Mobility as a Service (MaaS)
Mobility as a Service Definition
MaaS Alliance define MaaS as ‘the integration of transport services into a single mobility service accessible on-demand’.
The blend of transportation services will include public transport, taxis, bikes, scooters, hire or leased vehicles.
These services aim to provide an integrated end-to-end solution utilising a single platform for booking, payment and journey management. Services intend to reduce dependence on private cars leading to greener journeys of the future by using the most efficient transport mode through a streamlined user experience.
Mobility as a Service Deployment
For the most part, the theory of MaaS services makes perfect sense; utilising a platform to streamline services into a single service. From a transport provider perspective, it also makes sense to try and tap into the traditional private car driver market as most vehicles stay on driveways unused for the vast majority of the time. Low asset utilisation indeed represents an opportunity.
Generation Y seem to be much more accepting of subscription services and have rightly been driving the environmental agenda forward. Potential users will all most likely have a smartphone which is a key enabler for such services.
What is clear is that MaaS, at least in the formative years, will work best in urban areas where population density and public transport infrastructure support the natural cost-effectiveness of services.
Particularly demonstrated where MaaS has had some successes in places such as Vienna, Antwerp and Augsberg.
Mobility as a Service | Payment Models
MaaS services come in two flavours – subscription services and pay-as-you-go (PAYG) services. Under the subscription model, travellers would get unlimited access to services within the defined area for a fixed monthly fee. PAYG services charge for each journey undertaken.
Both models have their merits, and the flexibility to choose between the two will appeal to many potential users.
However, from a transport provider perspective, both models have inherent issues.
For users of the subscription model, how will the revenue be distributed? Suppliers will have to take a risk that income will broadly reflect the use, and the increased volumes through the services will increase the profitability.
Pay As You Go Model (PAYG)
Under the PAYG model, why would the transport provider invest the time and effort into integrating their systems with a new platform? They would still get the cash from PAYG services anyway and not pay the platform commission for the privilege.
Is MaaS a viable alternative to existing modes of transport?
MaaS, as we sit today, certainly looks like it has some potential to be effective. But currently, it is probably too early for deployment on any grand scale.
Some services undoubtedly can fit within the MaaS infrastructure. For example, hourly vehicle hire services such as Zipcar and Enterprise Car Club can operate commercially by identifying suitable locations within congested urban environments.
It will be much less attractive to drive in congested urban areas due to changes in legislation. Congestion charges, workplace parking levies and clean air zones are increasing the cost of urban driving. In addition, the proposed legislation will legalise the use of electric scooters on the roads of the UK, further adding to the transport mix available to users.
Public transport services in locations such as London can also work well, and Authorities are keen to fight the tide of lower patronage with any means at their disposal.
In the rest of the UK, the de-regulated nature of services makes this much harder to achieve. For example, harmonisation into a single payment platform is complex when bus operators currently use different platforms. Some politicians, such as Manchester’s Andy Burnham, are trying to change this. However, this will inevitably take time.
The government has also provided funds through its Future Mobility Zones Fund. Areas such as Demand Responsive Bus Services will receive money as the government look to fill in gaps in the commercial network by offering a semi-flexible service booked through a Smartphone application. Some of these services have been running for years, and early forms include Dial-a-ride services. Local governments usually subsidise these services rather than being commercially self-sustaining. Indeed several recent trials have ceased due to the lack of commercial sustainability. For example, Go-Ahead Group will withdraw pick-Me-Up services in Oxford following a two-year pilot.
Other mobility offerings will migrate to the areas which make commercial sense as a standalone solution rather than having a blanket application across all settings.
What is clear is that there will need to be a significant shift in societal acceptability for MaaS services. For example, people do not want to let go of their cars even if it makes absolute financial and environmental sense.
Covid-19 and the impact on MaaS Services
Whilst the Covid-19 pandemic is still evolving, it is clear that the impact on transport and personal cars are likely to remain the mode of choice for some time to come.
Social distancing measures will need to remain in place until a vaccine is found. Transport is a particularly high-risk area due to enclosed spaces and close contact. Passenger volume will be restricted, with a fraction of full capacity being available.
A lot is being made about MaaS solutions impacting the future demand within the fleet industry. Interestingly, however, these services have been amongst the first to suffer due to the Covid-19 outbreak. In addition, subscription services run by some manufacturers have been the first casualties of the new reality as the scramble to conserve cash contracts speculative services.
An opportunity in the post-Covid world will be around cycling. Lockdown has re-ignited many peoples passion for cycling, and they may see it as a long term solution for commuting to their place of work.
Companies will also realise that working from home is also a viable option for many workers, naturally reducing demand and congestion in the process. From an employee perspective working from home improves the work-life balance. It also reduces commuting costs, meaning it is a win-win for them and the employer who will see office space requirements.
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