MaaS: What cities need to do to make it work

In a perfect world, connected mobility combines services for taking a bus, scooter, bike, train, tram – or a combination of these – and it would be as easy as taking the car!

With interconnected transportation systems working in coordination, congestion is improved and emissions reduced.

Increasing numbers of authorities are looking to Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) to provide a single digital channel, to plan, book and pay for access to mobility services and this represents a shift away from private transport to mobility delivered as a service.There are many successful MaaS projects, but there remain challenges that implementing authorities have to overcome.

To understand more about what makes MaaS work, we spoke to Frédéric Laithier, Flowbird Group MaaS Product Manager, whose team are rolling out MaaS across various cities.

Create connections

There’s a common misconception that Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) is about the means of travel. The reality is, MaaS is about reaching destinations through mobility connections.

“Cities are focused on delivering services for passengers,” says Frédéric, “and focusing on the transit modes can end up separating the journey from the destination. This results in a siloed system rather than an interconnected one. So rather than examining how people in a city move, we also have to look at why they’re moving.”

The Principality of Monaco overcame transportation silos to create a MaaS system with Flowbird that better serves the city-state. Their MaaS platform, developed by Flowbird, integrates buses, scooters and trains. It also includes ticketing for destinations such as the local cinema, museum and football club. In other words, the user’s destination is included in the design of the system and journey planning.

Anyone using the Monapass mobile app to travel gets 20% off for first time purchases for cultural activities, which provides an incentive to download the MaaS app. Once you purchase a ticket to a cultural attraction, the app sends a push notification with transportation options. This includes where to park, bus routes or scooter availability.

For Monaco’s football games, fans used to be able to show their stadium ticket to bus drivers to get a free fare. This was a good initiative, but it was cumbersome for drivers to check the date on every stadium ticket, and there was no way of monitoring uptake, or how crowded the routes were getting with people headed to the stadium.

Now though, bus tickets and football tickets are intertwined on the MaaS app. So football fans can simply scan the bus ticket that’s automatically generated when they purchase a stadium ticket. It’s no extra hassle for them, and it’s less chaotic for everyone else.

Start small and scale up

Frédéric’s advice is to select a partner and provider who will support a scalable approach, by starting with features and promotions that will drive the app adoption rate. The more people who use this service, the more opportunity there will be to innovate and expand the platform in order to achieve the right outcomes.

“If anyone is under the impression that creating an excellent MaaS experience is one big push that happens over the course of a year – think again,” says Frédéric. “The most successful MaaS schemes begin with rolling out one or two services, assessing the impact, making adjustments and continuously optimising.”

In the case of Monapass for Monaco, the MaaS services have been integrated incrementally over the course of several years, and Monaco’s transport authorities have worked in partnership with Flowbird to add new services and attractions to the app.

This type of approach, where transportation priorities are realised over a scheduled period, also helps ensure that wider stakeholders are allowed time to on-board as they start to see the benefits. There’s time to work slowly and methodically, and to help each stakeholder meet their needs.

Collect travellers rather than data

Operators and authorities who seek to adopt MaaS should focus on collecting travellers rather than collecting data.

“We focus on tracking the usage, not the user,” says Frédéric. “It’s important to know how many people are using the platform, and how they’re using the services, rather than a person’s gender or age for example. We would advise not to ask for data you don’t really need and focus on creating a frictionless user experience. Plus, with thin profit margins, MaaS needs high volumes of trips more than it needs high volumes of data.”

“Also, if the MaaS system doesn’t collect too much personal data, it’s easier to move through production steps. From managing GDPR to security, if the system harvests fewer personal data, then this reduces the overhead in protecting and managing it.”

Keep payments simple

Beyond the registration page, a common frustration which impacts the use of public transportation is understanding fares and methods of payment. Once people have adopted the MaaS platform and realise the benefits of using it to travel, it’s possible to introduce incentives and subscriptions which are aligned to customer habits, such as monthly, or quarterly payment plans to access the network.

“Rolling out sophisticated payment plans can take time to launch,” says Frédéric. “There may be an evolution of the app features over several years during which riders could be purchasing single-use services, and familiarising themselves with the app to increase adoption. And eventually, once users notice subscription options have become available, they’re more likely to see the value and benefit from the incentives, which loyalty can bring.”

A final thought

Frédéric tells us: “MaaS apps are not a magic bullet to change the way people plan and implement their journeys. An app alone cannot do this; it takes a shared vision and a coordinated approach to fares management and service delivery to change how people travel.

“But the app can be a platform for digital transformation, building a portfolio of services and reducing cost. Outline the vision with a strategic MaaS partner like Flowbird, who has done it before. Then begin creating a realistic roadmap, bringing service providers on board, and working towards frictionless mobility that residents and visitors will enjoy and which will lead to an increase in ridership.”


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