A MaaS revolution?

Enlighten • Pulse #4 • 5 min
By Lesley Brown By Piia Karjalainen Senior Manager, MaaS Alliance (Finland)

Mobility as a Service is a customer-centric approach to mobility based on the aggregation of transport services within a single interface, most of the time a mobile app. By offering a combination of different real-time on-demand modes on a designated trip, it represents apromising solution for reducing single-occupancy car usage. But can it really revolutionise the way we design, think and use transport? To find out, Pulse caught up with Piia Karjalainen, Senior Manager, MaaS Alliance.

Does MaaS really have the potential to ‘revolutionise’ mobility?

I’m happy with the term ‘revolutionise’ because MaaS is both about changing the way transport is consumed and the way it is provided and managed. It creates opportunities to design not only more user-centric transport systems, but also far more efficient ones. Harnessing a more integrated use of public transport, with shared on-demand modes and even privately-owned vehicles used together in more integrated ways, MaaS aims to optimise resource allocation in relation to demand.
Consequently, public transport authorities can really optimise the management of different transport modes in their specific environment. One major misunderstanding over MaaS that I often come across is the idea that it would require a completely deregulated environment. On the contrary, it calls for new regulatory thinking, with authorities playing a vital role in setting the framework and policy objectives, while still allowing room for innovation. So yes, I think ‘revolution’ is quite apt when talking about MaaS!

What benefits can MaaS bring?

Even in developed countries, the public sector is facing tighter budgetary restrictions. At the same time, inadequate public transport and congestion are often proving an issue. Hence the optimisation MaaS promises is important because we are seeing a growing need to make more efficient use of public resources. And transport in general is a major contributor to carbon emissions.
Although many different measures have been taken to try and cut them and make the sector more sustainable, nothing has really worked, as shown by the year-on-year growth in transport emissions since 1990. By making public transport more attractive and encouraging ridership, MaaS is obviously good news for the environment.

27%
Transport is Europe’s biggest source of carbon emissions, contributing 27% to the EU’s total CO2 emissions, with cars representing 45% of these. Transport is also the only sector in which emissions have grown since 1990, driving an increase in the EU’s overall emissions in 2017.

Source: transportenvironment.org

Who needs to get involved for MaaS to take off?

Many different types of stakeholders, starting with cities and regional authorities responsible for managing and setting the objectives for their transport systems. MaaS also needs private sector partners willing to bring innovations and capital to create the MaaS platforms. These are vital for offering mobility services, via dedicated apps.

As mobility providers, public transport operators clearly play a key role because they offer major mass transit options. In addition, there’s a need for new mobility players, like ride hailing, car sharing, or electric scooter companies, to complete the existing public transport offer, along with others that enable data sharing and technical integration, like IT firms and payment integrators. A change of mindset to see and unlock the potential of collaboration must be carried out by all those actors.

However, my work with the MaaS Alliance has shown me that MaaS is no longer just about these core players. We are seeing growing interest coming from consulting and insurance companies — an indicator of a growing market. They are keen to become part of the ecosystem, seeing it as a new business opportunity for them. Consultancies are eager to demonstrate their expertise in helping both public and private organisations start with MaaS. Insurance firms can help boost the reliability and flexibility of MaaS in two ways: by creating a multimodal passenger protection framework and by offering new travel cancellation options.

Three European projects are exploring different aspects of MaaS:
• MyCorridor
• MaaS4EU
• iMOVE.

What other factors will determine the success of MaaS?

On the technical side, there are two basic enablers. Firstly, availability and sharing of high quality data is a major precondition for the success of MaaS. This means data sets that are precise and mostly in real time. And secondly, service integration enabling mobility services from various parties to be brought together. Here, improving interoperability will be key.

In terms of market rules and regulations, the most important elements are privacy and data sharing. One way to encourage MaaS is to make sure the data is shared in a secure environment. But further innovation is needed to facilitate data sharing.

For MaaS to work we also need to adopt new business and collaboration models allowing profits and risk to be shared on an equal basis. It’s vital that every stakeholder is happy with the model used because you cannot expect anyone to come on board if the platform doesn’t offer them any added value. So public authorities need to see MaaS as a means to improve delivery of their transport policy goals, whilst operators need to see MaaS as a means to drive revenue.

What role do you think public transport authorities should play?

I fully understand that MaaS may be challenging for PTAs since it opens up a completely new operational environment. Cities and regions have traditionally played a strong role in transport policy decision-making and regulation, with responsibilities often including funding of infrastructure, services and procurement.

Today the whole mobility market is evolving much faster and in a less controllable way than before. MaaS is just one example of this change alongside others. Electric scooter services, for instance, can pop up in the streets overnight without authorities necessarily being informed. Obviously, this fast-changing mobility landscape is challenging to navigate. I think mobility decision-makers should focus on defining goals and conditions for MaaS in their region. Public authorities have a key role in defining the collaboration culture between the different MaaS stakeholders and monitoring the market dynamics to anticipate problems and avoid backlashes.

Following a pilot programme in Gothenburg during 2013/14, the Swedish MaaS start-up UbiGo was relaunched in Stockholm in 2018 with platform provider Fluidtime and regional public transport operator Storstockholms Lokaltrafik (SL).

Piia Karjalainen

Piia Karjalainen, Senior Manager, MaaS Alliance (Finland)
After graduating in social sciences, Piia Karjalainen has spent her career in the transport sector. She worked for Finland’s Ministry of Transport, then became a political adviser to the European Parliament. Since 2017, she has led the MaaS Alliance, an international public-private partnership, which promotes the development of MaaS (Mobility as a Service). Piia talks about the exciting prospects ahead with MaaS and the best strategies for delivering them.

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