Right here, right now: the future is Mobility as a Service

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Less stressful, more reliable and accessible transportation to get us where we need to go? Affordable housing and greater economic and social inclusion across your city? Bigger, greener community spaces? What’s not to like?

Innovation specialist Veronica Siranosian and Stephen Engblom, global cities leader, discuss the potential for Mobility as a Service to transform urban spaces, improve citizens’ lives and revolutionize the way cities are planned  and run.

In an increasingly digital world, we are all getting used to accessing what we want at the touch of a button — from new shoes to sushi. Transportation is no exception. Following the rapid expansion of transportation network companies (TNCs), such as Uber and Lyft, the app has become key to how millions of people move around, challenging fixed transit systems and timetables.

More recently, they’ve been joined by fleets of bikes and e-scooters too. This should be great news for travelers. But, as the U.S. ‘scooter wars’ of 2018 showed, our streets and sidewalks have become something of a battleground as everyone jostles for space.

A BUMPY RIDE

With their services launched in cities almost overnight, initial collaboration between TNCs, bike share, e-scooter companies and city governments has been sparse to none. In response, city authorities have had to quickly develop policies and legislation to respond to and regulate these new transportation solutions and platforms. One issue is that these services can often add to cities’ congestion, pollution and other transportation challenges. According to a recent study, ride-hailing apps generated an additional 5.7 billion miles of driving, often without passengers, in the most populated cities — an overall increase of 160 percent.

A NEW WAY TO TRAVEL

A potential answer to this and city’s other transportation challenges is shared Mobility as a Service (MaaS). This approach brings together individual MaaS options – both public and private, such as trains, buses, ride hailing and sharing schemes for cars, bikes and scooters, taxis, and shuttles/pods for first and last mile connections to high-capacity, fixed-route service or point-to-point service when fixed-route service doesn’t exist or is infrequent – in one place; leveraging the latest digital innovations to provide an integrated point-to-point service to users accessible via a single mobile application (‘app’) and payment channel.

CITIES TRANSFORMED

Described as the ‘Spotify of transportation‘, shared MaaS approaches — which are being pioneered in cities, states and countries across the world — create the potential for consumers to shift from an ownership and/or single provider model of transport use to paying for travel as a service. If done well, shared MaaS can promote more sustainable decision making: enabling users to compare different transport modes on costs, emissions and flexibility, and so on; and cities to incentivize, promote and encourage travel behaviors that support their citizens and city’s long-term success.

For example, an inclusivity-focused MaaS approach could increase access to education, work and healthcare for groups sometimes underserved by public and private mobility solutions.This includes women, whose travel patterns don’t always match fixed routes and schedules, older people, and those with low incomes, with disabilities or living further out of town.

It has also long been argued that parking in cities is irrevocably linked to issues such as urban sprawl, constrained economic growth and environmental challenges. Right now, the average car spends around 95 percent  of its time unused, with huge swathes of urban spaces from Beijing to Johannesburg dedicated to supporting these vehicles. Even during peak periods,  only 10 percent  of the U.S. vehicle fleet is in use.

MaaS, when coupled with high-capacity, fixed-route, public transport services, could give cities the catalyst they need to deliver substantive reform: increasing the utilization of existing vehicles via share schemes and other incentives, and providing a cost-effective and reliable alternative to car ownership and use. This could open up valuable real estate for redevelopment as mixed-use neighborhoods, which offer affordable housing, flexible workspaces, parks and other shared community spaces.

In addition, by increasing efficiency and optimising how we use public roads, promoting transport innovation and developing smart infrastructure, MaaS could help cities radically reduce their carbon footprint and make roads safer in the future.

Finally, for private operators, MaaS is a chance to secure increased market share in a highly competitive industry, ensure the most efficient utilization of their resources, build improved community relations, and benefit from a more collaborative relationship with city and transportation authorities. This includes establishing valuable data-sharing agreements between public and private transportation providers.

HOW TO MAP A MAAS BLUEPRINT

Money is tight and cities can no longer rely on building more roads to ease their transportation challenges. They need to improve the efficiency of their existing infrastructure and do things more innovatively and smarter. To make matters worse, cities are also reliant on transport planning and modeling approaches, performance indicators and environmental measures that are fast becoming outdated, overtaken by new tech, real-time data and the rapidly changing transportation landscape. Given this uncertainty, it can be tempting for cities to double down on tried-and-tested approaches.

