Sydney MaaS trial is midway through

Photo by Paul Carmona on Unsplash
Photo by Paul Carmona on Unsplash

The Sydney MaaS trial has been up and running since November 2019, and in an iMOVE webinar an update on its makeup and progress is being presented.

Firstly, what is this project all about?

In an earlier iMOVE project, MaaS and On-Demand Transport – Consumer Research and Report, the question was asked, Mobility as a Service, does Australia want it? The answer was arrived at via a survey, and the main takeaway from the final report of that project was ‘people are expressing a clear interest in making this transport shift.’

Not to diminish that earlier project at all, but that was a survey ahead of any actual experience of using MaaS. In the MaaS trial in Sydney project, there is six months of customer use and experience of Mobility as a Service.

The project is led by IAG, with research provided by the Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies out of the University of Sydney, and SkedGo provided the Tripi app, a white label of its TripGo app.

Project objectives

  • Explore appropriate transport service mixes and subscription plans for early adopters of MaaS
  • Generate first-hand knowledge of actual MaaS experiences
  • Assess the readiness of the current public and private transport mix in Sydney to support MaaS
  • Advance the understanding of user uptake and willingness-to-pay for MaaS
  • Test the ability to influence travel behaviour through introducing MaaS subscriptions
  • Document the experience in designing, planning and undertaking a MaaS trial

Participants and package

Participants in the trial were 91 staff from within IAG, who worked, lived, and travelled within the Greater Sydney Metropolitan area. They were offered the choice of four MaaS bundles:

  • Pay As You Go – no monthly fee, no discounts
  • Saver25 – $25 per month
  • Fifty50 – $50 per month
  • Green Pass – $125 per month

The makeup of these bundles did change over the duration of the trial. At the launch of the trial only the PAYG option was available, with Fifty50 joining in December 2019, Saver25 in January 2020, and Green Pass in February. As a guide, the graphic below shows the bundle offerings and discounts as at February.

As you can see, in this bundles were public transport (train, bus, ferry and light rail, and using the Opal smartcard system for any discounts for frequent use), Uber, taxis, GoGet car sharing, and Thrifty car rental.

Tripi app

SkedGo’s Tripi journey planning application features a digital wallet feature, allowing participants to pay and book for individual trips, or multimodal journeys.

It also functioned as planner which allows users to find a service supplier, and offered a comparison engine, so that users could select their trips based on, amongst other things, cost, travel time, emissions, and health.

Feedback from users

As part of the trial, a selection of participants took part in a series of interviews about their MaaS experience.

Pay As You Go

Of the participant base, 56% chose the Pay As You Go model. Their reasons for this choice of bundle were:

  • Lack of a sense of value for money in the other three bundles. They didn’t feel they travelled regularly enough to take up the subscription options
  • In some instances they only travelled into the office 2-3 days per week
  • They live close to the office, and really only needed the public transport offerings, or walked
  • They felt that a subscription would be costly as it would not be used in holiday periods
  • In some instances the interviewees noted that they had both a lack of awareness of the benefits of the subscription model, and instead took the ‘easy’ option
  • Some baulked at the idea of a commitment to a subscription

As noted in Yale Wong’s paper, Pay‐as‐you‐go or a subscription MaaS model: What are the stakes? (available for download, see below):

This information is particularly useful to help inform key markets for future bundle design. Clearly, there exists the opportunity to lower the barrier to entry for subscription plans to entice current PAYG users, the vast majority of which are not frequent enough travellers to see value in the plans. These participants do not require transport as often (on any mode, not just public transport), and so could benefit from lower tiers such as the $25 entry offered by Saver25.

Subscription plans

44% of the trial group chose one of the subscription packages, a figure that mirrors similar trials in other parts of the world. Many in the group were excited by the novelty of this model, but on reflection after using for a time they wondered if it was a choice that made financial sense. They were not as high a user of the multimodal aspects of the packages, which is where the real value of the subscription play lies.

Most also found it hard to pick apart if they had made best use of the discounts on offer through the Opal Card and discounts based on use.

Again, from the Yale Wong and David Hensher paper:

One of the important questions posed to interviewees was what their ideal subscription model would look like. In general, this centred around greater discounts on modes used by the specific participant, and the removal of enticements on modes they did not use. Public transport was almost universally regarded as important, especially in the first/last mile context to train stations. Short trip Uber discounts (5‐7 kilometres) for these access/egress purposes emerged as suggestions for inclusion, as well as how the connection can be made more seamless. Some participants mentioned micromobility modes like bike and scooter sharing as desirable in the future – especially Lime which was stated as “fun” but “very expensive”.

Interestingly, most who sought bikesharing inclusion in the bundles did not currently use the service, but suggested Tripi could entice them to try the service since there would be no more annoyance of installation, registration and downloading of multiple applications.

Some employees offered more radical suggestions for the design of future MaaS plans, including ways to incentivise carpooling with other employees (Liftango is a company active in this space), as well as Uber Eats credit discount (some participants mentioned that they use food delivery 1‐2 times per fortnight so this is a recurring expense). Ways to incorporate a petrol discount was also mentioned. In terms of modal discounts, there was an overwhelming preference for a dollar over a percentage discount – this being more advantageous for shorter trips.

What’s next?

The actual trial still has some time to run, and upon its conclusion there will be exit interviews from which to glean quantitative and qualitative feedback from the user group.

And then, a final report will be compiled. So it’s very much a watch this space, we’re certainly not done talking about this project!

Pay‐as‐you‐go or a subscription MaaS model: What are the stakes?

Yale Wong and David Hensher have authored a paper based on the Sydney MaaS trial so far, entitled Pay‐as‐you‐go or a subscription MaaS model: What are the stakes?

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