How Local and Regional Transit Authorities are Embracing MaaS: A Global Review

By Scott Shepard, Chief Business Officer, Iomob Technology Services


Introduction

Mobility as a Service (MaaS) has become a word synonymous with the sharing economy. In a world of massive disruption, based upon environmental, economic, social, and cultural shifts, the trend towards sharing (whether it be housing, transportation, or other commodities) is increasing at a rapid pace. In light of this trend towards sharing, mobility is a key component in understanding our consumer habits, needs, and preferences. We are starting to see a shift within the mobility domain away from the desire for single car ownership. The explanations are many, but in a digitalized, shared, and on demand society, the requirement of owning your own automobile has diminished in the priorities of one’s lifestyle.

Given this massive shift in how we view mobility and move across (and between) cities, there has been a surge in investment from Silicon Valley and China into the mobility ecosystem, from carsharing, to ridehailing, to micromobility. Investors and startups have recognized that the previous ways of movement are no longer relevant, given rapid urbanization, personal and cultural changes, and environmental considerations. As we move towards a shared economy in a highly urbanized context, the need for public transportation has never been greater. Given this recognition of the role that public transportation is to play now and into the future, it is important to understand how new technologies will enable movement in and across cities, as well as provide an enabler for people to no longer choose single car ownership and participate in this paradigm shift.

MaaS is a digitalized platform that connects all forms of mobility (including public transportation) within a single app environment. The ability to find (discover), book (reserve) and pay within a single app, along with constructing your entire journey door to door in a seamless manner is a path that many providers and developers are currently undertaking. Public transportation agencies are also recognizing the central role they play in this technical ecosystem, and are looking to position themselves in a manner that integrates all new forms of mobility in an urban context.

The purpose of this paper is to analyze and provide best practices into how local and regional transit authorities are embracing MaaS on a global scale. The paper will primarily focus on the following three areas:

Purpose and Objective

1. Formal assessment of the opportunities and barriers to implementing a multi-modal MaaS journey with payment systems across local and regional transit authorities

2. Lessons learned on a global and national (United States) scale, and

3. Recommendations for fostering an environment for a successful long-term, sustainable multi-modal journey with payment system

MaaS Spectrum: A Consideration for PTAs

A key variable to be considered by Public Transit Authorities (PTAs) is the “openness” of MaaS platforms and apps. As PTAs look to explore specific technologies and business models, it is important to understand that there is a wide spectrum of MaaS, as can be seen below:

1. Private MaaS

Private MaaS is by definition a platform that is a walled garden, meaning that only services that are within the closed ecosystem of the MaaS provider and are pre-approved are allowed to operate and become available to consumers in the app. For example, in this case only bikes or scooters that were part of the same corporate organizational structure (as the MaaS provider) would be allowed in the platform, blocking any competitor MSPs from being able to integrate and display on the app for consumer comparison. As can be derived from this perspective, this prevents consumers from making informed decisions related to their daily (and personal) mobility choices.

2. Hybrid MaaS

Hybrid MaaS takes a middle path in the ecosystem, and can from the outside seem to promise anything and everything at the same time. Notable examples are Business to Consumer (B2C) MaaS platforms developed commercially for consumers, yet at the same time repackaged as frameworks for PTAs and cities. The key difference between a Hybrid MaaS and a Public MaaS is that Hybrid MaaS platforms retain a direct relationship with the consumer, which is sort of a mix between a B2C and B2G business model. These are developed to be deeply integrated with available public transport and MSPs and offered directly to consumers in subscription plans. However, PTAs and cities lose the direct consumer relationship (as in Private MaaS) because model split (e.g. who rides a taxi vs. a scooter vs. a train) are bundled together in a fashion that can conflict with the primary policy goals of public authorities, who are tasked with delivering urban public transport services in the first place.

3. Public MaaS

Public MaaS, as the name implies is a carefully orchestrated Business to Government (B2G) platform that places cities and PTAs in the central orchestrating role of delivering shared mobility services to all urban inhabitants. This form of MaaS has been gaining quite a bit of attention in the past year, as there have been multiple deployments across Europe, most notably in Berlin (with the Jelbi app developed by Trafi). While Public MaaS places cities and PTAs in the center of the MaaS ecosystem, what is lacking is a ubiquitous, roaming functionality that enables consumers to benefit from a user experience that is frictionless and will thus increase app “stickiness” (users staying within one app, and not jumping to external apps).

