November 8, 2021

The challenges of MaaS

The urban mobility landscape is becoming more complex and its offer, both public and private, is more divided each day. The transport offer can be so overwhelming that combining different modes can become a great challenge. In addition, some users choose to use the private car for their convenience, in order to save time. MaaS (Mobility as a Service) can solve these problems providing access to a connected transport system, where connecting different modes is not a challenge for the user anymore.

MaaS integrates and interconnects different modes of transport and groups the offer in mobile applications where users can plan routes, reserve and pay for each trip. This way, the transport system is more accessible to the user and there is an improvement in the efficiency of the urban mobility system. However, MaaS technology still has great challenges to face before it manages a full implementation in some cities:

Payment integration

In order to achieve a complete implementation of MaaS it is important to integrate transport payment in the app. Thus, the user can manage the entire transportation experience through the MaaS app instead of being redirected to another app or another external system to pay for the ticket. To make this a reality, the involvement of different actors and technological development is essential.

Subscription model

This is the next step towards a coordinated and connected transportation system. Currently, public transport can issue weekly, monthly or annual packages including a certain number of trips for the same price. Some shared mobility companies have also started to issue similar rate models. However, the coordination between different transport companies to offer a joint subscription where users can use different modes of transport, such as metro, taxi and bike-sharing, continues to be a challenge.

In addition, it is difficult for multimodal users to know their average monthly spending associated with their mobility habits, so sometimes the customer is not sure how much they would be willing to spend on a subscription model. In other words, they are not aware of their monthly disbursement, not only in public transport, but also in taxi companies -platforms like Uber or Cabify-, bike services -Movi or NextBike-, shared e-scooters -Lime or Bird-, shared cars -Share Now or Zity-… etc. In this regard, MaaS platforms stand out as an optimal system to coordinate customized packages with different transportation options depending on the user’s needs.

Ticket validation

Sometimes physical barriers are present in public transport systems, and require a ticket validation to access. For MaaS to be able to validate, public transport must offer the possibility of scanning smartphones and being able to read a code that justifies the acquisition of the transport ticket. Furthermore, NFC payments, such as Apple Pay or Bizum, and EMV technology can contribute greatly to the modernization of the system. Therefore, another barrier to the correct implementation of MaaS is public transport’s investment in infrastructure.

Ability to share information from transportation providers

For MaaS to deploy a real-time information system, it is necessary for operators to have the required technology. To consume public transport data, GTFS feeds are the common format for sharing timetables and their associated geographic information. The data’s format and the ability to transmit information by the integrated operators are some of the challenges to overcome in order to guarantee the quality of MaaS and ensure the trust of users in the system.

Legal framework

In countries where the ticketing system has been strictly regulated, only the public transport operator has the capacity to sell transport tickets. However, the possibility of opening new sales channels would lead to a potential increase in transport users.

Data Sharing

The more users share their data on MaaS, the better the transportation service we can provide. However, it is reasonable to think that not all users are comfortable with sharing their transportation habits and preferences. For this reason, it is essential to ensure the commitment of transport operators and the trust of users, therefore privacy plays an important role here. In accordance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), companies are responsible for the processing of user data and therefore must comply with their obligations, such as indicating the purpose for which data will be used and facilitating an intelligible and easily accessible privacy policy.

Willingness of the users

Finally, one of the greatest challenges is for citizens to make the decision to change their transport habits. This would mean a transition from mobility based on private vehicles to more sustainable displacements where public transport would be combined with shared transport.

Darya Tryfanava | Unsplash

In conclusion, cities have great challenges in terms of urban transport, pollution and congestion, and MaaS has the potential to solve a majority of them. However, apart from the wide variety of modes of transport available and the penetration of smartphones in society, several other conditions must be dealt with for MaaS to have the ability to operate in a city.

It is clear that there is still a long way to travel before managing the achievement of a full integration of transport operators in MaaS or the creation of transport vouchers tailored to the user’s needs. In any case, for MaaS to be effective in a city the most important is that, firstly, the city offers quality transport services, and secondly, that citizens are willing to change their mobility habits towards a more sustainable way of moving.