Is Mobility as a Service good or evil? Guess what: “It depends.”

It depends on our ability to align business goals of participating companies with the public interest, usually represented by public transport authorities. It is likely that these parties have conflicting goals. So there is a high risk for conflicts. Both companies and municipalities would be well advised to embrace strategies which could align both parties goals and avoid conflicts. This was my takeaway from a MaaS symposium in Vienna.

Panel at the Fluidtime Symposium 2019
MaaS.Global founder Sampo Hietanen, Susanna Hauptmann, Maggie Childs and Arnd Bätzner on a panel discussion about MaaS business cases and the public agenda at the Fluidtime Symposium 2019 in Vienna.

If done right MaaS could motivate people to abandon their cars and switch to more efficient mobility services instead. Through higher transport efficiency MaaS will ideally reduce costs, congestion, air pollution, noise, road accidents, and climate impact while improving mobility and freeing up parking space at once. This is how the public agenda might read in many municipalities.

For the participating private companies, the above-mentioned benefits might be of secondary nature as every company first of all needs to make profit in order to survive on the market – or needs to meet aggressive growth and market share targets if backed by venture capital. Such companies’ offers to public transport authorities or operators might be helpful but should also be taken with care as they might turn out to be Trojan Horses in case they claim customer ownership or create dependencies.

A third type of players in between the two above mentioned ones are the public transport operators (PTOs). They are often used to a monopolistic situation, and now see their businesses being disrupted by the new players, who directly poach “their” customers with competing mobility services. Even they might not agree – given their extremely slow and politics-driven decision making and asset burden, they have no chance to compete with agile, venture-capital backed, high-profile start-ups. One representative of Germany’s Association of Transport Companies (VDV) at the conference explained in detail why MaaS should only belong to the public transport companies in a closed system. I just can imagine that the likes of Uber couldn’t care less about what the VDV thinks is right or wrong. They will create precedents and simply run over them in case they don’t see it to be beneficial to cooperate.

Mutual beneficial cooperation in a public-private partnership (PPP) will be the key, which could make MaaS a success for both the society and participating companies. This requires public transport companies and authorities to act and

  • Establish and enforce regulations to assure new, private mobility services create more benefit than harm and
  • Invite private companies to participate and complement the public transport system while making profit

This will require a mind shift and some “organizational changes” for many of the public transport authorities and operators. The good news is that there are many municipalities who made good and bad experiences to learn from. So no need to lose time and make the same mistakes again. Talk to each other and share best practices! Here are some of the most experienced municipalities we can learn from, when it comes to ‘new mobility’:

MaaS – Business vs. Public Interest

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