Mobility as a Service (MaaS) is a new term describing transportation alternatives to personally-owned automobiles. A MaaS subscriber pays for access to transportation rather than their own vehicle, maintenance, taxes, insurance, etc.
MaaS Market is an annual gathering of organizations interested in transportation options other than single-occupant vehicles. The event was created and organized by ITS International to give progressive transportation professionals an opportunity to discuss and debate advanced technology, ancient design philosophies, and blending of the two.
This year’s program was held May 9-10 in Atlanta, GA. Here are three of my takeaways from the panel discussions and conversations with other transportation providers:
- Equitable transportation access is within reach. One of the key themes of MaaS is making it easier for communities to access jobs. The “first mile” is the first part of the trip from home to the bus stop (or similar transportation connection). The “last mile” is the final leg of the trip connecting to the destination. MaaS gives people commuting options at a variety of price points. Transportation equity has been a struggle for local governments trying to serve lower income neighborhoods for decades. Mobile technology is lowering costs associated with bikeshare and rideshare, adding more affordable options for first- and last-mile transportation.
- MaaS principles are here to stay. Technical jargon may change, but MaaS is here to stay. It’s an established, proven business concept that has recently been applied in the transportation industry. Think of Movies as a Service -- customers pay a monthly subscription for access to a huge catalog of movies they can watch anytime, rather than purchasing each and every movie. Everyone has transportation needs, so the success or failure of specific MaaS programs will come down to cost and value. Give people - customers - good value for their subscription, and they’ll happily reduce personal car ownership. One family can have access to large vans to help with college move-in day, bicycles for short trips during the day, electric scooters for hot days, and autonomous shuttles to connect to the airport.
- Watch trends, but don’t follow trends. App-builders and computer scientists often iterate on each other’s product ideas (following trends) to garner enough attention for a buy-out. I’m not a technology expert, so perhaps chasing trends can be a sustainable business model. But I do know the transportation industry. I know that when we follow trends, well-meaning ideas become constructed disasters. An example would be installing bike lanes on high-speed corridors where no humans traverse outside of automobiles, just because bike lanes are trending. Watching trends involves taking a fuller view. Consider context and intent of the original idea. As we move into an exciting era of autonomous vehicles, watching the trend of bike-friendly cultures will lead us to plan, design, and operate transportation systems that truly serve the public interest.
4. “Design is people.” Journalist and community advocate Jane Jacobs coined the phrase as a rallying cry that infrastructure should be designed to serve people. This was in stark contrast to the prevailing trends of car-oriented infrastructure that forced populations to make most -- perhaps all -- trips in a personal automobile. MaaS will be a tremendous complement to the ongoing retrofitting of suburbia across America. Towns, counties, and cities are seeing the economic rewards of infill development of sprawled-out buildings and streets. Creating more compact developments won’t happen overnight, but subscription-based transportation will accelerate the process.
Learn more about MaaS Market Atlanta here: https://www.maas-market.com/events/atlanta-usa-2018.