise that MaaS is gaining popularity across cities around the world.
Cities Face Increasing Pressure From Urbanisation
Population density is rising as is traffic congestion as increasing numbers of private vehicles hit the road. MaaS is being promoted as a more efficient way to move people. The idea is to make alternative transportation options appealing enough so that people are willing to use them over their private vehicles. Perhaps the day will come when people no longer feel the need to own cars, and instead subscribe to MaaS.
It Provides the Most Efficient Travel Option in Real-Time
While a taxi or Uber can pick you up at your doorstep, high fares are a barrier for widespread adoption, and let’s face it, no one wants to deal with the anxiety of getting stuck in traffic. Buses do not provide a door-to-door solution, and neither does rail. For longer distance trips or travellers with mobility limitations, bicycles may not be a suitable option.
No single travel option is ideal for every situation or individual. There is a large degree of disjointedness between these modes of transport, and each has a separate booking platform.
MaaS technology satisfies the need for efficient route planning based on real-time data and travel information. It gives users access to efficient personalized route options based on their past behaviour and real-time location data.
Case Study: MaaS in Finland
Finland’s capital was the first to take MaaS out of testing and into the real world to make it available commercially. It combines smart mobility with public transport to move travellers efficiently around destinations.
Users get access to a journey planner which includes various public and private transport solutions such as bus, taxis, rail, car share, ride share, and metro, where they can select and pay for the smartest option to move around the city.
MaaS apps have been active in Helsinki since 2017. In that time, over three million trips have been booked using these apps. Users get access to both a pay-as-you-go and monthly subscription packages. Users plan and book their trips on an app, and if there is a problem with their chosen method of transport, customer service will source an alternative for them. Considering European cities largely operate on a public transport system in the first place, this app provides users with an efficient and convenient experience.
Possible Limitations of MaaS
In Helsinki, one of the initial setbacks the service experienced was the limited participation of HSL, Helsinki’s public transportation agency. It did not make monthly passes available to users of MaaS apps. Instead, travellers had to make do with the pay as you go option.
Then there is the possibility that MaaS may fail to lower, or even exacerbate, congestion in cities if the discounted taxi option is not limited appropriately. People opt for public transport over taxis due to the affordable price. Bring the price of taxis down enough and ridership in them will increase, thereby negating one of the primary drives behind the movement in the first place.
If MaaS is to work, technology companies, transit providers in both the public and private sectors, and government, need to work together. Of course, while the public sectors may be better funded due to widespread ridership, private sectors may have better technology advantages. The playing field is uneven and providers will have to come to terms with a new way of operating after years in the industry.
How Your Reservations Platform Should Enable MaaS
When it comes to reservations technology, the bus and coach industry are incredibly fragmented. Given the diverse nature of this market, operators and software provider should work together to ensure the platforms used are as open and flexible as possible. Such a platform will give operators and their partners the ability to extend their reservation systems and connect seamlessly to MaaS providers.
Flexible platforms should also allow organizations to sell and operate multiple lines of business all in one platform.
As ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft demonstrate our affiliation towards technology, and ride-sharing services like BlaBlaCar and Carma indicate increasing acceptance of shared transit, it seems that MaaS is the natural direction for mobility to take.
Although it is still going to be a while before it is the ideal ‘car’ service for everyone, based on Helsinki’s success so far and the fact that other cities are following suit means that mobility is ready for the change.