For most people in the transport industry over the past five years, MaaS would be a term mentioned in an in-depth discussion, closely followed by a definition and what the concept brings to a modern mobility system. In response, there might be at least 90 different views and proposals. This is why the ERTICO-hosted platform MaaS Alliance, created in 2015, presents a comprehensive definition of what MaaS actually is. The aim is to move the discussion on to one of concrete understanding of this well-known acronym that has taken transport communities and interested professionals by storm.
The truth is that the MaaS phenomenon was a long anticipated innovation in rethinking mobility in the (smart) cities of the 21st century. Today’s passengers, needs, behaviours and priorities are very different to the ones of the golden age of the mid-twentieth century automotive industry, which was when most of the current road and public transport systems were designed and deployed.
Often, we hear that MaaS can only survive in an integrated framework whereby a number of pillars/players come together with a common goal, offering a sustainable and profitable transport solution. This framework is sometimes called the MaaS ecosystem, as it still has an undefined number of entities and can’t be easily positioned and angled. The next obvious question is – what are the elements of MaaS and how are they interlinked? What are the pillars and who are the players?
Let’s start with the existing city (and rural and inter-urban) environments. The backbone of any successful mass transit solution is an open, relatively affordable and safe public transport service. Ideally, it should include an integrated ticketing system. MaaS is the upgrade to the legacy of 20th century transport systems that complements and does not compete with the public transport system of a city, region or a country. It is definitely a very much required upgrade that can adapt mobility services to the needs and behaviours of its users or passengers.
These generations don’t see the value of owning an expensive asset such as a car sitting dormant for the most part of the day, when an app on their smartphone is able to deliver the same value and facilitate the fulfilment of a human need to be transported from A to B in the most effective way with minimal cost. The world of transport supply and demand is changing, and MaaS has nearly all the answers to accommodate the change. Although there are still weaknesses, this is the key advantage of MaaS.
ERTICO is presently undertaking a global survey of cities, aiming to interview 300 cities over twelve months as part of the City Moonshot initiative. The full results of the survey will be published at the ITS World Congress in Hamburg in October 2021. What is clear is that the majority of cities’ heads of transport and strategy interviewed almost unanimously agree that the on-demand technology-driven services which continue to expand transport networks, should fall under the responsibility of a mix-in between public authorities and private sector to ensure the right balance of integration. Having said that, we know in a more theoretical, rather than practical sense, that MaaS (as the most representative on-demand transport technology) has the potential to reduce the number of private cars on city’s roads by over 90% while also able to reduce emissions by a third (OECD ITF various Shared Mobility studies).
Commonly, the pillars of the ecosystem are defined as being the users, the MaaS providers and the transport providers. The number of players is however, rather difficult to define. Nothing stops a public authority being an active player in each of the pillars, or in none. More work needs to be done in defining the roles and responsibilities of each of the players, and thus more work needs to be put into agreeing the relevant MaaS policies that will facilitate and encourage MaaS operations. It’s truly encouraging that in a recent public consultation organised by the UK’s Department for Transport, similar questions are being asked. Since the summer, the very first micromobility schemes (e-scooters) are appearing on public roads in the UK, and it’s expected that later this year MaaS deployment will have new impetus, for example in places like Ebbsfleet Garden City regeneration zone, with as part of a shared vision by Ebbsfleet Development Corporation and Kent County Council.
Nonetheless, the Transport Community is still expecting to see many more MaaS schemes and services to be deployed across Europe and the world. The growth and revenue potential is certainly there. A recent study from Juniper Research concludes: “[…] the revenue generated by the use of MaaS (Mobility-as-a-Service) platforms, which integrate different transport services (including buses, taxis, rail and metro) into a single app, will exceed $52 billion by 2027, up from $405 million in 2020”. We can all agree that MaaS has significant value and is a territory that welcomes bold explorers.
At a recent webinar held with panellists from ERTICO Partners DEKRA, the City of Trikala and Ubiwhere, ERTICO discussed the importance of micromobility and its role in MaaS. The panellists indicated that although cities are still coming to terms with micromobility and its supporting measures, such as the provision of designated parking spaces and safety regulations for e-scooters and bicycles, these are already forming part of the offerings supplied by local MaaS providers. Suitable for social distancing, these modes of transport have the ability to enhance the safety aspect of MaaS, essential when implementing measures to cope with pandemics.
ERTICO is at the forefront of European initiatives, has the project know-how and works with a very active network of partners that cover the whole value chain. It is through this partnership and working together in both the private and public sectors, that MaaS can be better defined and come to serve the needs of citizens and cities. The ERTICO Partnership through its innovation and deployment projects is determined to take MaaS forward.