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| 1 minute read

A new name for Mobility as a Service (MaaS)?

Mobility as a Service (MaaS) has become the next ideal goal and big idea for many transport planning professionals, start-ups, and decision makers, but it also has a problem that almost every talk on the topic opens with: “Mobility as a Service needs a better name”.

The most successful technologies and government policies are typically those that are clearly understood by the widest number of people. Uber grew in dominance due in large part to making it so easy to request and pay for a ride (helped along with large doses of venture capital, of course). Contactless ticketing, bike share schemes, and much more have been successful in so many places because they are easy to understand and use.

Beyond its advocates and transport planning professionals, MaaS the acronym, and its benefits are not well understood. Even if a politician or civil servant understands the details, they too need to be able to justify to the general public why limited funds are being spent on something many people do not understand. The same applies where MaaS is being presented to private sector investors.

I’ve always found the most valuable test in communications is the 8-80 Rule. That is, can the concept be easily understood by an 8-year-old child and an 80-year-old? MaaS as a term generally fails this test, particularly due to its reliance on needing an existing amount of transport planning literacy.

What the average person easily understands are concepts like planning a journey and the benefits of having a ticket/payment system they can trust to work across different types of transport without penalty. For example, most users simply trust Transport for London to charge the correct fare to their credit card for a journey and to cap such costs across a given day or week. Similarly, making things easier for the end-user is a key reason the more open OMNY contactless fare payment system is replacing the MetroCard system in New York. As is the approach taken in Hong Kong, where Octopus cars can be used well beyond the transport system.

At a technical level, MaaS is different to but fundamentally linked with integrated ticketing, but is this a distinction that policymakers and users need to care about or even be told about? Is it time to leave “Mobility as a Service” and its acronym in the technical documents and instead look to engage the public about more integrated journey planning and payment across services and transport modes?

Mobility as a Service (MaaS) integrates various forms of transport and transport-related services into a single, comprehensive, and on-demand mobility service. MaaS offers end-users the added value of accessing mobility through a single application and a single payment channel (instead of multiple ticketing and payment operations). To meet a customer’s request, a MaaS operator hosts a diverse menu of transport options, including (but not limited to) public transport, active modes such as walking and cycling, ride/ car/bike-sharing, taxi, and car rental or lease, or a combination thereof. MaaS aims to be the best value proposition for users, societies, and the environment.  ...