5 Concerns Public Transit Authorities have about creating MaaS apps

Mobility as a service (MaaS) has gained traction in recent times, offering a way to provide users with easy and efficient access to available transport. After all, travellers don’t want to search on multiple sites to figure out what mobility options are available to best get from A to B. Freedom, reliability and flexibility are key – the main reasons why so many people still currently opt for private vehicles.

However, MaaS offers a huge opportunity for public transit authorities (PTA). Public transport is often cited as the backbone of MaaS, taking advantage of existing networks and supplementing these with the growing number of alternative transport options to serve the first / last mile and cross-city trips such as taxis, car-share, scooters and other forms of micromobility.

Many public transit authorities are now looking at how they can get involved. After all, MaaS has the potential to encourage people out of their cars and onto public transport, helping the PTA to provide a better service to citizens as well as visitors to the region. However, five key questions are often asked when considering how to create a successful MaaS app, which we will dive into here:

1. Too expensive

Every PTA has to keep a tight rein on purse strings so the expense of creating a MaaS solution from scratch can be somewhat prohibitive. The expertise to develop the underlying technology and create a great user experience and design is costly to source. It also requires careful project management to bring the solution together and to integrate all the moving parts such as live timetables (for private transport too), ticketing and payment, access to other data such as paths for walkers and cyclists for active travel.

A PTA has to weigh up whether it’s a good use of public funds, particularly as IT projects can often go over budget. Once heavily invested, it can be difficult to know where to draw the line. And the public sector is always under pressure to cut costs and justify its spending.

Solution: By opting for a turnkey white label solution, a PTA can have a fully functioning, multi-modal MaaS solution for their region for a fraction of what it would cost to develop from scratch. As all the ‘heavy lifting’ has already been done, the PTA can take advantage of the R&D investments that specialist MaaS application providers have already put in place.

2. Time-consuming

From mapping out the MaaS app’s requirements to collating the details of all transport options available in a given area – including private transport – there are many aspects to consider. This means devoting a considerable amount of time to research, plan, hire, project-manage, launch and support the app.

And as a bespoke solution that’s not tried-and-tested, there will no doubt be unexpected obstacles and a need to refine the app along the way once new realisations are uncovered such as citizen requirements, difficulties integrating transport providers and more.

By the time the MaaS app is ready, the landscape could have changed again; there is the constant need to make sure that it’s reflective of the transport available, including new modes and also changes in citizen behaviour. This is time the PTA could use to focus on its services and adding value for citizens.

Solution: A turnkey solution means the PTA can avoid this wasted time and have a MaaS app ready within a matter of weeks – rather than months (or even years). It means no need to liaise with multiple third parties or constantly keeping the technology up-to-date. That can be left to the solution provider.

3. No in-house capability

The technical expertise to create MaaS apps is rarely, if ever, available in-house. That knowledge is both difficult and expensive to hire – particularly given that a good MaaS app requires an in-depth knowledge of the best (and most appropriate) technologies available alongside the programming capabilities to create and design the app and integrate third-party providers.

It also requires an adept project manager who understands both the technological possibilities and how to marry those with design to create a MaaS app that excels in terms of customer experience. There is a fine balance between understanding the transport sector, user needs and the technology to bring it all together.

Solution: By leveraging the expertise of MaaS development professionals, the PTA can access that knowledge without the need to have anyone in-house. This makes it a much more viable project, ensuring that the app takes consideration of all the latest technologies, feedback from users and a clear understanding of the transport marketplace.

4. Too complex

A PTA is already dealing with multi-faceted complex transport environments, juggling many different stakeholders and trying to provide a great experience for travellers. Figuring out how to create a MaaS solution, working with multiple third parties, integrating multiple data sources and dealing with compatibility, compliance and many other issues diverts this focus.

After all, creating a truly multi-modal MaaS app is complex. It requires advanced algorithms to provide intelligent routing based on personal preference such as cost, speed or carbon emissions. It also means ensuring that details of new transport options are added as they become available and taking account of any changes for existing operators. These all need to be integrated promptly.

Solution: Turnkey solutions take all these factors into account. It means the PTA can offer the solution under their own brand without having any of the complexity – or having to be tech-savvy as packaged solutions are relatively ‘plug and play’. All available real-time transport data is automatically pulled into the app for their region.

This is a huge bonus for a PTA, because instead of focusing on the mechanics of creating a bespoke MaaS solution, attention can be turned to demand management, customer experience and encouraging more people to use public transport by providing them with the capability to easily plan and manage their journeys.

5. Out-of-date technology and security

There’s a constant demand for any app to be kept up-to-date – whether that’s upgrades, bug fixes or security patches. This requires constant attention. Software and IT engineers need the latest training to keep abreast of technology and security issues to mitigate risk wherever possible.

After all, technology and the interconnected online world changes rapidly and necessitates close supervision with strict maintenance procedures and checks in place. Once again, this requires expertise and financial resources that could potentially be better utilised elsewhere.

Solution: A packaged MaaS app from a reputable provider will be operating on the most appropriate technology stack, providing an enhanced user experience where journey planning and management is easier, faster and more secure. And with the solution being updated automatically, it means that a PTA doesn’t have to worry about it. This leaves more time to focus on serving citizens.

A way forward

SkedGo has launched a white label MaaS solution specifically for public transit authorities, leveraging the unique TripGo API. This allows a PTA to get up and running with its multi-modal app in a matter of weeks and avoids reinventing the wheel or suffering the frustration of trying to become a MaaS technology expert.

It means more time can be spent on providing the best in public transport, understanding usage to better manage demand and delivering on public policy such as environmental goals. The PTA can focus on getting people out of their cars and onto public transport – potentially helping to increase ridership and revenues, and contributing to a greener and healthier planet along the way.

If you would like to find out more about our MaaS solution, please get in touch.

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