This report is a special publication from Landor LINKS which since 1989, have provided relevant, timely and independent high quality information, analysis and networking for the transport sector.
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The Landor LINKS Annual Survey of Mobility as a Service is based on a survey of transport professionals conducted by Landor LINKS in June 2017 with additional interviews, submissions and case studies from transport professionals in the UK and beyond.
It’s a year since Transport Systems Catapult published its influential report Mobility as a Service: Exploring the Opportunity for Mobility as a Service in the UK. This was the first attempt to define Mobility as a Service and explore its potential impact in Britain.
The MaaS concept has been developed and refined internationally over the last few years as a logical and desirable next step in the delivery of integrated user-centric multi-modal transport services to individual travellers.
In the past twelve months, interest in and enthusiasm for Mobility as a Service has escalated. Transport practitioners surveyed for this report overwhelmingly view MaaS as an opportunity and anticipate positive impacts.
Over the past year, there have been numerous conferences and further publications on Mobility as a Service. These have debated the definition, conceptualisation, functions, elements and operators of Mobility as a Service.
MaaS in the UK, is however, no longer just theoretical.
London’s approach to the total transport system management, presentation and purchase by consumers has continued to evolve, whilst Transport for West Midlands is working with Whim on a platform based app – with integrated journey planning and payment. Transport for Greater Manchester begins work on a transport authority commissioned MaaS provider this month.
Simultaneously, data-driven app-based mobility services are being developed by companies to solve particular travel problems or offer services to niche markets. These range from reducing employee parking requirements with ride sharing by Faxi for Santander in Milton Keynes, to flexible shared commuter transport by Slide in Bristol or the projects to provide shared electric bikes and car club vehicles as part of Exeter’s approach to congestion.
These projects, and others, demonstrate the potential for digital platforms to provide solutions to tricky transport problems – from providing efficient community transport to reducing congestion or improving air quality, and most importantly develop the options and choices of transport from a user’s point of view.
The path, however, is not smooth. Of the professionals surveyed for this report, only a minority think that their organization has a moderate or better readiness for MaaS and even fewer are actively engaged in developing MaaS projects. They rate the biggest barriers to MaaS as political will, lack of resources and inertia because of investment in existing systems. Other challenges are the attitudes of individual modal providers and the need for agreed common platforms.
Diverse approaches risk embedding fragmented offerings. Whilst newer transport operators are launching with a full suite of digital functionality, existing public transport must respond whilst also continuing to work traditionally to meet their public service remits. Whilst most operators have made efforts to add elements of digital services, past experience of integration suggest that full integration with digital platforms will not be straightforward.
Meanwhile, new service providers and transport options are emerging all the time. There is the potential for slick apps and multiple services to be concentrated at the urban core, where the commercial returns are clearer, whilst poorer and less dense areas struggle with declining options. There are no plans for nationwide services at present – a possible auger of a patchwork of provision in the future. This is a period of experimentation. It is an exciting time, which will shape how MaaS evolves and whether it becomes a force for social and environmental good. This report is designed to act as a ‘pulse take’ and synoptic view of emerging issues. We hope it helps all those who recognise the significance of this journey.
Transport planners are incredibly optimistic about Mobility as a Service, they see it as an almost universal panacea with the potential to solve the knotty problems of air quality, congestion and access. They are almost naively embracing the concept as the most logical way to approach providing an effective and sustainable transport system. But who implements MaaS, and how it is implemented, are key to whether this optimism is well-placed. The definition and implementation of MaaS is contested. Visions of MaaS vary between versions of agnostic payment platforms to commercial travel service packages, with sharp divergences in expectations beyond a core integrated payment system and integrated journey planner.
The context for this discussion requires a recognition that the transport system is a massive commercial enterprise encompassing vast amounts of business activity. There are huge established interests at stake for public transport suppliers and the automotive sector. The two sectors can be characterised by a ‘protect and survive’ mentality in public transport, whilst automotive and other OEMs are innovating aggressively to create new mobility services which expand their traditional territory. In parallel, small scale innovators are piloting interesting new models applied local and regionally, but so far lacking in the universal coverage the idealistic vision of MaaS suggests.
The public sector has, meanwhile, played catch-up. Initially side-swiped by the appearance of Uber, engaging with developments in technology and business models has proved challenging and mixed. The Transport Catapult is the first publicly funded body to look at the challenges and now government roles in future mobility are being advertised. However MaaS is not yet part of the political lexicon. As often, talk of technology and infrastructure trumps that of behaviour as more interest is shown in still-distant autonomous vehicles than the more immediately possible MaaS.
Across the UK approaches are varied. MaaS doesn’t appear as a concept in the Mayor’s Transport Strategy for London and indeed some tension is apparent between a commitment to traditional public transport, walking and cycling, and the innovative use of cars or other shared vehicles. However, the Scottish Cities Alliance has supported MaaS project development and the emergence of MaaS Scotland.
That there is a role for the public sector is clear. The need for regulation around aspects of MaaS is raised frequently in contributions to the report. In this regard, the International Transport Forum has this year raised an intriguing role for the public sector as ‘single despatcher’ in MaaS systems – with defined relationships between operators and the system whilst still maintaining a competitive environment. We have a potential UK testbed for such a system in Manchester, where Transport for Greater Manchester is testing the provision of MaaS by the transport authority.
The potential prize for such an integrated system is enormous. The ITF study modelled a full-scale implementation of shared mobility across the Lisbon metropolitan area and found it could reduce total vehicle kilometres in peak hours by 55% (compared to 2011) for the metropolitan area, with reduction for the city alone 44%. Carbon dioxide emissions are modelled to be reduced by 62% for the wider agglomeration and 53% for the city. Total parking space needed could eventually be cut by a remarkable 95% as private vehicle use is replaced by operation of a smart fleet that does not need to be stationary for long periods.
The acid test, however, will be in the perceived and demonstrable benefits to the consumer. Indicators are that shared transport can make access to jobs and other public services easier and more equitable, and journeys quicker and cheaper. However, first adopters of existing shared transport have generally come from higher income groups in affluent areas. MaaS will only provide overall social benefits if it can offer access to transport beyond these groups.
Whilst people are not actively demanding MaaS, they do demand simple and seamless access to transport with fair fares. These are the magic ingredients of London’s more fluent transport system, especially with its reliable, simple and trusted payment system. Various studies – and the practical experience of the popularity of shared bike use - show that if people see new ways of taking charge of their travel – and its costs – they will.
We are at important point where if more cooperation and innovation takes place across the traditional boundaries between public transport operators, shared transport and the automotive industry there can be huge benefits. But to reap its benefits, MaaS must be seen - by politicians and the public - as a genuinely important aspirational public benefit that gets the policy framework it needs and deserves.
Beate Kubitz is a writer and thought leader on the emerging mobility agenda. After working in shared transport she joined the board of TravelSpirit, and is a consultant for a number of organisations.
Peter Stonham holds a degree in transport and has studied and written about the subject for more than 30 years. He is editorial director of Landor LINKS, which he founded, and has led the development of Local Transport Today and its other specialist magazines and online networks.