The MaaS bandwagon shows no signs of slowing down. There are numerous pilots underway, and more companies are positioning themselves to offer part of the MaaS jigsaw. Right now, there is an ongoing Parliamentary sub-committee inquiry into MaaS.
Not a week goes by without a new policy paper being issued.
One of the most valuable, in my opinion, (in the limited time you have to keep up with all these developments), is Cubic’s recent White Paper on MaaS. For me, it captures some crucial issues at the heart of MaaS: that it’s a contested space with many different organisations defining MaaS differently and recommending different policy paths forwards, and that city authorities need to proactively shape the MaaS environment if it is to deliver on its bold claims universally and equitably.
It sets the challenge up for the public sector well: “As governments and 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, recognizing the balance of priorities in the new transportation mix and acting as facilitators of partnerships, enablers of innovation and guardians of cities’ and people’s interests”.
Having critiqued others’ definitions of MaaS, (always easy to do), Cubic are brave enough to offer their own: “Mobility as a Service is a combination of public and private transportation services within a given regional environment that provides holistic, optimal and people-centered travel options, to enable end-to-end journeys paid for by the user as a single charge, and which aims to achieve key public equity objectives.”
Note the “which aims to achieve key public equity objectives” at the end. Without proactive engagement by the public sector, I worry that MaaS providers, understandably, will target the most commercial markets. Uber for example, (as many of us will know from nights out!), use surge pricing when demand is high to incentivise supply. A sensible and effective market response, not so different from peak period public transport pricing. But if such systems are replacing parts of the public transport network, this is going to fail on equity grounds as lower income groups are effectively priced out of transport. So it’s important that these new and valued services are introduced alongside, and to complement, other parts of the transport jigsaw.
The Cubic White Paper builds up to propose ten key objectives, which they believe any future MaaS initiatives should look to achieve:
- Limit congestion, particularly during peak travel periods
- Reduce car ownership, car usage and the number of vehicles on roads
- Use existing infrastructure more effectively and create economies of scale
- Ease pressure on the transportation network
- Enable better traffic and capacity management
- Improve the customer experience by presenting the transportation network as an integrated system
- Cater to all travellers, young and old, able and less-able, the wealthy and the economically disadvantaged
- Create a model that supports the funding of infrastructure
- Lessen the overall environmental impact of transportation
- Work in a driver-controlled and autonomous environment
Whether or not people agree with all of these points (or indeed consider others alongside), I think it’s vital that public authorities enter the MaaS space with a clear sense of purpose about what they need MaaS to achieve and what their role is in helping it to develop in the desired way.
The 10 policy objectives listed in the Cubic White Paper reminded me of an earlier publication by the Shared Use Mobility Center, in collaboration with a consortium of transport professionals, which laid out 10 broader shared mobility principles for Livable Cities. I like this so much, I share them in full below.
1. WE PLAN OUR CITIES AND THEIR MOBILITY TOGETHER.
The way our cities are built determines mobility needs and how they can be met. Development, urban design and public spaces, building and zoning regulations, parking requirements, and other land use policies shall incentivize compact, accessible, livable, and sustainable cities.
2. WE PRIORITIZE PEOPLE OVER VEHICLES.
The mobility of people and not vehicles shall be in the center of transportation planning and decision-making. Cities shall prioritize walking, cycling, public transport and other efficient shared mobility, as well as their interconnectivity. Cities shall discourage the use of cars, single-passenger taxis, and other oversized vehicles transporting one person. Shared vehicles include all those used for hire to transport people (mass transit, private shuttles, buses, taxis, auto-rickshaws, car and bike-sharing) and urban delivery vehicles.
3. WE SUPPORT THE SHARED AND EFFICIENT USE OF VEHICLES, LANES, CURBS, AND LAND.
Transportation and land use planning and policies should minimize the street and parking space used per person and maximize the use of each vehicle. We discourage overbuilding and oversized vehicles and infrastructure, as well as the oversupply of parking.
4. WE ENGAGE WITH STAKEHOLDERS.
Residents, workers, businesses, and other stakeholders may feel direct impacts on their lives, their investments and their economic livelihoods by the unfolding transition to shared, zero-emission, and ultimately autonomous vehicles. We commit to actively engage these groups in the decision-making process and support them as we move through this transition.
5. WE PROMOTE EQUITY.
Physical, digital, and financial access to shared transport services are valuable public goods and need thoughtful design to ensure use is possible and affordable by all ages, genders, incomes, and abilities.
6. WE LEAD THE TRANSITION TOWARDS A ZERO-EMISSION FUTURE AND RENEWABLE ENERGY.
Public transportation and shared-use fleets will accelerate the transition to zero-emission vehicles. Electric vehicles shall ultimately be powered by renewable energy to maximize climate and air quality benefits.
7. WE SUPPORT FAIR USER FEES ACROSS ALL MODES.
Every vehicle and mode should pay their fair share for road use, congestion, pollution, and use of curb space. The fair share shall take the operating, maintenance and social costs into account. The future of mobility in cities is multimodal and integrated. When vehicles are used, they should be right-sized, shared, and zero emission.
8. WE AIM FOR PUBLIC BENEFITS VIA OPEN DATA.
The data infrastructure underpinning shared transport services must enable interoperability, competition and innovation, while ensuring privacy, security, and accountability.
9. WE WORK TOWARDS INTEGRATION AND SEAMLESS CONNECTIVITY.
All transportation services should be integrated and thoughtfully planned across operators, geographies, and complementary modes. Seamless trips should be facilitated via physical connections, interoperable payments, and combined information. Every opportunity should be taken to enhance connectivity of people and vehicles to wireless networks.
10. WE SUPPORT THAT AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES (AVS) IN DENSE URBAN AREAS SHOULD BE OPERATED ONLY IN SHARED FLEETS.
Due to the transformational potential of autonomous vehicle technology, it is critical that all AVs are part of shared fleets, well-regulated, and zero emission. Shared fleets can provide more affordable access to all, maximize public safety and emissions benefits, ensure that maintenance and software upgrades are managed by professionals, and actualize the promise of reductions in vehicles, parking, and congestion, in line with broader policy trends to reduce the use of personal cars in dense urban areas.
As the public sector grapples with how to engage with the MaaS space (and the Parliamentary Sub-Committee ponders these issues), I think that Cubic’s White Paper and Shared Urban Mobility Centre’s objectives and principles provide a useful point of reference.