10-May-2017 10:00:00
by James Gooch

What is Mobility as a Service (MaaS)?

If you are involved in the public transport industry, it will not be long before you hear the term MaaS or Mobility as a Service, but what does it really mean and why are people talking about it? Also, how far has the industry come with its adoption and how should it be approached? In this post we share our thoughts on the subject and how a staged approach can both reduce risk, and make urban travel quicker and more convenient, while maximising the use of city transport resources.


The world is becoming more and more connected, from people to everyday objects from your mobile phone and laptop to your car and toaster. A digital revolution is taking place and public transport and the way passengers consume services has not been immune to these changes.


The concept of integrated MaaS holds the promise of enhancing the passenger experience. Essentially, working in a similar way to your phone bill, you pay for what you consume and you consume whatever you need, either via pay as you go or a fixed monthly subscription.


MaaS holds the promise to enhance the way passengers ‘consume’ transport services. The concept links together route planning, ticketing and payments to all modes of transport and transport services. The concept breaks down barriers between modes of transport, operators, ticketing and payments systems and puts it all into one service, providing convenient and seamless journeys for passengers.


To give you an example. In the future, as described by MaaS providers, you will be able to access any mode of transport, both public and private, through one payment service and app. This service will plan your optimal route across all modes of transport to provide the best journey possible using everything from trains to autonomous cars.


The promise of MaaS is an exciting one for passengers and cities alike, helping make urban travel quick and convenient, while also maximising the use of city transport resources.

Where has MaaS been deployed?

Today, we are at very early stages with MaaS. One of the first deployments went live in Hanover in February 2016, bundling together journey planning with public transport and taxi services into a ‘joint mobility bill’. According to a UITP article entitled “A matter of MaaS” in the UITP Public Transport International magazine, volume 66, the take up of the multimodal offering has been slow to date and more work on the offering may be required to increase adoption. Another MaaS offering went live in Finland in late 2016. This offering runs on a monthly subscription basis, instead of Hanover’s monthly pay-as-you-go option. Again, it is still very early days for projects like these.

How to move to MaaS

At Masabi we offer Fare Collection-as-a-Service to public transport authorities and operators around the globe. Essentially, unlimited mobile ticketing capacity, but you only pay for what you use, when passengers use it. In many ways this is very similar to the MaaS concept. In some cases, such as Greek capital Athens, we operate multimode - serving trains, subway and bus services and we also enable riders to link from our ticketing apps to passenger information and transport apps providing a seamless travel experience. We also provide the JustRide SDK which allows other applications to incorporate our market leading mobile ticketing platform into other offerings, providing another avenue to help transport providers move towards a MaaS model.


In the future we believe that MaaS holds the promise for an optimal passenger experience and it is something which the industry should be working toward over the coming years and decades. However, transport organisations must make sure that they are taking the right approach to deploying these advanced mobility services. Full MaaS is as yet unproven and the shape this will take will likely be tailored for different regions, cities and citizens.


There is one school of thought that MaaS should be a top down project where it is deployed within a certain area or city and all services are included from day one. While this may sound great in theory and provide the optimal theoretical outcome, our experience tells us that the reality of launching a service like this is extremely challenging, takes a long time, and can be very expensive - often resulting in launching technology which is out of date by the time it goes live.


We believe a better approach to MaaS is a staged approach whereby a workable solution is deployed as quickly and cost effectively as possible and the offering is then built out over time in stages. This way you can test a service and deploy new services over time adding and prioritising based on passenger need. If 95% of ridership use bus and train services, but only 5% use the cycle hire scheme, then deploying with these modes of transport first allows you to test and prove the concept and adoption, before adding other services.


Although there is no silver bullet we believe this approach provides the most practical and cost effective way for organisation to move to MaaS and at Masabi we are helping agencies and cities along this path.

Written by James Gooch

Head of Marketing at Masabi.
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