The concept of “Mobility as a Service” or “MaaS” is central to the idea of change in transportation. Generally understood as a vision of future mobility where travel happens through a combination of public, private and shared transportation modes, it remains an ambiguous term, originated from the private sector and often misunderstood, which complicates discussions about MaaS and its implementation.
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Understanding the true nature of MaaS
Current discourse around MaaS propagates a vision of future mobility that does not adequately address the wider objectives of a city or a region nor offers a satisfactory resolution to many issues faced by cities today, such as congestion, pollution, social inclusion or the need for integrated regulation and policy. As profound shifts on the urban, technological and social layers rock the transportation world, MaaS can provide the answers we seek – but only if it is properly implemented, responsibly managed and well executed.
Setting the right objectives
A responsible, people-centered and socially inclusive MaaS needs to meet 10 key objectives, including a more effective use of existing city infrastructure, limiting congestion and catering to all travelers, young and old, able and less-able, the wealthy and the economically disadvantaged. Public transit is best placed to realize those objectives, given the level of integration and multimodality already achieved by many agencies around the world, as well as their responsibility to provide transportation services to all types of citizens.
Regulating transport as a service
As city authorities move from regulating transport as a sector to regulating transport as a service, they will need to think carefully about the role they can play in the MaaS discussions. They will need to recognize the balance of priorities in the new transportation mix and act as facilitators of partnerships, enablers of innovation and guardians of cities’ and people’s interests, ensuring a MaaS future where cities aggregate density of directional travel, while keeping a healthy balance of shared vehicles on roads.
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The time is ripe for public transit agencies to take complete ownership of MaaS and define how future mobility offerings will interact and connect with transit. MaaS can be a great positive force for generations to come – but transit agencies must start playing an active role in helping it transform our transit networks and city spaces now, rather than let the MaaS revolution unfold inefficiently before their eyes.