Public Transit, Go MaaS Yourself!

By Pekka Möttö, CEO, Kyyti Group

Dear You, responsible for the public transit in your area, this is a letter for you.

You probably have had a long and prosperous career already and you think you have seen it all. Or you might be a young talent with your head full of fresh ideas and eagerness to put them into action. One thing I’m certain of in both cases: There must be something special in you because you have been put into a position with great responsibility. Responsibility of not only making people’s everyday mobility smooth, but also to meet the sustainability goals which are getting more and more urgent, as you know.

I know you do your best every day. If you are lucky, you already have a well functioning public transport system in your area. You have all the reasons to be proud of your system, great job!

You most probably find it very unfair that many regard you as old fashioned since Uber and others have appeared. You have, for heaven’s sake, built a system that moves millions of people every day and makes it possible for the city to function in the first place. You have all the reasons in the world to find comparisons to these new players unfair. If you didn’t have to bear the overall responsibility, you might as well play around with cool new services not caring about the actual outcome for the whole. It would not be your problem if roads get more congested or the sidewalks fill with two wheeled devices. Your investors would be happy and that’s it. You would be a disruptor and people do love disruptors – not many admit loving the transit authority. Have you thought of learning from these young lions?

Why are these new players so cool? What do they have to justify their reputation? For sure, they have something that did not exist before they appeared. They have stuff that supplements your offering. It may be in some cases, that they have stuff which competes with your offering. All in all you probably are suspicious of their goals. I don’t know if your suspicion is justified, but I have good news for you.

You have access to technologies that enable you to widen your offering in your area. It’s all about integrating new customer oriented flexible elements into your existing service offering. What you need is willingness to rethink your service. Nothing you currently have in place needs to be terminated, something might be replaced by more efficient solutions, but the point is to add new modes of mobility services into your system to make its usability better for the people.

What do you need better usability for? Well, I assume that there are still too many people in your area using their own cars to go around. They have a reason to do so, and that reason is your problem. My guess is that the reason has to do with flexibility and individual freedom. You are likely to have an efficient system in place to serve the main corridors, but too many people have more complex mobility needs and they make the logical choice to use their own cars. I hope you don’t see this as a given, but as a problem.

It is a problem for several reasons. Most obviously it’s a problem because it’s unsustainable. It is unsustainable environmentally and it’s unsustainable for quality of life – congestion is running out of hand and way too much land is used for parking. I hope you agree? I’m sure you do. So let me ask you a question.

Have you thought about MaaS? Of course you have. But have you thought about providing a MaaS service yourself?

How is MaaS different from what you already have? Obviously it depends on what you have in place, but in general MaaS is flexible and customer oriented, while public transit as we know it is based on fixed routes and timetables and therefore is product oriented. And by the way, MaaS needs to be built around public transit. Without public transit there is no MaaS, at least in a form that makes sense. So, do you see what I’m getting at? You have a golden opportunity.

Since you are in control of and responsible for public transit – the key element of MaaS – you are in the best possible position to make it actually happen. If you agree that your system needs more flexibility, why don’t you simply add flexibility? Why don’t you MaaS yourself?

That does not mean that by doing so you would kill the opportunity for private operators to enter the MaaS market. It would still be up to you if you open your system to be used by them. The point here is that you would be in charge of your own area, controlling your own destiny. You would have the tools to improve the usability of your service offering and you would have certainty of having access to data which you need to improve your system. Your challenge comes from local commuting, so wouldn’t it make sense for you to provide a local solution?

I am not only writing because my company provides these solutions for you. I’m writing because I truly believe that you as a key person should take action to upgrade your system. Public transit can not be built by market forces. Public transit needs to be planned, coordinated, regulated and subsidized. That is your job, I wish you wisdom in doing it.

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