What public transport service providers should know about MaaS

When we least expected it, the need for MaaS grew in ways we never imagined.

George Chemali, Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR)
Queensland, Australia

If you’re working for a public transport service provider/operator (TSP) that wants to be better prepared for surprises like Covid, turning the transport world upside down, this article is for you.

If you’re working for a TSP, and your organisation is not involved in MaaS yet, this article is for you.

If you’re working for a TSP, your organisation is considering MaaS or is already involved, and you would like some more details about what, how and why, this article is for you.

What is MaaS?

First of all, let’s have a look at what “MaaS” actually means:

Mobility as a Service (MaaS) is the integration of various forms of transport services into a single mobility service accessible on demand. To meet a customer’s request, a MaaS operator facilitates a diverse menu of transport options, be they public transport, ride-, car- or bike-sharing, taxi or car rental/lease, or a combination thereof.”

MaaS Alliance: What is MaaS?

“At Transport for NSW we see Mobility as a Service as a dynamic, growing market with small and large players working together to give customers improved travel options that suit the individual’s needs and circumstances.

Increasing population, constrained capacity, the need for last mile connectivity and the ability to meet future demand are all ongoing challenges TfNSW needs to address to meet community and customer needs with compelling alternatives to car ownership in order to connect customers’ whole lives. And with new mobility solutions being developed and launched at increasingly faster rates, MaaS can provide access to these without the need for personal ownership, thereby removing barriers to usage.”

Yvonne Lee, Transport for New South Wales (TfNSW), Australia

MaaS needs transport options. Public transport is a big part of that, but it also includes any other offerings that help users get from A to B, e.g. on-demand transport, taxis, shuttles, bike/scooter/car sharing, pooling and rentals. Without a variety of options on offer, there’s no point for users to sign up. So MaaS needs TSPs. But do TSPs need MaaS?

MaaS combines a variety of TSPs into a single platform that allows users to easily and quickly plan, book and pay for all their transportation needs.
MaaS combines a variety of TSPs into a single platform that allows users to easily and quickly plan, book and pay for all their transportation needs.

Why should TSPs consider MaaS?

Let’s hear what two government agencies who have implemented MaaS have to say about the advantages they have experienced:

We have determined these key benefits of exploring and implementing MaaS in Queensland:
1. Improved journey choices for the customer
2. Better public value outcomes for Queenslanders
3. Increased partnerships with industry to deliver better transport outcomes
4. Improved utilisation of the existing transport network

George Chemali, Department of Transport and Main Roads Queensland (TMR), Australia

  • We have been able to offer additional transport options including active transport as part of our COVID response.
  • We’ve worked with some great partners and learnt a lot about the need for data standardisation, including developing a MaaS data specification for the sharing of planned and real-time information.
  • With our trials of integrating additional private transport operators (such as Uber, taxis via Ingogo, Lime bikes and the NRMA’s My Fast Ferry) into our public transport payment ecosystem, with incentives when they are used as first-last mile options – we expect to learn a huge amount from this about how we can shape and encourage behaviours that are good for customers, providers and the State as a whole.
  • The impacts of real-time information on public transport use have been well documented, but the benefits of additional data to help with meaningful customer segmentation and data driven decision making are areas of ongoing interest.”

Yvonne Lee, Transport for New South Wales (TfNSW), Australia

So, “why should TSPs consider MaaS?”
There are many things to gain:

Higher user satisfaction

More frequent and higher quality services and a seamless experience lead to more customer satisfaction. The MaaS operator can support this process by collecting and responding to customer issues and suggestions for improvement. Any that are relevant will be forwarded to the TSP. Feeling heard and having issues resolved again will contribute to users being more satisfied with the service.

More data insights

One of the advantages of having a MaaS platform, covering many services across a broad area and a large user base, is the amount of data that becomes available. Based on this, the MaaS platform provider/operator is able to provide TSPs with new user and demand information. TSPs can therefore gain valuable insights to adjust their network and services, and discover new opportunities to serve unmet demand. This might be previously unexplored new geographical areas, changes to service times or frequency, or facilities for specific groups of customers (e.g. women with small children, elderly, those with disabilities).