But change is both possible and increasingly necessary. Here we set out the five key steps we believe that city authorities need to follow to create a MaaS blueprint.

THINK BIG AND PREPARE FOR THE FUTURE

Just like planning for other major public infrastructure projects, cities need to analyze and understand the mobility needs of individual communities. This includes identifying where and when people need to travel, the price they are able to pay, the scope of the city’s current mobility approach to get them there, where gaps exist, and whether MaaS is a sustainable business model that could address the city’s and citizens’ needs.

This exercise will help inform a detailed mobility vision, including possible partners to enable delivery, and a phased plan to get there. As part of this, the city’s focus must shift from prioritizing individual trouble spots for urgent funding and action, e.g. a busy junction or train route (spot fixing), to building a seamless, equitable and efficient transportation system that optimizes users’ journeys and the city’s use of resources as a whole (multi-modal network optimization).

Beyond funding, the biggest challenge is that city authorities will need to futureproof their plans and the policies, procurement guidelines and regulations that support them. Furthermore, consideration will be needed for the wider social, economic, environmental and public-health impacts of the proposed changes — big or small — on communities. For example, is the mobility package affordable and accessible to those who need it most?

To get the full picture, cities need to take a more holistic approach to mobility planning. This includes bringing together from the start not just the usual experts on infrastructure, transport and planning, but also specialists in data science, cybersecurity, environment, public health and socio-economic issues, as well as the user community. This should help to: mitigate any risks from planned changes ahead of implementation; ensure you deliver a system that works for everyone; and produce shared measures and key performance indicators equipped to flex with the tech and assess whether the system is meeting your objectives and users’ needs.

TACKLING THE UNCERTAINTY

There is a great deal of uncertainty about how MaaS and other emerging technologies will continue to evolve over the coming decades, as well as the effects that customer acceptance, changing business models and shifting demographics and preferences could have. Building on our experience with technology development, travel-demand forecasting and long-range planning, AECOM has developed MobiliticsTM, a scenario planning tool designed to help agencies understand these uncertainties and the potential impact of new policies and technologies on the transportation system and other related concerns such as jobs, taxes, fees and vehicle ownership based on possible take up of new technologies.

1/ BE FLEXIBLE, OPEN AND COLLABORATIVE

Public transit should be the core component of every city’s MaaS services. But opening up the door for private companies to come in and bring innovative new ideas is also a crucial step.

Most mobility services are currently rolled out through individual apps and accounts, with Lyft, Uber and other TNCs only now beginning to integrate different modes across their own services. But we believe that cities could push for greater collaboration with private providers, including sharing data to create mutually beneficial partnerships and pilot programs, and leverage innovation and deeper insights into citizens’ mobility needs.

A number of city authorities, including Paris, London, Sydney, Seattle and Oslo, are already working to make their data more ‘interoperable and useable’ for third parties and transit users, by publishing open data sets online.

Collaborations to facilitate MaaS will require cities and their partners to develop more flexible and integrated governance structures and partnership models, ranging from simple data-sharing agreements and common Application Program Interfaces (APIs)  to connect disparate systems right up to integrated systems architecture. Cities will also need spaces for innovative ideas to be trialed.

COLLABORATE TO INNOVATE

Capri is a 19-partner consortium — led by AECOM and including other public, private and research organizations — collaborating  to deliver a pilot scheme that could pave the way for the practical use of connected and autonomous vehicles (driverless shuttles) to move people around airports, hospitals, business parks, shopping centers and other contained environments. The team is combining expertise and using practical trials to write the blueprint for a viable autonomous MaaS.

2/ MAKE AND USE YOUR INFRASTRUCTURE SMARTER

Central to any MaaS framework is ensuring that your integrated transportation solutions will be able to connect and interact with the infrastructure that supports them. For example, electric vehicles require a reliable network of smart charging stations.

Traditionally, cities have been designed and developed in a rigid way — a road is a road, a bus lane is a bus lane, and the sidewalk is the sidewalk. With shared, multi-modal spaces, such as New Road in Brighton, U.K (where an over-congested road was redesigned to become a pedestrian-dominated space with vehicles), being rare, albeit transformative, examples.

