MaaS Considerations for Small to Mid-Sized Agencies

  • Author: Heidi Guenin, AICP and Josh Albertson
  • Date: May 4, 2023

An Introduction to MaaS” explains what Mobility as a Service (MaaS) is and how it could benefit your customers. But with so many MaaS solutions available which approach is the best for your agency?

Since the initial MaaS software providers began to emerge in 2015, MaaS vendors have developed diverse ways of doing business. This diversity allows public transportation agencies to choose a type of partnership that best suits the needs of the agency and its customers. For example, some cities have implemented public-private partnerships with mobility service providers, while others have adopted a more laissez-faire approach and allowed private MaaS platforms to provide service without any formalized partnership or agreement. Which approach is best for your agency? Here are some factors to consider.


Some mobility applications, such as Uber or Lyft, have taken a closed, or “walled garden” approach, in which an app user receives transportation information and options that are restricted to the vendor’s own services.[1] Walled garden environments in mobility applications allow transportation service vendors to offer only the transportation modes owned by the vendor, with limited information available on public transit and other mobility options.

Uber’s app is one example of a “walled garden,” offering their core ride-hail service in addition to other mobility modes that Uber has acquired, such as Getaround (car sharing), Lime (scooter share), and Jump (bike share) while it was still operating—but not showing other mobility services on the app.[2] Lyft’s app moves one step closer to the open approach by adding in information about public transit options. In this walled garden approach, mobility service providers can presumably both “protect themselves from the risk that modes like e-scooters and e-bikes cannibalize their core ride-hail service” and attract new users to their core services.[3]

“Open garden” applications, conversely, allow users to select transportation modes from all available options, rather than ones solely owned by the MaaS provider.[4] Most open garden MaaS software applications are provided by vendors who do not themselves directly provide mobility services. Transit app, for example, gathers information from as many mobility companies/options as possible and does not directly sell or provide a transportation service. The data used by Transit app is often publicly available through GTFS and GBFS.[5] In some markets, depending on agreements with mobility service providers, Transit app users can use Transit app to pay directly for their trip – on the bus, shared micro mobility, or even ride hail. In other markets, Transit app provides a link that a user can tap to be taken to the mobility service provider app where they can reserve a ticket or vehicle and pay for their trip.

Business Model

Even though MaaS as an idea and in some proto-form has been around for 7+ years and “MaaS apps have been downloaded millionfold, providers are still struggling to break even.”[6] MaaS, like other ‘as a service’ models, is built on an on-going relationship (for example, subscribing to a ride-hail service or paying a yearly annual fee plus per-trip fees to use bike share) in place of a one-time transaction (buying a bike for personal use from a local shop). As noted above, some MaaS providers are also direct service providers, some of whom also build and maintain their own fleets to provide the service. Service providers have payment processing agreements that allow riders to book and pay for rides, and these agreements vary greatly. All of these factors contribute to the complicated nature and unclear future of MaaS services.

There are many different ways to categorize MaaS services. For example, MaaS service models include public, commercial, and public-private approaches, and within the commercial model, providers might be integrators of other services, direct providers, or a combination. For transit agencies exploring their MaaS options, though, one of most helpful ways to examine MaaS providers is through four categories: infrastructure, value proposition, customer structure, and revenue structure.[7]

Transit agencies can examine their current state and future goals for each of these topics to better understand if a potential MaaS solution will support the agency’s goals and align with existing operational processes and regulatory requirements and also if the current conditions within the agency and in the service area will support the success of the MaaS solution.


This category refers to everything that is needed to provide MaaS, including:

  • Transportation options – private and public transport operators, privately owned transportation options, shared mobility services
  • Information technology – MaaS platforms, including their algorithms, analytics, service levels, and policies, including those related to data ownership
  • Regulation and public policy – policies and regulations, including permitting and data sharing policies, at various levels of government (local, regional, state, federal, etc.)
  • Physical infrastructure – the network of roads, paths, sidewalks, signage, bus stops, etc. that make up the available mobility infrastructure
  • Data infrastructure – the accuracy and completeness of information available about transportation options, regulations, and physical infrastructure

Value Proposition

This category refers to the specific solution offered by a MaaS platform, including:

  • Level of offering – trip planning, booking and payment (directly integrated or by linking to external app), service delivery, in-trip support, subscription services
  • Transportation modes included
  • Geographic span
  • Available payment options
  • Availability of white label option
  • Customer profile and personalization of service
  • Data and analytics available to transit agency

Customer Structure

This category refers to the MaaS customers – who they are, how they travel, and how the MaaS provider acquires and interacts with them.

  • Type of customer – demographic information, modes used, payments used
  • Type of travel – trip reason (e.g., commute, tourism), trip timing and frequency
  • Customer service
  • Customer acquisition

Revenue Structure

This category refers to the MaaS provider’s costs and revenues incurred while providing MaaS to customers.

  • Costs – including information technology, fleet, and staff
  • Revenues – including subsidies, customer fees, advertising, and contracts

Key Takeaways

Implementing MaaS solutions is typically unique to each agency; there is no universally accepted approach. While private-public partnerships work well for some agencies, others prefer a more market-driven model. In selecting the approach that is right for your agency, it is helpful to think about the following categories:

Openness: MaaS platforms can reflect services from one vendor such as Uber, or services from several distinct vendors. The decision on how open to have your platform may also impact things like data accessibility and ease of fare payment. 

Infrastructure: Agencies with a variety of services and strong physical and digital infrastructure and supportive staffing structures may choose to take a more direct approach than agencies without those resources.

Value Proposition: MaaS platforms can offer a wide variety of functions, from trip planning to booking and fare payment. Agencies that are looking for fare integration or better regional coordination may prioritize certain features, whereas cities with many different mode choices may prioritize others.

Customer Structure: Rider demographics influence how the platform gets used. It can be useful to think about what types of people will use your agency’s platform, and what their travel patterns and specific needs are.  

Revenue Structure: Some agencies may want to pay yearly subscription fees for transportation services; others may want to forgo upfront costs entirely and allow private firms to handle the upfront risk.


[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.




[7] Ibid.


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