New partnerships

As both quotes above mention, the additional partnerships can be incredibly valuable to a transport agency, and create new opportunities. These partnerships will benefit not only the individual organisations, but also create synergistic effects for customers, the economy and society as a whole.

Increased market share

Through the MaaS app, new demographic groups will have better access to the TSP’s services. Though public transport is the fundament that MaaS rests on, having additional services can connect new users to transport options that they might not have otherwise considered. Learning about unmet demand can also help widen the TSP’s customer base. If services are added (in new areas or at different times) or improved (e.g. accessibility, comfort, additional services or facilities, frequency adjusted, etc.) based on reliable data, more people will use the service and revenue will increase.

Better communication with users

A MaaS platform comes with the capacity of providing users with current information from TSPs. Common examples include real-time arrival or timetable updates and occupancy data. These updates help remove hassle from the trip and make it more enjoyable and relaxing, thus increasing customer satisfaction.

Benefits to the community

A MaaS platform connects more people to alternative transport options (rather than just taking their private cars). It allows users to travel further more easily, thus providing access to different and more jobs. Sitting in a car less will also greatly benefit their health and overall wellbeing.

Due to a reduction of cars on the road, the community will experience less traffic congestion and higher air quality. The region will become more economically competitive and overall citizen health will improve.

Improved branding

All these advantages can be leveraged to improve TSP brand awareness and image. Becoming part of MaaS, joining the “transport revolution”, allows the TSP to position itself as progressive, highly attuned to user needs and environmentally responsible.

Lastly, the cost of not joining MaaS when others do can be avoided. This includes damage to brand image, as well as losing users to other providers who did join the MaaS system, offering users easy and hassle free journeys.

Challenges and considerations for TSPs

Now, if you’re working for an established TSP, you might not be quite convinced yet that MaaS is what you want to do. So let’s have a look in a little more detail of what’s involved to make MaaS work for you.

Sharing data: An openness to share data and make it easily accessible to the MaaS operator is crucial for any TSP signing up to MaaS. TSPs might be concerned about losing influence or control over their services or brand. If this is the case, have a discussion with your MaaS operator and talk through the details. They can usually set your mind at ease.

Data protection: Any data collected, stored and shared needs to be up to date and comply with privacy and data protection laws and guidelines. This should be in place for your organisation anyway, and your MaaS operator will be happy to have a chat about the implications for you when joining a MaaS ecosystem.

Cost structure: When your services are part of the wider MaaS ecosystem, users expect things to be straightforward and easy to understand. Especially for established TSPs, it might make sense to have a look at their pricing systems and simplify where possible before joining up.

Technology: For the collaboration to be most effective, TSPs should have technology that is up to date, allowing them to benefit from the many advantages of MaaS listed above. As Yvonne Lee (TfNSW) mentions above, data should also adhere to standards to facilitate cooperation. Although an initial inconvenience, this will have advantages in future, as the standards will allow sharing data also with other organisations for a variety of purposes.

Branding: We touched on this briefly above; being a part of MaaS likely causes (or necessitates) a re-positioning of the TSP brand. Often, convenience, speed and overall quality of the service will become more important than price.

Transport options: Users need any transport options to be available/accessible to them, predictable (e.g. arrival time, occupancy) and safe. The TSP can collaborate with the MaaS operator to ensure these needs are met. And again, positive experiences resulting from this will immensely benefit the TSP in turn.

Summing up

Covid has shown us how volatile transport use can be, how things can easily shift drastically in a short period of time. It has highlighted how important flexibility and multi-modality, but also additional features like safety are today. Users want to have a choice and be able to make last-minute changes and adjustments.

This is what MaaS offers. It helps TSPs come together synergistically and provide a user-centric all-in-one solution. Working with an experienced MaaS technology provider like SkedGo can help the TSP become part of this, while reducing any issues. Like any major change, the process has some challenges, but also offers great potential for the TSP to increase their user base, gain new, valuable insights and improve their brand image.

Are you ready to take the next step? For more information or to have a chat with us about how your organisation can get involved, get in touch; together, we can make the future of transport happen.

Photo by luigi alvarez from Pexels