For this edition of Women in MaaS, we introduce you to Stephanie Kohlinger, a master’s graduate from the Netherlands, who spent time with us analysing data from our own TripGo app. It’s great to see academics like Stephanie choose to focus on transportation, bringing with them new insights and ideas as well as giving the sector the attention it deserves. We hope you enjoy this interview as much as we did.
Stephanie Kohlinger – Master’s Graduate, Delft University of Technology, Netherlands
How did you come to study MaaS?
I originally studied civil engineering which was interesting but dry. I wasn’t moved in a way that would allow me to be more involved in things that matter in the world. I chose transport infrastructure and logistics as my master’s because it allowed me to think about sustainability and global issues such as mobility.
Also, I’m fascinated by transport and logistics because it’s really tangible. You can truly see how people and products move from A to B. If you create improvements, the results are often visible, making the project rewarding to work on. I’m also fascinated by behavioural modelling which allows you to visualise and measure behaviour from data and try to understand people’s preferences and decisions. As a result of these two interests, my professor put me in touch with SkedGo which is how I became involved with MaaS. At SkedGo, I was able to research the travel behaviour of MaaS users.
Did you have any connection with the transportation sector before this point?
I’ve always been technically minded. It was a very obvious decision to study at Delft University of Technology but I wasn’t sure what track to take. I liked the fact that civil engineering was challenging and sometimes math heavy but I also did some work on the side with businesses which had nothing to do with engineering. For example, helping small restaurants or wineries with their business strategies which I really enjoyed. It made me realise this was what I missed in my studies. To be able to think about new situations and how to anticipate challenges; that’s what my master’s research offered me.
Tell us a little bit about your research and some of the insights you gleaned.
I analysed anonymised data from SkedGo’s TripGo app. My research involved modelling and predicting the choice behaviours of its users. The research was very interesting because existing literature on MaaS behaviour studies is based on surveys or trials. But there’s bias in these experiments because if you do a survey people don’t feel the consequences of their choices. Also, people are willing to join a trial. That’s why it was good to use the TripGo data because people didn’t know they were part of an experiment. That makes it a very valid source of information.
I set up models to look at people’s preferences and what they liked or didn’t like. Most people chose public transport as their preferred mode. But then you have to consider the people that are downloading these apps are probably more geared towards this mode of transport in any case. Most interestingly, the research showed that besides public transport, there was a much higher interest in combining public transport and cars instead of just taking the car. In TripGo they are more MaaS users than purely car users. So, if someone owns a car, they’re more likely to use it in combination with public transport than just using their car.
What were the final outcomes of your research?
There were three main recommendations. Firstly, to really personalise the user experience in the TripGo application. There are several methods of doing this, including the application of an algorithm or machine learning that comes into play once you have the users’ main preferences to work on. If someone prefers to walk, for example, you can provide routes where this is possible rather than suggesting alternative modes of transport.
The second recommendation was around MaaS as a concept, finding a way to draw car users to use the app. There are many ways we can do this, such as improving the integration of booking and payment, for example, but I think it’s worth carrying out interviews with car users to pinpoint why they don’t use such apps.
The third recommendation was related to SkedGo’s integration API that it offers its business-to-business (B2B) customers. It’s the API behind TripGo, its showcase app. It allows organisations to create customized MaaS applications. For example, private shuttles or car sharing options can be added in, or functions that allow car users to enter the company’s parking lot. If you can prove these customized applications can take cars off the road, this provides nice evidence to potentially gain government support and more clients.
Are there any other ways that we could reduce the number of cars on the road?
Another option is to show people there are more convenient ways to travel. My own experiment with my parents was when we wanted to go to the centre of Amsterdam, which is always a hassle and it’s expensive to park. But there is a park and ride with a metro that takes you into the city; I thought I’d take them. I planned everything so they’d know where to go and what to do. They loved it because it was so easy. You just have to show people how it works once and that it’s not a complicated as it seems.
“You just have to show people how it works once and that it’s not a complicated as it seems.”
If you’re in the Netherlands – and maybe elsewhere – you could have this functionality in a MaaS app so you can easily access all the park and ride facilities. Make it easier to plan a trip like that so that people aren’t taking their cars into city centres. As far as I’m aware, there isn’t an app that offers this.
Has your own approach to travel changed since undertaking the research?
From my point of view, I used the TripGo app a lot and it made me think about the way that I travel and my own experience. For instance, I really don’t mind walking. It could be integrated with health devices so that you can see the impact of the exercise you’re taking such as if you’ve walked an extra 500 steps on your daily goal.
Also, there are so many more ways to travel than we’re aware of, for example, not only shared bikes and scooters but also the Segway. If apps can say there’s this scooter outside your house, if you take it to one train station further than you usually do, then you’ll be super quick today. It’s very nice to leave this complex planning to the app. If it can really unite all the different modes, it’s very valuable.
About Stephanie Kohlinger
As a master’s graduate in transport, infrastructure and logistics from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, Stephanie found her passion for blending data analytics and behavioural studies working with SkedGo, where she carried out her research.
Stephanie has also been actively working with several other companies, carrying out data analysis research including optimising supply chain and warehouse operations, something that she’s particularly interested in. She has also been a board member and chairperson of a local charity as well as offering consultancy to local businesses in her spare time.
Connect with Stephanie on LinkedIn.