4. Web 3.0 MaaS

Web 3.0 Internet of Mobility is a vision that offers ubiquitous, decentralized, multi city urban mobility. What differentiates Web 3.0 from Public MaaS is not a particular implementation of MaaS sponsored by an organization. Instead, Web 3.0 provides a base infrastructure for any player to provide mobility services, or to offer those services directly to consumers via an app. Web 3.0 thus accommodates and enables all the previous approaches (private, hybrid, public) with subscription or pay-as-you-go models.

MaaS Opportunities and Barriers: A Global Survey of Local and Regional Transit Authorities

Public transit authorities (PTAs) across the globe, ranging from local to regional systems are starting to take an active role in implementing specific use cases and components of MaaS. Including functionalities such as stand alone journey planning apps, complex multi modal routing algorithms, deep mobility service provider (MSP) integration, and complete booking and payments, PTAs are exploring how MaaS can be leveraged to boost ticket sales, ridership, fulfill policy goals, and remain competitive in an ever-changing, disruptive mobility landscape.

Below is a survey of five PTAs across the globe, exploring their MaaS implementations and discovering how their experience can be relevant to other agencies looking to deploy similar systems in their service areas.

Denver, Colorado

Denver Regional Transit District (RTD) is the regional agency operating public transit services in the Denver-Aurora-Boulder Combined Statistical Area in Colorado. It operates over a 2,342 square mile area, serving 3.08 million people (1). RTD has chosen to take an approach to MaaS that actively integrates ridehail and other on demand services as a key component of its services offering to its passengers. Given RTDs experience with the low usage of its previous white label branded journey planning and ticketing app, it chose to take a different approach. This approach could be considered a Private MaaS.

In this model RTD signed a non exclusive agreement with Uber (in partnership with Masabi and Moovit) to provide the ability for consumers to book and pay for tickets on RTD bus and light rail lines directly in the Uber app. Uber has launched an aggressive marketing campaign in Denver (and across the United States) to promote its brand as providing the ability to book and pay for tickets within its app, and become a “partner” of public transit.

Downtown Denver — Figure 1

However, this has raised many questions and concerns from other PTAs in the ecosystem, and now potentially pose as barriers to MaaS . The concerns center around privacy, control, and the role of PTAs. If a privatized MaaS app becomes the de facto white label for public transport, how does that affect the PTA in delivering services to its passengers? How is personal data protected in such an environment? And finally, how can PTAs retain the direct relationship with its passengers and not lose control, given its legislative mandate.

Many questions remain unanswered, but the Public MaaS model seen in Denver appears to be taking hold primarily in North America, through a similar non exclusive arrangement with PTAs and municipalities.

Berlin, Germany

Berlin has chosen to take a diametrically opposite approach to Denver when it comes to the implementation of MaaS in its urban region. The Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG) is the main public transport company of Berlin (2). It manages the city’s U-Bahn underground railway, tram, bus, and ferry networks. BVG recently undertook a complex implementation of B2G Public MaaS, with the unveiling in mid 2019 of the Jelbi app, developed by Trafi (Lithuania). The Jelbi MaaS app can be consider a Public MaaS, as it deeply integrates MSPs into the platform, along with BVG bus, rail, and tram for complete journey planning, discovery, registration, booking, and payments within the app.

Berlin — River Spree and Alexanderplatz — Figure 2

While the Jelbi app has demonstrated increased passenger usage and interest, there is always the question of complete availability. That is, it’s a challenge for PTAs to recruit and deeply integrate all available MSPs in an urban mobility ecosystem, and that has been proven to be the case here. So even in a Public MaaS, which puts the PTAs at the center of the mobility orchestration, who is to form the commercial agreements with each MSP? The PTA? The MaaS provider? A third party integrator?

While Public MaaS shows much promise in placing PTAs in the proverbial “drivers seat”, it is yet to be seen if this a commercially sustainable business model for MaaS providers and PTAs, and how will platforms such as these scale across geographies and modes of mobility in the years to come.

Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon with the advent of Web Summit, has become the startup hub of Europe. With this increased attention, the Camara Municipal de Lisboa — Lisbon City Hall (CML) has chosen to position the city as a test lab for all forms of mobility, ranging from carshare to micromobility. The city recent won the 2020 European Green Capital Award, and will be showcasing the 2020 ITS European Congress (3).

In light of this, CML is in the process of developing a “Mobility Data Catalog” which identifies the taxonomy, rules, infrastructure, and modes of mobility to operate within the city. In conjunction with this, CML has developed an open dialog with all MSPs that seeks to test and operate in the city. As such, MaaS has become an increasingly important topic in the city, and CML has chosen to allow MaaS providers to plug into the ecosystem and develop / test their own apps, by connecting to open APIs provided by local PTAs such as Carris (bus) Lisbon Metro, and Fertagus (commuter rail).

