As the world’s cities emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, the way we live in and get around them is due for a massive rethink. The pandemic has already changed the way we work within and between cities in dramatic fashion. The rise of telework is reducing long trips from residential areas to office districts in favor of more localized jaunts as city residents spend more time within their neighborhoods and areas nearby. Remote work and education is also changing where we live and for how long. People now have the ability to live in smaller cities away from larger metros, and some even have the option to live in different locations throughout the year. More movement within neighborhoods and the rise of “corridors” and regional living is changing how we view urban mobility.
What is the meaning of “MaaS”?
At the same time, Mobility as a Service (MaaS) is one of the few urban phenomena that was already on the rise pre-pandemic, and has the potential to increase its importance to city life in the pandemic’s wake. MaaS applications are essentially platforms that allow users to plan, book, and pay for multiple types of mobility services, often using digital applications. Many are already familiar with MaaS through car-hailing apps like Uber, Lyft and Grab, and through a myriad of flourishing micro-mobility options for scooters and bikes. In a report published just before the global spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, an analysis by Research and Markets estimated that the MaaS market valuation would top 280.77 billion dollars by 2027, a 23.3% growth from 2019. Given the new reality in cities around the world, how will this growth in MaaS shape the cities of the future? A few pioneering cities and companies have already given us a glimpse of what the future might look like- and the user should look forward to an even better city MaaS experience.
Simplifying a complex Berlin mobility ecosystem
As a global cultural hub, important business center and Germany’s capital and largest city, Berlin has thousands of people moving through it every day. Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG) - Berlin’s public transit agency - is Germany’s largest, with more than 6,500 bus stops, 300 kilometers of tram tracks, and 174 subway stations. Increasingly, micromobility options are appearing across the cityscape as well. Scooters and bike shares are more common every year. While many of these mobility options are managed by the BVG, many are privately run ventures. The sheer number of mobility options available for such a large city can make trip planning overwhelming, and managing different ticketing options can be confusing.
Enter Jelbi, an app that tracks transit options, routes and times to help users find their most efficient route and pay for rides. Jelbi is a collaboration between BVG and MaaS technology platform Trafi and provides access to the full gamut of Berlin mobility options from e-scooters to taxis to buses to trains. Jelbi also includes a variety of features to make use more convenient. It only requires you to register for the app once, which covers all of the services already integrated and to-be integrated, meaning no juggling different user profiles and switching between apps when using multiple modes of transportation.
Platforms like Jelbi allow transit authorities to operate public transport services and provide the frameworks that allow various individual services, public and private, to operate more seamlessly within the mobility ecosystem. By combining routing and payment and providing access to a wide array of options in one place, platforms like Jelbi offer a great way to ease navigation in large cities that are rich in mobility options. Creating new platforms that combine existing solutions into one user-friendly application is an important step in bringing MaaS to the masses.
MaaS platforms keeping Sydney afloat
New MaaS platforms aren’t just improving how we get to our urban mobility options. They’re also improving how our mobility options come to us. Ride-hailing apps have been acting as on-demand taxis for years, bringing private vehicle transportation options straight to the user. Public transit, however, has generally not kept up with the boom in on-demand services. New MaaS applications have the potential to change this, and some are thinking even bigger than the car.
In Sydney, the New South Wales state government was looking for on-demand transit options for the Bays Precinct, a neighborhood west of the city’s central business district undergoing a major urban redevelopment project. Transport for New South Wales (TfNSW) partnered with mobility solutions platform Tranzer, to provide a new on-demand transit service to move residents and tourists around the district with a unique ride-hailing option: on-demand ferries. The 60-person ferries operate seven days a week between four wharves not currently served by scheduled ferries.
Ferries can be hailed via smartphone or kiosk up to 24 hours in advance, and customers are provided with a 15-minute window for their ferry to arrive. The Tranzer app also processes payment for tickets, creating a seamless experience where public transit comes to you. The initial six-month trial was so successful, TfNSW has plans to extend the program, which carried over 15,000 passengers in its first six months of operation. The ferry trail is being conducted alongside a variety of other on-demand pilots within TfNSW that includes bikes, cars and large vans that are meant to improve last-mile mobility and connect users to the wider transit network. Strategies that encourage government agencies to embrace the best innovations from the private sector will center the transit user and improve the mobility experience- in water and on land.
Bringing Denver’s transit options to you
Bringing the functionality of on-demand applications to public transit is one of the benefits the continued development of MaaS will bring to cities. Another is bringing the access that public transit provides into the on-demand applications we already use. Masabi- a London-based company that develops mobile ticketing services- partnered with Uber in Denver to make sure users of one of the world’s most prolific on-demand mobility apps have the same access to public transportation options as they do private ones.
Using Masabi’s technology, customers of the Regional Transportation District (RTD), which primarily serves metropolitan Denver, can purchase public transit tickets directly in the Uber app. The option to book an RTD journey is presented in-app alongside various options for Uber car-hailing and helps users compare timing and price- allowing them to choose the mobility option that makes the most sense for them. Providing access to Denver’s public transit options within the widely used Uber app opens the city up even more to those who may be unfamiliar with the city’s public transit system.
This is not only beneficial to residents, but to the nearly 39 million tourists who visit Colorado from around the world every year, many of whom are visiting Denver or using it as a gateway to the ski resorts, national parks and alpine towns of the nearby Rocky Mountains. Many of these visitors lack a working knowledge of Denver’s transit system, but are very familiar with their Uber apps. MaaS strategies that demystify complex transit systems by introducing them through familiar platforms make for a more user-centric experience and create a more seamless interaction between traditional and emerging mobility options.
Turning cities into platforms
Mobility as a Service will continue to shape the way we interact with cities, alongside the other trends remaking urban life. The COVID-19 pandemic has left a lasting imprint on our cities, but it is but one of many systemic shocks that loom on the horizon. Climate change has the potential to radically physically alter how we plan, build and operate cities. Rapid urbanization in the developing world and a mounting affordability crises in the developed world also pose huge challenges to creating vibrant, inclusive cities. As MaaS platforms grow and change alongside cities, it is important that they continue to provide flexibility, ease and access to users. A flexible mobility system is a resilient mobility system, and in a future where resilience can turn uncertainty into opportunity, MaaS has the power to support the prosperous and liveable cities we deserve.