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MaaS Matters: Why Mobility as a Service Works for Municipalities

*This is the first of our three-part series about MaaS advantages, and the implications of this mobility-enhancing advance. To learn about traveler advantages, read part 2, here. Read about MaaS futures in part 3, here.

As the transportation sector of our global economy emerges from shutdowns, slowdowns, and travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are clear indications that municipal leaders are seeking new ways to help improve travel to and around cities and across local regions.

During the downturn, municipal leaders have taken some time to rethink the disjointed, partly subsidized public transit and private transport options that don’t interconnect, are costly and have done little to reduce carbon emissions. Public sector transportation leaders face enormous budgetary and performance challenges every day. But during the slowdown caused by the pandemic, many have started rethinking everything involved in transportation operations. Prior to the pandemic, a proliferation of ‘shared’ ride, bike, or even scooter apps and services didn’t work together seamlessly, nor did they give travelers suggestions (such as cheaper or faster options) based on individual needs. As municipalities begin to recover, transportation agency leaders recognize the need for more automated, integrated solutions that will streamline public and private transportation options and make travel more efficient for commuters and travelers.

This is where Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) is well-positioned to help. MaaS integrates transport service types into a single mobility app or service that is accessible on-demand. Just as in all other consumer-driven areas, transportation agency leaders see obvious advantages to providing apps and services that link together various transportation options, including any combination of public transit (buses, trains, subway lines), along with ride-, car- or bike-sharing, taxis or other car services, to help local audiences meet their individual travel requirements. Indeed, MaaS revenue is expected to exceed $52 billion by 2027, up from $405 million in 2020, according to recent research from Juniper Research, which reported that the growth spurt will start as transportation picks up across cities in the months ahead.

Today, municipal leaders understand they must prioritize environmentally friendly, safe, budget-conscious transportation modes. By incorporating elements of MaaS, they hope to fulfill mobility needs and resolve many of the inconvenient parts of individual journeys today -- leveraging the full spectrum of mobility services and analytics advances to help residents and travelers alike.

Municipal MaaS Benefits

For municipal leaders, especially those in transportation agencies, MaaS can help prioritize:

  • Cost-effective, budget-conscious transport options – Facing higher budgetary constraints, there’s a need for city leaders to optimize transportation services. Many municipalities in the U.S., for example, have spent the lion’s share of their budgets on road construction, mostly without receiving viable reductions in traffic congestion. Technology-driven advances such as MaaS can help agencies promote a variety of available transit options, and better manage constrained resources, such as roads, bus lanes and parking spaces.
  • The need to integrate services across transport modes – city leaders are finding that travelers tend to use multiple transportation modes including the bus, metro, train, and trams, often with multiple connections. Travelers also organize their own journeys, combining tickets and schedules from transportation networks that are autonomously operated by separate public and private transit providers. Municipal leaders want to create unified and customizable ‘door-to-door’ mobility services that integrate public transit and private ride-sharing options. They see advantages to streamline and optimize traveler journeys, by aggregating large volumes of data including times, fares, operating schedules and passenger information on a continuous basis.
  • Environmentally friendlier alternatives – Making space available for bicycles or other popular ‘micromobility’ devices also offers a greener alternative to driving one’s car. While the idea of promoting public transit to improve air quality isn’t new, in May, the American Geophysical Union reported how air quality improved since lockdowns began. And similar studies from the European Environment Information and Observation Network (Eionet) also found much the same. Civic leaders hope to help influence healthier, environmentally friendly travel behavior, because as the United Nations reports, over 90% of the world’s population live in areas where air pollution exceeds safe levels. This is a key driver behind the Brussels, Belgium-based International Association of Public Transport (UITP)’s Better Mobility campaign.

Ultimately, there are still hurdles to overcome. People need to get around but may not be quite ready to take public transportation as they once did. Also, it will take effort to fully integrate public and private transportation options. However, city and state leaders increasingly see MaaS as a unique opportunity to deliver meaningful, engaging mobility services that attract travelers and provide a better quality of life for residents in those regions. 

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