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How does MaaS work?

Mobility as a Service (MaaS) is set to be a key topic at the ITS European Congress in Lisbon in May 2020. It is being hailed as the future of transport by some people, but what is it and how does it work?

MaaS is a scheme to offer and allow access to a range of transport options within a single app.

True MaaS schemes combine ride, car, bike and taxi sharing schemes with public transport and car rental options and create one single payment channel. It's a little like a broader version of London's Oyster Card or Travelcard and its convenience of paying upfront for overground, underground, bus and tram in one go.

The European MaaS Alliance says: "A successful MaaS service also brings new business models and ways to organise and operate the various transport options, with advantages for transport operators including access to improved user and demand information and new opportunities to serve unmet demand.

"The aim of MaaS is to provide an alternative to the use of the private car that may be as convenient, more sustainable, help to reduce congestion and constraints in transport capacity, and can be even cheaper."

MaaS already operates in some European areas and pilot schemes in Scotland and the West Midlands have put it on trial in the UK.

West Midlands trial of MaaS

In the West Midlands, the MaaS trial relied upon the Whim app, which was originally developed for use in Finland's Helsinki.

The trial was intended to test a range of payment options, including per journey and varying levels of all-encompassing subscription to allow monthly payments to cover the cost of all journeys by all means.

Sampo Hietanen, Founder of MaaS Global, the company that created the Whim app, has said: "We want to challenge the way people start to think about their journeys and let them see that vehicle ownership doesn't have to be the only way forward.

"On average, cars are parked up unused for about 96% of their lifetime, but we still have to pay for them, sometimes in conjunction with other transport options. Owning a car is a burden for many people, but there's been no realistic alternative until now.

"We're certainly not anti-car - we offer access to cars when needed, via taxis or through hire. But we are showing people that they don't need to be so reliant on car ownership. Once people realise this, the benefits are huge – less traffic, less pollution, less stressful journeys.

"And more space in our towns and cities thanks to fewer cars parked on the road."

Scottish trial of MaaS

In Dundee and North East Fife, the NaviGoGo app was put to the test and allowed a group of 16- to 25-year-olds to search, book and pay for the range of transport options within their location.

A six-month trial led 84% of users to report it made public transport more attractive and 66% to say it made shared modes of transport more appealing.

But only 33% said they would use a car less or not at all.

Does MaaS have a real future?

A study into the potential of MaaS in Lisbon, where it is already active, concluded that an optimum system would mean only 90% fewer vehicles were needed to get people where they wanted to go.

Paulo Humanes, who worked on the study, has said: "There are 18 different shared mobility providers that are acting in the city at the moment, 350 vehicles, 600 motorbikes, 1,500 bikes, 5,000 electric scooters, and 97% of these are zero-emission vehicles.

"There are 400,000 active clients using this for mobility. It's really interesting to see how from five years ago this was a completely alien concept and today this is what they are doing day to day."

MaaS is already very much up and running in Helsinki, which was named as one of two European Capitals of Smart Tourism last year (2019), along with France's Lyon.

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