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What’s the situation with “Mobility As A Service”?

4 minutes of reading
Buses, underground systems, trams, car-sharing or short-term rental cars, car-pooling, mini-cab services, bikes, mopeds and self-service scooters, with or without stations: with the proliferation of forms of mobility, the residents of major cities have never had so many means of travel available to them.
transport mobility service
mobility service transport An abundant offer that allows multi-modality to gain ground in mobility practices. In 2017, in the ’Observatoire des mobilités émergentes (the observatory for emerging mobilities), in a study conducted by L’ObSoCo and Chronos, 29% of French people stated that they chose between several modes of transport depending on the circumstances. An eight-point increase compared to the previous version of the study, carried out two years previously. These changing practices also mark the beginning of a downturn in the ultra-dominant model of the personal vehicle. According to the 2019 Observatoire des mobilités partagées et de la multimodalité (a study carried out by IFOP for Sixt), 32% of French people would be prepared to give up their personal vehicle in favour of shared mobility. But to truly turn the corner, various questions still need to be resolved.

Perceiving mobility as a service to the user: a paradigm shift

The proliferation of alternative mobility offers and operators comes with a set of problems that regularly create power struggles between municipal authorities and operators: conflicts of use related to the unruly parking of electric scooters, the ecological cost of electric models requiring batteries, or the increase in the number of vehicles in circulation linked to the mini-cab platforms, which increases congestion, etc. Meanwhile, the user finds themselves drowning in the variety of offers available, and obliged to juggle between the multitude of apps dedicated to transport that invade their smartphone. Hence the challenge of perceiving mobility as a service enabling travel from point A to point B by choosing between the means of transport available to get the fastest, most economical and most socially and environmentally responsible journey possible. A sweet dream that takes the name of “Mobility As A Service” (MaaS), a platform that would bring together all the mobility offers, whether public transport or private services, integrating traffic information in real time and supporting the traveller from planning his journey to paying for his transport ticket. The concept comes from Finland, where the Whim start-up has been operating a MaaS system in Helsinki since 2017. A single application enables you to plan your journey, and pay for your bus, shared bicycle, taxi or rental car. Convenience and comfort that comes at a cost: 500 euros per month for unlimited access to all means of transport. At the risk of encouraging motorised and individual modes of transport? Far from one of the stated objectives of MaaS: to organise the offer so as to reduce the congestion and pollution generated by transport in urban spaces.

The players working towards MaaS

Organising authorities for transport, start-ups, transport operators, digital giants: all of these actors are actively working to find a viable economic model for operating Maas. In September 2018, Mulhouse Alsace Agglomération launched a mobility account in partnership with the Transdev operator, allowing users to access all available transport services (public transport, car parks, self-service bicycles, car sharing), paying at the end of the month only for the services actually consumed (with the option of setting oneself a budget and receiving notification if it is exceeded). In the Paris region, Ile-de-France Mobilités is also on board with Maas, with the 2024 Olympic Games as the target date. A pilot application is already being tested, one of a number of experiments planned. SNCF’s new mobile app, the Assistant, offers mobility services to or from a station (with the calculated route taking into account traffic problems, booking and payment of a mini-cab or taxi, and purchase and validation of public transport tickets). Meanwhile, Mappy presents itself as “the aide for all modes of travel, every distance, everywhere in France”. The mini-cab operators are also stating their ambitions: to become Mobility As a Service businesses. In Paris, the Uber app now geolocates the self-service scooters and bicycles close to the mini-cabs.  In 2018, Lyft trialled a “Ditch your car” programme for one month in 35 U.S. cities, giving credits of up to 500 dollars for mini-cabs, bicycles and public transport to 2,000 people on condition that they use the Lyft app for them, and stop using their personal vehicles. The list is growing constantly, and demonstrates the proliferation of MaaS offers. However, according to two consultants at Boston Consulting Group (BCG), no complete value proposition has yet been created:“Most of the existing MaaS platforms content themselves with juxtaposing mobility offers and reselling single transport tickets to passengers, subject to a commission charged to the operators.”

Seeking a form of governance: the issue of data

A form of governance therefore still needs to be found for coordinating these efforts and these players and putting them at the service of a more fluid and better thought-out mobility. According to the BCG consultants again, only public power truly has the means to encourage users to use the most socially and environmentally responsible forms of travel. However, reducing the share represented by the car, optimising active mobilities and extending the use of public transport requires real precision that can only be provided by detailed exploitation of the data. Such access to the data arouses strong interest, but also concerns for certain players. In Finland, the law requires organising authorities to make their data and ticketing tools accessible to private players. Marie-Claude Dupuis, Director of Strategy, Innovation and Development at RATP Group, warns against such a move, as cited by Les Echos  : “If a major digital player succeeds in getting its hand on billing tools, such as the Navigo Pass, it will be able to take control of customer relations too.” Local authorities are aware of these issues and are mobilising, just like the city of Issy-les-Moulineaux, which is offering through its So Mobility  programme to use the smart city’s data and technologies to help make travel in the city more fluid. Or Mulhouse Alsace Agglomération, which will be able to use the detailed knowledge of the travel practices linked to the Compte Mobilité account to optimise its mobility plan.