Smart Transport

The issue and options of the MaaS movement

The Urban Transport Group (UTG) represents the seven strategic transport bodies serving the 20 million residents of Greater Manchester, Liverpool, London, Sheffield, Tyne & Wear, West Midlands and West Yorkshire. 

It has issued a report looking at the challenges facing anyone involved in public transport, planning, policy or operations and, as a result, has attempted to outline a framework within which smarter transport solutions might evolve. 

And a framework is all it can offer. Because, however many headlines it generates, Mobility as a Service (MaaS) remains a fluid concept that means different things to different stakeholders.

To a local government transport planner, it could be the panacea to decades of underinvestment in local transport infrastructure; to the taxicab operator, it could symbolise an opportunity to switch to electric vehicles (EVs) and steal a march on competitors; to the venture capitalist, it could be an opportunity to get in at ground level on the next phase of the tech boom.

In truth, MaaS could be all of these things. Or none. 

One of the biggest problems with MaaS lies in the woolliness of the concept.

The UTG defines MaaS as: “A suite of services which provide access to information on, and payment for, different options for making journeys.”

It says authentic MaaS solutions cab be characterised by a handy acronym – CASE:

Connected

Autonomous

Shared

Electric

It goes on to offer some suggestions on what real MaaS solutions should look like by setting out five tests for ‘good’ MaaS:

1. Does it incentivise public transport use?

2. Does it help reduce congestion and pollution?

3. Is it socially inclusive? 

4. Is there a culture of openness and data sharing?

5. Does it encourage active lifestyles?

The economic prize

According to ABI research, global MaaS revenues will exceed US$1 trillion (£777 billion) by 2030, while transport data and new mobility services will represent a global market of around £224bn.

The report explodesa few of the myths around MaaS by gently explaining what MaaS isn’t.

MaaS isn’t: A ‘silver bullet’ solution to decades of under-investment and feeble regulation of public transport infrastructure: rail privatisation and deregulation of the buses are cited as unique challenges to UK transport planners which aren’t as much of a challenge to their continental counterparts:

MaaS isn’t: An enhanced transport information and ticketing service: although efficient distribution of real-time travel information is a vital component of any wider MaaS offer, expecting travellers to rely on a smartphone app could exclude older, less tech-savvy travellers.

MaaS isn’t: A bolt-on service to a private car for when car owners don’t feel like driving: a fully comprehensive MaaS offer could mean that ownership of private vehicles is no longer necessary for more people and customers’ mobility needs are instead provided by a range of services through a single platform.

Data and Regulation

Comprehensive MaaS requires the free flow, exchange and standardisation of the data required to drive a responsive platform, yet this often sits uncomfortably with competitive private sector transport providers and raises concerns over security and privacy. This suggests that an independent regulatory authority is necessary to oversee data standards.

“There are also issues around how the impartiality of information about travel options is maintained as well as whether or not the information provided reflects wider public policy goals – including promoting active travel (to improve public health), tackling air quality challenges and reducing carbon emissions,” says the report.

Read Mark Sutcliffe's full article on the options of MaaS movement from the Smart Transport Journal

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