The car is still considered to be the most flexible option to get around seamlessly — it promises you empowerment to ride anywhere at any moment. But what if you try remembering the last time you were scouting for a parking spot? In those moments, car ownership can be compared to dragging around a rock shackled to your leg. This is precisely the reason why, in 2001, Bernd Meurer coined the notion of Mobility-as-a-Service, arguing that “ownership and use do not necessarily have to be one and the same”*.
Thus, even though this argument for flexibility is usually implicitly directed against public transport, as much as for owning a personal car (most recent example — Ford’s ad for their new SUV), we cannot forget that public transport carries a significant volume of people every single day. For this reason, we decided to spend a lot of time learning as much as we could from public transport authorities (PTAs). And it seems that PTAs have become more and more convinced that MaaS is the adequate alternative to owning a car, promising even more expansive flexibility: if you were to have a personal master key to any transport option in your pocket, why would you ever rely only on one specific vehicle? This is further supported by ever-accelerating public and private tenders looking for software companies to provide working MaaS solutions. This excitement is nonetheless tainted with three extremely pervasive issues:
Comparing solutions, without first going over and prioritizing the actual challenges these solutions ambition to solve, is a futile endeavor. The following elements constitute the key challenges that any MaaS solution is expected to address:
All of these challenges suggest that MaaS is much more than just another app in your already overloaded phone screen. If a city is really looking to provide a master key to access any transport option for their residents as a legitimately better alternative to owning a car, this key has to make urban mobility networks more sustainable, effective, equitable, connected, and safe. This also implies that the main challenges now lie in the urban centers, which does not mean that rural areas or intercity traveling is not important. On the contrary, these use cases have many more significant challenges that would require completely new solutions to supplement urban, intracity MaaS.
These issues and the current understanding of MaaS do not go hand in hand, which is why we think the definition of MaaS and its understanding should be broadened up and unpacked into a clear developmental roadmap.
Founded in 2013, Trafi is a Lithuanian tech start-up. Trafi is working shoulder-to-shoulder with cities, countries, and companies worldwide to create the best in class Mobility-as-a-Service alternative for congested cities. Trafi offers cities the possibility to connect all mobility services into one single platform where users can check itineraries and also book their tickets and trips.
Trafi’s mission is to empower cities’ urban transportation with technology and know-how and encourage citizens to use more sustainable modes of transportation by accessing all services into one single platform. Trafi is currently live in 4 continents around the world and 7 cities.