MaaS in Europe Part 1: Helsinki, Lisbon, Paris

What MaaS in Europe really looks like

In the smart cities of the future, MaaS will play a vital role. However, with so much uncharted territory still ahead of us, deciding how to make that future a reality means looking at what is working, the common challenges, and whether MaaS can truly deliver.

In our next few blog posts, we’ll be looking at some of Europe’s biggest cities and how they are preparing – and already realising – a smarter model of transportation.

To kick things off, we’re looking at three cities that represent the biggest breakthrough, the biggest success, and some of the biggest obstacles.

Lisbon: pioneering the mobility revolution

As far back as 2007 – long before Uber and Lyft – José Viegas was beginning to see the potential of new forms of shared transportation. His paper as part of the Portugal MIT program formed the foundation of what would later go onto become the infamous Lisbon Study – a simulation of the potential impact of MaaS on the city.

Completed in 2015, the data was clear: replacing cars, taxis and buses with autonomous vehicles could reduce congestion, improve mobility, and cut CO2 emissions by 62%.

Today, bringing the simulation to life has been a slow-and-steady process. Lisbon offers strong public transport with integrated ticketing, something Lisbon’s mayor says should become the ‘backbone of city transport’. Meanwhile, ride sharing services like Uber continue to grow in popularity, particularly with tourists. Lisbon has even taken steps to address the challenges of its uniquely hilly terrain, including a new scheme for electric bike sharing.

However, Lisbon itself still lacks the crucial element of bringing all these modes of transport together in one seamless interface. While nearby Cascais offers MobiCascais, a way to reserve and pay for all services in one place, the capital itself remains earlier in its MaaS journey.

Helsinki: putting MaaS into practice

If Lisbon is home to the hypothesis of mobility in a smart city, Helsinki is where those ideas and ambitions have been validated. Helsinki first voiced its aim to make private car ownership obsolete by 2025 in 2014. Today, the Finnish capital is making huge strides towards a service-based future.

In Helsinki, the Whim app brings public transport, taxi, bike share and car travel together under a single subscription model.

According to Gartner, MaaS projects need to deliver convenience and simplicity more than cost reduction. The public want their commutes, social trips and daily chores to be easier, not just more affordable. In Helsinki, Whim delivers this through intelligent learning, detailed user preferences and syncing with smartphone calendars and events.

The result is a solution that has led to increased usage of shared transport, helping Helsinki on its way to that 2025 target. However, the app’s subscription model is not for everyone – and may be limiting adoption from a population that already walks and cycles more often than other European capitals.

Now, the city is going even further, developing a completely open data platform that can be accessed by anyone to connect public and private transportation more seamlessly. In a world where open data feeds are seen as a key obstacle to MaaS, Helsinki is becoming the best example of how to support the private sector.

Paris: laying the foundations for MaaS

If you’ve ever tried to drive through Paris, you’ll know it’s a city where mobility is due for a reinvention. Vehicles in the city face around 65 hours a year spent in congestion, and high carbon emissions have led to the ambitious goal of banishing all petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030.

In many ways, Paris’ high population and challenging roads mean the foundations of MaaS have been present for years. Just one in ten Parisians use a car to travel to work and the capital’s enviable public transport system include exhaustive services across the metro, busses and trains.

However, Paris planners have found that putting a vision of the future into practice isn’t without its difficulties. The city has encountered numerous dramas and, when it comes to the private sector, a few disasters.

In 2007, Paris’ Vélib bike-share scheme was the largest project of its kind in the world – a stake in the ground on the path to a more sustainable future. Since then, the project has seen widespread theft and vandalism, as well as software and electrical issues that rendered the service unusable.

Meanwhile, the city’s exclusive deal for Bollore SA to provide Autolib electric car sharing led to seven years of consecutive losses and vehicles that were dirty, faulty, or simply unavailable.

According to Mayor Anne Hidalgo, both Autolib and Vélib led to a reduction in the number of cars in Paris. However, as new bike-share schemes settle in and Groupe Renault replace Bollore SA to provide electric vehicles, the city faces the unenviable challenge of redefining public perception.

What these cities tell us about MaaS

One thing is for certain: in major European cities, MaaS is becoming a reality. Done right, the hypothesis is valid, the public is on-board, and the vision of multi-and-mixed modal trip planning is here to stay.

However, the challenges are numerous – and cities are still working out the best strategies, trying to replicate early successes, and learning from early mistakes.

Common themes include making transport data more available and improving the way it is shared. At SkedGo, our MaaS API means our world-leading trip planning platform can underpin enterprise platforms, while our white label solutions let MaaS providers use our proven technology and backend.

However, we don’t just provide underlying technology and an intuitive trip planning platform. We’re also closely watching Europe’s cities, learning from what’s really happening at the forefront of the trend, and using our insights to help cities transform how their people move.


Photo by Ashley Elena from Pexels