The Need for Openness in Transport Systems

By Giles Bailey, CEO of The TravelSpirit Foundation

Disruption and Change

The mobility industry is at the centre of unprecedented change and disruption. This is occurring in markets around the world: in developed and emerging economies; from micro-sized entrepreneurs; growing innovative businesses; to major multi-nationals. We are also witnessing the intervention of businesses not normally associated with mobility, and certainly passenger services, into the marketplace such as online content providers.

This is hugely exciting and is offering a range of new solutions and opportunities to potentially improve the transport services that we using and developing in our cities. It also provides the tools to assist in tackling the global challenges that we face such as climate change, sustainability, population growth in urban areas as well as ageing in society. Also, it potentially assists in creating economically and socially robust, equitable and fair societies.

But how should these new models develop and what is the role of the public and private sectors in working together? Should the most economically robust and well-funded solutions be rolled out – as they financially can? Should the public sector stamp its authority on these markets and dominate the structure of these decision making processes? What are some of the criteria for smaller SME’s to join in on the deployment of new innovative mobility solutions? All of these questions are real issues that transport innovators are facing in locations around the world and absolutely need to consider in the short term as well as the long term implications of the decisions that they may make.


There is an inherent benefit in openness in considering transport systems, as well as many other aspects of our modern society. In particular, in transport it is clear from large cities such as Paris, to emerging marketplaces such as Cape Town, to suburban cities such as Los Angeles that a multitude of transport options are used by and requested by modern citizens. In fact, cities that have attempted to deliver monolithic transport solutions, whether they be private cars, or solely public transport, face issues with the wide variety of consumer mobility needs as well as maintaining robust, sustainable cities.

If many modes and solutions are part of the model, how should they relate to each other? Part of this framework, we believe is in an open dialogue of data, knowledge, innovation, creation and partnership. This isn’t to preclude viable business models or to create a “wild west” of new initiatives or to prevent the public sector and local officials from taking an overview of the transport situation in the city.

An “open internet of mobility” is a structure where these actors can work together to deliver these evolving concepts in “new mobility”. This is space where transparency allows the public authorities to take an overview of mobility in a city and ensure public objectives such as fairness and equality are being delivered. This space also allows innovators to innovate by joining together services as well as developing needs services to fill gaps in the marketplace. It places an onus on new actors to not to attempt to create monopolies or oligopolies in new services, but as we have seen there is ample space for many innovators globally as well as in local markets around the world.

These innovations can occur in information, ticketing, payments, on the ground mobility solutions, innovation structures, partnership, etc.


To enable this debate and fulfill our vision the TravelSpirit Foundation is pursuing a series of activities in the UK and around the world. We are working with partners in local TravelSpirit boards on several continents to thought-lead on the concept of openness in mobility and advocate for this type of innovation in new mobility. We are developing indices that discuss how ready cities are for openness in new mobility. We are working with innovative new businesses as well as academia to support best practice in these areas. We are even supporting discussions around blockchains and how this type of innovation can support an open agenda.

The TravelSpirit Foundation was established in Manchester, UK in 2016 to promote an open framework for the provision of new mobility services. It did this in response to what its members see as a threat to new mobility achieving its potential — the development of closed and proprietary mobility services. TravelSpirit is championing “open” in the world of new mobility solutions.The are a member-led UK based Foundation that is championing Universal Mobility as a Service, Open Innovation, a Global Community, as well as Local Benefit.