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Mass transit to MaaS transit: Future of mobility [free access]

October 1, 2018

Gaps in public transportation services have fuelled a variety of small-scale private providers, each offering a specific service: parking, carpooling, peer-to-peer car clubs, ride-hailing, or on-demand bus rides. Typically, each operator requires its own app, with a separate interface and payment mechanism, and each service maintains its own customer relationships.


MaaS is a data-driven, user-centred paradigm, powered by the growth of smartphones. An integral component of MaaS consists of third-party aggregators/trusted mobility advisors, who link the services of the various private and public operators, arranging bookings and facilitating payments through a single gateway.


While MaaS is being offered at relatively smaller scales as part of various pilot programmes, it has received public support and presents a compelling case for revolutionary changes in the business of mobility. With high penetration of smartphones, availability of 4G/5G networks, and development of technologies such as connected vehicles, deep learning and artificial intelligence, MaaS is expected to become a feasible and practical solution for sustainable urban mobility.


Table 1 provides some illustrative pilot launches of MaaS.


Table 1: Illustrative pilot launches of MaaS


Mobile App for MaaS


Helsinki, Antwerp, West Midlands

Whim app

MaaS Global

Gothenburg, Stockholm (early 2019)


UbiGo Innovation AB

All cities in Germany


Deutsche Bahn

Hamburg, Stuggart


Daimler AG (partnering with BMW Group)



Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) and Land Transport Authority



Wiener Stadtwerke and ÖBB

New Zealand

Queenstown Choice, Auckland RideMate app

LEK Consulting

Source: Global Mass Transit Research


Benefits of MaaS


A MaaS app helps people choose from several options to travel from A to B. It contains information on all types of transport: (shared-use) cars, public transport, (shared-use) bicycles, rentals, and taxis. Instead of paying à la carte for each add-on, all services are bundled into a single discounted price and paid for in one click.


More people are moving into cities and the mere addition of roads, trains, buses and parking spaces is unlikely to provide a sustainable solution for urban transport. Governments of many countries are confronted with difficult fiscal situations, so funding for major capital projects is not always available. MaaS can improve transport service quality at costs much lower than the costs for new infrastructure development.


The offerings of MaaS are expected to grow as the connected transportation system matures. MaaS systems and autonomous vehicles will exist in symbiosis. MaaS users will only need one account to access the autonomous vehicle services supplied by different public transport operators and shared mobility providers. With MaaS, a family can pay monthly subscription to access large vans for college move-in day, bicycles for short daily trips, electric scooters for hot days, and autonomous shuttles to connect to the airport.


Figure 1 indicates the timeline for MaaS development and adoption.


Figure 1: Expected timeline for MaaS development and adoption


Source: Roland Berger


The real-time information offered by MaaS can be used in case of a disruption – instead of informing a vehicle driver and letting the driver be in the hassle of rerouting, an automated vehicle can process the information faster and generate the best decision. This would allow better system optimisation and decongestion.




Effective implementation of MaaS requires the following:



To enable these conditions, a diverse range of actors needs to co-operate. These include:



Finally, physical transportation infrastructure should support intermodal transfer so passengers can easily switch modes (bus, subway, light rail, bike, car sharing, etc.).


Data providers


Users access MaaS through a data platform – either a multimodal trip-planning app or a webpage. An ideal platform identifies a range of transportation options and offers real-time traffic updates, often crowd-sourced.


The data provider manages the data exchange between multiple service providers; provides the application programming interface (API) gateways and analytics on usage, demand, planning, and reporting; and connects the transportation operator with the end user.


Because individual service providers are not likely to share their app data, having a third party involved can remove some of the barriers to co-operation that would otherwise arise. Some of the popular platforms are CityMapper, Moovit, and Ally.


Role of the government


The government can support MaaS implementation by providing a favourable environment that fosters collaboration among all players in the ecosystem; maintains safety and security, defines metrics for success, encourages technology innovation and behaviour that aligns with broader public policy goals such as reducing congestion or traffic accidents, attracts investment, and mandates equity in transportation provision through geographic coverage and accessibility. 


For example, the European Union has created the MaaS Alliance, a public-private partnership that facilitates information sharing among players. MaaS Alliance’s four working groups deal with legal issues, technical issues, user experience and social impact, and market development.


Recent developments



Transportation operators


Existing transport models are designed on the premise that transport consists of either fully scheduled and controlled fleets or individual privately owned vehicles. Since MaaS breaks the conventional division between individual (ownership) and collective (usage) travel alternatives, incumbent transport operators are beginning to understand that their business models and their role in the emergent ecosystem is likely to change.


Figure 2 indicates some of the questions relevant to public transport authorities in today’s context.


Figure 2: Concerns of operators seeking transit reinvention


Source: Roland Berger, MaaS Alliance


Any multimodal MaaS solution would require access to the public transit system’s route and real-time location data to be successful. According to City-Go-Round, a total of 292 transit agencies of the more than 1,000 that exist globally have opened their API feeds to developers and data providers. More agencies are being added regularly.


For example, Transport for London (TfL) provides its API to more than 8,000 developers and its data is currently used in more than 500 apps. In Finland, HSL's open interface services include the journey planner service Reittiopas and HSL's real-time public transport vehicle location data. It supports MaaS and other third-party service providers. Use of the open interface services is free of charge, but requires registration and acceptance of the terms of use. HSL will also provide fee-based technical support for interface service users.




The complexity involved in delivering a service that cuts across different modes of transportation, with multiple providers, for a single, discounted fare presents many challenges such as ensuring that each mode is appropriately compensated for its portion. Many fare structures are old and complex, with ticketing schemes involving zones, day tickets, a variety of discounts/concessions, and fare ceilings. Future MaaS offerings are likely to need an integrated end-to-end version of pay-as-you-go, where users pay for the entire trip from point A to point B and there is pricing integration across modes.


In January 2018, ITS UK’s ‘Mobility as a Service’ Interest Group responded to the Transport Select Committee’s MaaS inquiry, agreeing that there is significant global and UK interest in the concept, but warning that, unless done right, it could actually risk moving people from public transport to on-demand cars. The group, led by representatives from Jacobs, Cubic, and AECOM, said that while there are not enough use-cases yet to analyse potential effectiveness, several UK and European pilot projects should start providing evidence in the near future.




MaaS is at a very early stage of development, with much innovation and experimentation underway. The number of pilot programmes evaluating the usefulness of MaaS in cities is expected to rise in the coming years. The number of private-sector providers may also increase to fill the gaps in existing transportation services. The companies involved in the transport sector need to set strategic direction, plan operating models, and implement new operations and capabilities. An important factor in making MaaS a success will be getting all players to work together.