Lisbon — Castelo Sao Jorge — Figure 3

This open approach allows the city to closely analyze business models, technological solutions, and platforms which could later be deployed on a regional basis. While this may ultimately morph into a Public MaaS to be deployed by the city (in partnership with PTAs), for now it is a pragmatic approach which seeks to first develop the framework, analyze solutions, and roll out a larger platform after enough data and performance is analyzed and assessed.

Singapore

McKinsey’s Urban Transportation Report ranks Singapore’s transport system as the world’s best overall based on five criteria — availability, affordability, efficiency, convenience, and sustainability (4). Singapore also has one of the most cost-efficient public transport networks in the world, according to a study by London consulting firm Credo (5). In light of an excellent backbone public transport network, Singapore was also named the “World’s Smartest City” in 2019 by Juniper Research. These are no small achievements, and speak to the decades of careful urban planning, design, and development which have resulted in such a sustainable role model.

Currently there are four public bus operators — SBS Transit, SMRT Buses, Go-Ahead Singapore and Tower Transit Singapore — the last two starting their operations in the city with the transition to the bus contracting model. Since 2016, the bus fleet has increased by 96, with 15 new services added, and 75% of the bus services are less crowded in peak hours (6).

Singapore has chosen to leverage its excellent built environment and physical infrastructure to enable an open marketplace for multiple journey planning and MaaS apps, which have recently launched over the past two years. A more MaaS-friendly environment would be difficult to find, and the world’s smartest city enabled a city-wide Hybrid MaaS B2C app, Zipster. Zipster is the product of Singaporean start-up company MobilityX which was seed-funded by the country’s leading rail operator SMRT (7).

Singapore Harbor — Figure 4

Zipster provides a single point of access to all modes of transport across the main island from the train, metro and bus companies to privately-owned services such as taxis or car-, bike-. scooter- and even bus-sharing. Privately owned transport services such as the taxis or bike-, scooter- and car-share, are deep-linked through the app so those wanting access to first/last mile options are diverted to the individual website to summon a cab or reserve a bicycle (8).

While transit-rich environments (such as Singapore) hold promise for MaaS platforms and applications, are they scalable? Certainly not every city is a Singapore, and each region has its unique circumstances in which to consider. As Singapore is a tightly integrated city-state with close cooperation between its public agencies, MaaS on the surface appears to be easy. But it’s yet to be seen if an open, B2C Hybrid MaaS model such as this can solve urban mobility challenges across the globe.

MaaS Lessons Learned

There are unique lessons learned with each MaaS deployment and implementation across the globe. However, what we are seeing is a trend towards several challenges which can be seen across the entire ecosystem. Below is an overview of the lessons learned and benchmark experience which can be used in further identifying technical and functional requirements necessary to deliver MaaS platforms to consumers in a manner that is equitable, open, and accessible.

1. App Stickiness

This is a term that is related tousergrowth such as app vitality, for instance, which is really just an indicator that a mobility platform is acquiring customers at a faster rate than it is losing them. High adoption means a shared mobility platform keeps more of what it catches and is “stickier” and more vital. Customer Experience is the key to the adoption (and consumer retention) of new shared mobility services. By providing a seamless platform that integrates all primary functionalities, it has been proven that customers will more likely interact with and continually utilize (and return to) such platforms.

2. Data Quality and Access

Many new MaaS digital platforms have been developed that “fetch” shared mobility data (typically in MDS and GTFS formats) and bundle into intuitive dashboards which municipalities and PTAs can utilize to monitor and enforce MSPs within MaaS environments. As such, MaaS Data quality and accuracy is imperative for such new opportunities to succeed in the long term. In order to enrich the environment that governments (and large corporates) require with regards to understanding the mobility patterns on a city scale, GDPR-compliant and anonymized historical and real time data can empower regulators (and data scientists) with the insights required to understand the complete mobility picture.

3. Integrated Payments

Based upon user research conducted by Six Fingers for the Renfe as a Service RailMaaS pilot app in Spain, it has been identified that consumers appreciate the ability to make a one-click purchase of their entire door-to-door journey, simplifying the payment experience. The ability to enable a one-click door-to-door capability for travel experience is key to user adoption.

4. Modularized Journeys

MaaS consumers like to discover, book and pay for their mobility journey (especially intercity), in advance. Users like the ability book and pay for their advance rail ticket, then immediately book or plan their first and last mile. Also, the ability to store their ticket and add connections at a later time is a critical feature . MaaS solutions offering this combination of advance and just-in-time booking will increase consumer adoption of MaaS platforms.

