MaaS and its place in an intelligent mobility mix

Photo by Alex Smith on Unsplash

On 18 July 2018 The Institute of Transport and Logistics Study (ITLS) at the University of Sydney Business School launched its Showcase on Intelligent Mobility with a particular focus on Mobility as a Service (MaaS).

ITLS presented its research catalogue of activities and evidence over the last three years and future plans in collaboration with partners in Australia and elsewhere (especially the UK and Chile).

The main focus of ITLS activity has been to date on the role that MaaS may play in providing greater mobility choices at affordable competitive prices, the design of mobility contracts that can serve the preferences of the market of potential customers – be they individuals, households, companies for their employees, tourists (out of towners) or any grouping of users.

What does MaaS (potentially) add? And what does it need to be?

While it might seem that MaaS is a new idea, it has in some forms been with us for quite some time — think, taxis, dial a ride, and community transport. But our modern ideal, or hopes, for MaaS is a considerable extension of these formative moves.

It must be noted that MaaS is not simply a technological play. That is far too narrow a label for the potential of MaaS. Professor Corinne Mulley, in Transport Reviews 2017, referred to the fact that technology in transport innovation doesn’t drive change, rather it enables it.

MaaS planning and implementation needs to keep the following points front of mind:

  • it must be multi-modal to recognise the diversity of community needs and delivery capability
  • it needs to be mindful of societal goals
  • it needs to offer an integrated pricing scheme across all (or many) modes, ideally with a one stop payment
  • it must match the needs of actual and potential users through flexible packaging and pricing
  • the delivery of greater choice than exists currently, with easy entry and participation
  • open up the possibility of a shift to the sharing economy, where asset ownership, such as car ownership, is increasingly not necessary, provided it guarantees access to preferred modes of transport when required

By itself, MaaS is not a panacea for modern problems of traffic congestion. It needs to address all of the pain points in transport, connecting with such solutions as road pricing reforms.

Public transport will, and indeed must be, part of the MaaS mix, but steps must be taken to ensure that the health and effectiveness of public transport is maintained. As outlined in Reshaping Urban Mobility with Autonomous Vehicles: Lessons from the City of Boston, autonomous vehicles and mobility on demand will likely decrease public transport usage in city centres, so a regulatory and governance framework must be in place and used to ensure provide levers to provide a healthy transport ecosystem.

ITLS surveys

In moving to a greater understanding of customer preferences as well as the preferences of potential providers of mobility packages offered into the market as a subscription plan, ITLS has undertaken a number of surveys, with the centrepiece being stated preference or choice experiments with models estimated using advance discrete choice models that produce results that enable design of subscription packages that appeal to both customers and suppliers.

As pioneers in the development of methods and software to study choice and design comprehensive and comprehendible choice experiments, ITLS has conducted customer (demand side) preference revelation studies in Sydney, regional NSW, and the UK, and for the supplier preference revelation studies have interviewed potential mobility service providers, such as:

  • public transport and car sharing organisations; and
  • non mobility service providers (banks, consultants, digital platform developers, telcos) in over 12 countries

This research is used to inform us about what multimodal offerings at a price might offer up attractive packages to the market that are able to be delivered by those who wish to either run a mobility contract by offering transport services or just invest through equity into a contract model.

The broader MaaS agenda

In addition to the important research on preference revelation and mapping, demand and supply in narrowing down the opportunity set that makes sense, ITLS is also focussing on important themes that overarch the broader MaaS agenda, including:

  • what governance models may be required to ensure that MaaS adds value to way we want our cities and regional jurisdictions to grow
  • what MaaS may mean against performance benchmarks such as social inclusion, equity and fairness
  • reduced congestion on the network possibly associated with reduced private ownership of cars
  • the future of existing mode specific contracts (replaced by multimodal mobility contracts)

Furthermore, the research agenda needs a focus on rural and regional contexts as much as does on the urban environment.

Full details of the research program are provided at ITLS Research Showcase page.

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