Opinion: Atkins ask – is MaaS the panacea for transport? | Smart Highways Magazine: Industry News

Opinion: Atkins ask – is MaaS the panacea for transport?

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At this year’s ITS World Congress, Mobility as a Service (MaaS) was a key talking point.  Since Helsinki became known as the frontrunner for implementing a city wide scheme for Mobility as a Service, an increasing number of cities around the world are exploring this opportunity to reset how people travel, how journeys are planned and how it is paid for.

Atkins are supporting this by saying that it is a “sensible approach” to think about carefully and strategically about the benefits MaaS could offer.  They say that in the UK they are working with cities that are keen to understand how they might adopt MaaS and what a route map to implementation might look like.

At last week’s ITS World Congress, Alex Burrows, Technical Director (Intelligent Mobility) at Atkins presented a technical paper investigating the opportunities that MaaS brings for both the individual transport user and the transport authority.  The benefits of MaaS, he said, for the travelling public are becoming well-known.  The ability to pay for how you actually travel; the flexibility of using whatever modes are appropriate for each journey; a focus on the whole journey (from end to end); and the transport system being set up to provide a personalised, on demand service for every individual and their particular journey.

But the opportunities for transport authorities, he says, are even more exciting.  “There are of course the first wave of benefits of providing a better integrated transport system that fits the requirements of every user. But beyond that are a raft of significant advantages.  One of these is the opportunity for a transport authority to ‘reset’ its position and relationships with transport users, operators, politicians, network managers and wider stakeholders.  In a MaaS system, a transport authority must play a central role as an ‘enabler’ ensuring that the system is open to continuous development and improvement.  But it is also always playing the critical dual role of integrating the whole transport network and being absolutely focused on the user experience of every individual wishing to travel.

“The transport authority as an enabler can also use MaaS deployment to encourage new entrants with new products and services into the local market.  This covers innovative services such as car, lift and bike sharing that can help fill the gaps harder to reach by fixed, mass transit modes of transport.  With this enabling role, the transport authority can also be the aggregator of data to better understand how both the network and demand can operate at different times, in different places and how interventions can be better designed to optimise capacity.”

Moving onto the roll of the enabler, Alex Burrows explains: “as well as integrator and aggregator, it can also bring transport authorities a much greater range of levers to use to improve policy development and implementation in order to drive improved outcomes and benefits.  A fundamental part of MaaS is the ability to support behavioural change.  By designing incentives for individual users based on having better information and a greater means to alter travel choices with an integrated system that is modally agnostic for users, compared to the cost of owning a car or buying a season ticket.

“These incentives can vary from collaborating with other organisations, to offering personalised deals and promotions, to encouraging or rewarding certain behaviours. It can also include interventions within the transport network to ‘steer’ flexible bus routes of car sharing opportunities towards potential users at the critical decision-making moment.

“Now the possibilities become extremely exciting as we delve into what MaaS could potentially offer to cities as it is implemented and adopted. Indeed, the question can also be how can cities exploit MaaS to its greatest potential? As an example, MaaS could be a highly-effective tool for addressing air pollution by guiding travellers around areas that are congested or polluted, or it could charge the polluters the actual cost for the disadvantages created by choosing to drive into a city when better options were available.”

And he has another example – the school run, which he says is “an issue of ever-increasing concern and one that has a hugely detrimental impact on the transport network (particularly roads) as well as on air quality, public safety, congestion and health more generally.  MaaS implementation would enable a transport authority to have the evidential base for designing new solutions as well as the ability to ensure they can be delivered to best effect.”

However, he warns that implementing MaaS is not going to be either quick or simple:  “There is a lot of joining-up to do by all the relevant partners needed to make such a transformational leap forward.  But that does not mean that we shouldn’t try.  That is why everyone is talking about Helsinki, it may seem incredibly bold or slightly outlandish, but change needs to happen.  We all know that we cannot build our way out of congestion and that radical new solutions are required, in which case MaaS must be investigated properly because it may well provide the scale of solution that the transport sector needs.”


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