MaaS Recommendations for Success

In order for MaaS to be a success on a local and regional scale, there are many domains to consider which will allow public transport agencies and operators to quickly scale and demonstrate success to consumers, passengers, and mobility stakeholders. These recommendations encompass technical and policy changes that regulators and agencies can look to consider for implementation.

1. Open Platforms and Data

Constructing MaaS platforms that are consumer centric and consider the role of PTAs are one of the most effective ways to demonstrate success. How this can be accomplished is by developing Public MaaS platforms that take into account openness. Openness regarding access and data is a key component. As described earlier, by constructing MaaS platforms that actively recruit and integrate the highest number of MSPs, consumers will appreciate the ability to choose an compare their available options. PTAs and cities that encourage policies or issue public tenders to require open data from MSPs and full access to all providers boosts the relevance of MaaS usage in the mobility ecosystem.

2. Flexible Business Models

Business models that encourage flexibility for both PTAs and MSPs guarantee the highest chance of commercially sustainable success. By structuring contracts and agreements between MaaS platforms, MSPs, and PTAs to collectively achieve long term mobility policies goals that cities seek to implement are key to success. Specifically, traditional B2C business models that solely focus on user acquisition prove to be a challenge for for MaaS platforms to effectively monetize. More flexible B2B / B2G business models that focus on long term OpEx SaaS subscription fees passed from MaaS platforms to PTAs / cities hold more promise. By allowing PTAs and MSPs to share in increased revenues due to increased usage, this promotes success for all stakeholders.

3. Reduce Friction

Reducing friction is one of the most important important recommendations for success in MaaS. By removing the frictions that consumers experience in using apps to navigate cities and switch modes of mobility, an increased adoption in MaaS will occur. These frictions include: juggling multiple apps, fixed (non real time) journey planning and routing, lack of notifications, difficult in app payment experiences, and light MSP integration. Consumers will more quickly adopt MaaS platforms and perhaps experience a behavioral shift away from their personal vehicles in a reduction of the pain points as part of their daily journeys. PTAs and cities can reduce this friction in the MaaS ecosystem by requiring MSPs to openly share their data for location and payments, as part of the permit to operate in their cities. This approach ensures a level playing field, so PTAs can provide a landscape that encourages the best MaaS platforms to develop fully integrated apps (Hybrid or Public MaaS) for their consumers and passengers.

Conclusion

PTAs and cities hold the key to ensuring the success of MaaS in the future. By understanding what works and what doesn’t, PTAs can leverage best practices deployed across the globe, structure sustainable business models, create open and competitive mobility marketplaces, and encourage MaaS platforms to develop apps and solutions that boost public transit ridership and promote mode shift away from personal vehicles.

References
  1. “Denver RTD Services” https://www.rtd-denver.com/services Retrieved 2019–12–19
  2. “About Berlin BVG” https://www.bvg.de/en/Willkommen Retrieved 2019–12–19
  3. “Lisbon European Green Capital Award Winner”  https://ec.europa.eu/environment/europeangreencapital/lisbon-is-the-2020-european-green-capital-award-winner/ Retrieved 2019–12–17
  4. “Transport in Singapore”  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transport_in_Singapore Retr eved 2019–12–18
  5. “Transport in Singapore”  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transport_in_Singapore Retrieved 2019–12–18
  6. “Singapore Aims to Set MaaS Benchmark”  https://www.itsinternational.com/sections/transmart/features/singapore-aims-to-set-maas-benchmark/ Retrieved 2019–12–17
  7. “Singapore Aims to Set MaaS Benchmark”  https://www.itsinternational.com/sections/transmart/features/singapore-aims-to-set-maas-benchmark/ Retrieved 2019–12–17
  8. “Singapore Aims to Set MaaS Benchmark”  https://www.itsinternational.com/sections/transmart/features/singapore-aims-to-set-maas-benchmark/ Retrieved 2019–12–17

Will 2020 be a breakout year for MaaS? To read more about the topic, check out these UMDaily articles:

Mobility Startups Want to Take Advantage of MaaS Platforms, But Are They Mature Enough?

Public Transit, Go MaaS Yourself!

Mobility as a “Public” Service in Cities

About the Author:

Scott Shepard is an urbanist & mobility visionary, C-level executive, board member, advisor, strategist, thought leader, and influencer who is passionate about the intersection of cities, mobility, and innovation. He is a frequent global keynote speaker on shared mobility trends & disruption, OEM innovation & investments, future mobility tech, and urban public policy. His writing about cities and mobility has been published in Intelligent Transport Magazine, Smart Cities World, Auto Futures, the Urban Mobility Daily, Medium, & Transportes em Revista.