Mobility as a Service could be defining in the future of city transport – ITLS

30th August 2018 By: Marleny Arnoldi - Creamer Media Online Writer

Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) can, when integrated with smart mobility and public transport, provide efficient transport services for city inhabitants, says Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies (ITLS) founder and director and Sydney Business School Professor David Hensher.

Speaking at a discussion hosted by the University of Johannesburg, on Thursday, he said there was an emergence of intermediate modes of transport such as ridesourcing and microtransit, as well as technologies, such as autonomous and connected vehicle technologies.

Hensher explained that the world was moving from an asset-based society, to a use-based society, owing to the sustainability agenda regarding the environment and personal affordability and accessibility.

This reduces automobile dependence and redefines mobility, he stated.

Preconditions for MaaS include Smart Transition, which is already occurring, and digital technology that is delivering better information in real-time.

The smart transition concept that is increasingly prevalent in the lives of city dwellers involves autonomous vehicles and increased sharing of vehicles by private individuals.

MaaS is a combination of public and private transport 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.

MaaS requires the capability to respond to different densities and will incorporate various modes of transport including bus, rail, vehicles and even bicycles.

Hersher noted that an ideal MaaS setting is a single app that integrates all forms of transport, and has capability for bookings and payment.

It preferably would need to have ‘roaming’, which allows users to use the same account to travel worldwide.

Additionally, it should have optimised trip chains – door-to-door transport.

MaaS would work according to a subscription model, or monthly transport plan, that entails paying a fixed monthly price for a number of taxi or bus kilometres. Packages can be specifically designed for companies that arrange transport for employees.

Hensher said MaaS opens up real opportunity for a shift towards the sharing economy, which is already on the rise, where asset ownership such as a car is increasingly unnecessary, provided there is access to preferred modes of transport when required.

People are already using apps such as Uber and Taxify, Jayride, ShuttleBuses, Parkopedia, Hertz, BlaBlaCar, Expedia and goCatch, which supports the notion of MaaS.

MaaS, implemented in one app, should tell us how to get from A to B, list the alternatives according to cost, brand, time, carbon emission and hassle, give information about all transport service providers; it should look the same in all countries and solve the booking and payment problem – driven through credit card and a centralised booking capability.

Forms of mobility (able to be taken up in packages when using MaaS) include walking, driving, cycling, public transport, ride-hailing, carpooling, taxis and limousines, shuttle services, pod-based car sharing, pod-based bike sharing, car rental, free-floating car sharing and free-floating bike sharing.

It should also offer trip planning capability, with agendas and calendars, to offer more value to people, increasing the likelihood of subscribing to MaaS packages.

Packages could, for example, comprise free public transport in the home city area, 100 km for taxi and 100 km for bus, for about €95 a month.

MaaS should be worked into the modal mix of a city, rather than being a substitute for traditional public transport services. Although, it could be integrated, noted Hensher, with government providing a public subsidy.

Hensher sees growth in MaaS contracts, linked to mobility apps. He also predicts that multimodal contract brokers will play an increasing role, and that public transport operators may become providers of all modes, ensuring vehicles are matched to user needs.

“Geographical contract boundaries will disappear, because they create inefficiency and poor services. New mobility regulations will replace mode-specific service contracts.”

He added that pricing for mobility will be market-driven, with a community service obligation built in as appropriate for specific users – it will be a user-side and not provider-side subsidy, such as what is happening with community transport.

Hensher further stated that early adopters for MaaS are likely to be tourists and business travellers, who may be unfamiliar with a city and not have local apps installed to have a preferred service provider.