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Driving the MaaS conversation forward as the future of transport

Mobility-as-a-service will only be successful if we can all come together to realise a joint vision of ensuring seamless travel for every commuter, says Andy Taylor, Director of Strategy, Cubic Transportation Systems.


To improve transportation in the future, we need to help people get from A to B as easily as possible, whether it’s the quickest, shortest or most economical route they want – all while providing the most convenient and user-friendly traveller experience possible.


This goal may seem simplistic on paper but has traditionally been fraught with a number of challenges, most notably the siloed nature of the transport sector. Private and public bodies have operated independently, rather than in unison, which has ultimately halted the progression of a people-centric network.


This has started to shift through the advent of mobility-as-a-service (MaaS).


Wider collaboration


MaaS is not a new concept. It has been steadily gathering steam in recent years within the transport community, with successful implementation in cities such as Helsinki and Berlin. Ultimately, MaaS is paving the way for more and more cities across the world to have better, faster, more connected and personal transportation methods.


Yet, we need to extend conversations of MaaS beyond government chambers and instead seek wider collaboration from government bodies, transit organisations and private companies to tackle the issue of a fragmented transport system and help carve the path towards a MaaS future.


These discussions are only set to grow in importance, owing to a number of urban, societal and technological factors.


Tackling urbanisation through MaaS transit


One of the biggest drivers for the development of a MaaS future is the rapid urbanisation that is occurring globally. More people are now living in cities and their surrounding areas today than ever before. By 2050, the urban community is expected to grow by 2.5 billion, which means that city dwellers will account for 66 per cent of the world’s population.


Ultimately, more people mean more transit journeys. Increased commuters will put further pressure on transport networks which are already operating at maximum capacity, especially at peak hours.


The better planning and data-sharing needed to drive MaaS solutions will drive benefits in public transportation which should serve everyone better.


Rising city populations will also increase the amount of congestion on our roads as we continue to rely on private car usage. According to Inrix’s 2018 Global Traffic Scorecard, UK drivers lost an average of 227 hours a year due to traffic in 2018.


The success of MaaS in the Nordics which enables users of third-party apps, such as Whim, to access public transportation services all through a single interface, is helping commuters navigate around cities more easily, and make the most of public transport.


Shifting from a ‘me’ to ‘we’ society


Cultural and societal changes are also driving MaaS. In recent years, we have shifted from a ‘me’ to a ‘we’ culture. Today the change in consumer mindset driven by the on-demand economy is apparent. The transportation industry must recognise it is facing a new generation of users, many of whom are affluent, tech-savvy and environmentally conscious, and who have grown accustomed to the immediacy of services.


This shift, particularly among millennials and Generation Z, is encouraging the growth of personalised, flexible and sometimes informal mobility services, such as shared car hire. According to The Economist, car-sharing will reduce car ownership at an estimated rate of one shared vehicle replacing 15 owned vehicles. The likes of Uber and bike-hire services are also increasing in popularity and are now considered a mainstream travel option in many cities.


As such, the aims of MaaS fall neatly in line with current and future commuting trends by combining multiple services into a singular payment service, accessible with just a few clicks or swipes of the fingertips.


Technology also serves as a catalyst to reduce siloes that exist between different transit organisations and bodies.


The better planning and data-sharing needed to drive MaaS solutions will drive benefits in public transportation which should serve everyone better. However, we also need to be mindful that the benefits should be made available to the whole population, not just the tech-savvy mobile phone generations.


An additional benefit of MaaS is its ability to tap into data and provide insight into commuting trends. Through MaaS, transit operators can continue to provide services that are tailored towards travellers and ensure that they have a full range of transit services available to them in completing journeys in the most efficient manner possible.


Cities will also benefit from seeing the end-to-end journey patterns of the user community so they can then try to understand why someone is making a journey and drive this information into better urban planning to make social inclusion more effective.


Capitalising on the technology layer


As exhibited by the success of the MaaS scheme in Helsinki, we have reached a level of technical proficiency that enables MaaS to become a reality on a broader scale. Technology also serves as a catalyst to reduce siloes that exist between different transit organisations and bodies, and to help introduce a legislative framework that encourages collaboration in order to transform commuters’ experiences.


Thanks to significant improvements and adoption of cloud technologies, the transport sector is now in a stronger position to capitalise on a data-sharing ecosystem to create better ticketing and payment services across private and public modes.


MaaS is definitely a big step towards the future, but it will only be successful if we can all come together to realise a joint dream in ensuring seamless travel for all commuters.


Cloud-built data warehousing or data lakes can enable easy data-sharing between relevant parties in real-time and securely. Data will essentially become the language of MaaS and propel more communication from disparate private and public transit bodies.


Data is plentiful and with the right analytics and technology infrastructure to sift through these insights, we can drive actionable information that will transform commuting around a city. This wealth of data is only going to increase as we see more and more connected devices and sensors being adopted across cities, and the transport sector will be a key vertical that could benefit from this. Analysts predict there will be 34 billion IoT devices in 2020.


The IoT could, for example, help transit operators identify railway tracks that need repairing before a problem even occurs, significantly cutting down on train delays. It could help provide detailed and up-to-the-minute information on bus journeys or information about congestion on the road that could delay a potential journey.


Ultimately, all this information can be relayed more accurately to commuters and MaaS can enable them to find alternative routes to help complete their journeys in the quickest way possible.


Honest and open discussion


It is up to us and future generations to enact actions that enable MaaS to serve as the future of our transport.


We already have the tools at our disposal – we now need an honest and open discussion about the underlying role of transportation in our society with all relevant parties. This will enable us to determine what the future of mobility must look like, understand the trends impacting future transport, who it needs to serve and how, as an industry, we can make our vision a reality.


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