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It’s good to share: Open data will drive the MaaS revolution

Quality, real-time data will be critical to making MaaS a reality, says Johan Herrlin, CEO, Ito World.

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Attitudes towards urban mobility are changing rapidly – you only have to look at the recent findings in the 2017 British Social Attitudes Survey to see that people are more willing to embrace public transportation and shared mobility services – the proportion of people who say they never travel by train or bus has reduced in the past 10 years.

 

What’s more, opposition to taking the bus over short car trips has also declined, with the number of respondents disagreeing or strongly disagreeing that “many of the journeys of less than two miles that I now make by car I could just as easily go by bus” falling from 45% in 2006 to 38% in 2017.

 

The big revolution

 

These changing perceptions form part of the big revolution we are currently seeing in transportation – most notably, a significant shift from privately owned modes of transport towards consuming transportation as a service.

 

Mobility as a Service (MaaS) – as it’s commonly known – has been heralded by many as having the potential to transform our society for the better over the next few decades. It will transform the way people and goods move from place to place, through multi-modal, multi-sector transportation options, and reduce the dependency on privately owned vehicles. MaaS will be enabled by blending both public and private transportation providers across multiple modes of transportation, and the provision of a single-access interface for managing trips. The results from this recent survey show that the public is becoming more than willing to embrace these alternative modes of transport.

 

However, while the softening of attitudes towards shared mobility solutions is encouraging, it is important that this is backed up with a more customer-centric approach from operators, through improved responsiveness to demand and passenger information the user can trust.

 

A customer-first approach

 

In a world where transport is now available at the touch of an app, operators have to re-think the way they deliver services in order to meet customer expectations. Public transport needs to evolve to achieve a customer experience that fits with the rise of on-demand and shared economy models – and this is where accurate data in real-time proves to be invaluable.

 

"Public transport needs to evolve to achieve a customer experience that fits with the rise of on-demand and shared economy models – and this is where accurate data in real-time proves to be invaluable."

 

This data-driven approach is already impacting the humble bus service, for example. At present, bus operators follow a rigid structure with fixed stops, routes and schedules. This, however, does not necessarily meet the needs of the modern-day rider. Tech-driven disruptors such as Uber and Lyft offer a much more demand-responsive, flexible service for customers and, as such, traditional bus operators now have to look to data for the answer to keep up and compete with the new players.

 

We’ve seen first-hand the value data can offer, once initial reservations are overcome. Arriva and Go Ahead, two of the UK’s largest national bus operators, made their real-time bus data more accessible to potential consumers by opening it up to one of the largest journey planning apps in the world, Google Maps. By doing so, both operators significantly increased their reach and ridership.

 

Furthermore, the UK Buses Minister recently launched a consultation to legally require operators to share their data so passengers can get real-time information on routes, timetables and fares to ensure that passengers have the information they need, when they need it, regardless of their location and the company running the service.

 

Openness pays

 

More open data is, without a doubt, key to making MaaS happen. However, we’ve seen that governments and organisations around the world have struggled in deciding which types of data are appropriate to share with the public and what risks, real and perceived, might be associated with opening up access to data. There are some very real issues at play, relating to costs, privacy and security.

 

However, it does seem as though the tide is starting to turn in many parts of the world. The open data movement has been shown many times over to have an overwhelmingly positive return on investment. In the transport sector, this is especially true since transport systems are inherently highly complicated. Accurate data is critical to their efficient operation and the public need to know which transport options are available to them, based on where they are at any particular time, in order to choose the optimal mode and route.

 

Another challenge is getting public transportation data to be as complete and accurate as possible to support MaaS solutions. MaaS providers need transit data that accurately reflects the real-life customer experience as closely as possible. By working with data experts who can leverage open and proprietary data to improve and augment real-time data, authorities and operators can deliver a single integrated real-time feed for entire cities across the globe.

 

These data feeds can then be used to power some of the largest journey planners in the world as well as emerging MaaS providers.

 

People are willing to embrace alternative modes of transport so now it’s up to transport agencies and authorities to meet their expectations and deliver the accurate information needed for effective journey planning. Quality data, in real-time, will be critical to delivering the ultimate customer experience and making MaaS a reality.

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