In the years ahead, the fixed purpose of many cities’ spaces will need to blur. In Chicago and San Francisco, for example, demand-responsive pricing for parking is securing valuable revenue for reinvestment in public transit and infrastructure. In the future, ‘flex zones’  could take an even-more-innovative curbside management approach. Instead of having fixed-parking zones or double yellow lines, cities’ curbsides could be designed, cleared and priced to accommodate multiple transportation modes and to optimize use throughout the day — for residents, deliveries, pickups and drop offs, or fleets of shared vehicles to rent.

3/ PROMOTE THE MOST SUSTAINABLE, EFFICIENT, AFFORDABLE AND ACCESSIBLE SOLUTIONS

The revenue sharing deals made with private transportation providers will help determine the pricing structure and payment systems of any city-led MaaS package, and must aim to create a win-win situation for the city, private service providers, and users.

If there is more than one agency collecting revenue, whether it is transit fares, congestion charges, curbside fees or tolls, they will want to allocate the revenue collected as soon as possible. Every organization involved in a MaaS scheme is going to be looking to minimize latency, and ensure they can secure the revenue they are owed quickly and efficiently.

The growing use of universal payment systems, such as Apple Pay, for transit in cities like Beijing , ChicagoMoscow, and London should make revenue sharing easier. In an increasingly cashless society, the public are going to want more innovative payment options. At the same time, transportation organisations will need to ensure their services are still accessible to those without bank cards, smart phones or unlimited-data plans.

The pricing structure of your MaaS package should be designed in line with the city’s policy priorities, whether it’s to smooth out traffic/transit flow during peak periods, improve air quality and promote environment-friendly options, expand access, increase ridership, or ensure solutions are affordable to all. There needs to be a clear incentive for people to change their behaviors to choose the option that is the ‘smartest’ for them and meet the city’s objectives.

4/ DATA IS KING, BUT PEOPLE MATTER MOST

No matter how impressive the technologies or transportation services might be, their acceptance will require a major shift in attitudes and behavior, built around public education, research and engagement.

It’s already happening. Fewer young people are driving. By 2030, the stock of cars is set to fall by 29 percent in Europe and 22 percent  in the U.S., while rising in China . In addition, mobility services like ride, bike or scooter sharing are getting people used to the idea that you can consume trips and get to where you want to go in the way that you want, when you want. Artificial Intelligence can turbo charge these efforts, accelerating systems’ optimization but also quickly enhancing the human experience.

But cultural shifts like this take time, and some will resist it. Car ownership remains a deeply embedded desire, and many still don’t consider public transport or shared mobility a viable option. The MaaS approach must be customer-friendly, intuitive to use and widely available – with a range of access points.

As part of this, it’s important to make sure that private providers do not solely focus on the most profitable routes, but help the city provide equitable access  to transportation solutions. Technology solutions are an enabler to mobility, but they need to support a broad-based citywide mobility solution or MaaS framework to benefit all customers.

Finally, the system can also be fun to use. A huge part of the popularity of the Waze app is its gamification of GPS services. Drivers earn points based on driving time and the help they give other drivers. They can listen to Spotify — the music streaming service — as they drive, select different voices for directions and share their mood with others. A similar collective approach could incentivize users to switch to MaaS, offering them points or discounts to opt for more efficient, less busy or less intrusive routes, modes and travel times, as well as information on the impact of their choices on factors such as calories burnt, time/money spent or emissions generated, etc. In addition, users could access a website with real-time updates, customer reviews, FAQs and video content to help them use the system effectively.

5/ REALIZING THE VISION

Transportation is shifting gear. MaaS gives cites — currently operating with limited budgets and resources — the opportunity to: move more of their citizens to and from existing transportation systems more efficiently; provide point-to-point, multi-modal services accessible via a single system; and partner with private companies.

To make this a reality, cities need a clear, strategic vision, more flexible, sustainable and holistic approaches to urban planning, a focus on smart infrastructure and sustainable, efficient and affordable solutions, and greater collaboration and trust with private sector providers. Crucially, they need to show the public that MaaS can work for them, making their city a better place to live, work and visit.

 

  1. http://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/BRIE/2015/563398/IPOL_BRI%282015%29563398_EN.pdf – European Parliament: Social, Economic and Legal Consequences of Uber and Similar Transportation Network Companies (TNCs)
  2. https://techcrunch.com/2018/06/09/silicon-valley-scooter-wars/ – TechCrunch: Silicon Valley scooter wars
  3. https://www.crainsnewyork.com/transportation/battle-curb-space-fever-pitch-trottenberg-says  – Crain’s: Battle for curb space at fever pitch, Trottenberg says

 


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