This is part four of NCMM’s blog series on Mobility as a Service, which explores how communities across the country can use this concept to improve mobility for all through effectively integrating technology and transportation options. If you’re unfamiliar with MaaS, head to our “What is Mobility as a Service?” post to get started.
Level Four of Mobility as a Service (MaaS) represents the fulfillment of this concept as the industry currently views it. According to Jana Sochor’s Topology of MaaS, reaching Level Four involves integrating the technologies and payment systems into general public policy and governance structures.
While the earlier MaaS levels involve operators acting somewhat autonomously alongside their partners, Level Four requires the full participation of the local governing structure to integrate MaaS as a core component of the transportation network.
This stage of MaaS remains theoretical for the most part, with few if any active examples. That said, California hopes to take the lead in the coming years; their pending experiments will inform how governments can work with communities to reach full MaaS implementation.
At January’s TransportationCamp DC 2018 in Arlington, Virginia, Jim Baker of the California Integrated Travel Program introduced a program in which California’s Department of Transportation (CalTrans) aims to integrate travel planning and fare payment across as many modes and providers as possible in the state.
When the program fully forms, travelers should be able to figure out their travel from one end of the state to the other using one interface and making one payment.
Baker explained to the audience that the program wouldn’t replace current electronic payment systems, such as their smart cards, but would instead act as an umbrella option that would give users access to all California providers. Thus, a resident of Los Angeles with a TAP card would be able to use it in San Francisco or Red Bluff and vice versa. In addition, the state plans to procure and install the necessary technology for smaller systems who currently do not operate on electronic payment to be integrated into this umbrella system.
This effort is still conceptual, with Baker and his team reaching out to transit providers across the state for feedback on what would enable or prevent the program’s success. As a result, the state is well aware that this is an experiment, but the ambitious nature of it fits in with a more comprehensive vision of managing mobility as technologies like autonomous vehicles emerge, and positioning systems early on to serve communities equitably.
At the session, Baker sought feedback on how a statewide effort could be successful, wanting to avoid the political resistance that frequently derails ambitious mobility efforts. This deeper level of integration is a significant hurdle for communities and providers to beat, since it requires more active participation and cooperation from multiple entities than MaaS Levels One, Two, or Three.
In this case, Baker expects that since CalTrans would cover the cost of upgrading the technology, making it as easy and affordable as possible for mobility agencies to join the system would remove a significant barrier for operators’ willingness to participate. The trickier part of the transition would be further down the road, when it comes to switching methods or imposing regulations on entities.
Moving the needle
Now that transit agencies are experimenting with new technological abilities to improve ridership and mobility within their systems, having a large-scale infrastructure aligned with these goals could potentially provide a significant boost to these efforts.
The program anticipates this will create a more attractive system for travelers and providers by improving ease of access to all modes while promoting ridership and streamlining revenue, which creates space for agencies to innovate and add additional mobility options into their menus, which studies suggest could in turn lead to additional boosts in ridership across modes.
If mobility managers convene local providers to join this system, they could have a major impact on the well-being of their communities.
It remains to be seen what will work well, but Baker expects the state’s work to move the needle on how providers approach mobility management. He expressed his hope that whatever comes from this experiment will set a baseline for other states and integrators to understand how they can improve the way travelers access transportation options, without having to keep reinventing the wheel.
For more details on what communities should look for as they head toward MaaS and how they can move the field in this direction, head to our “Mobility as a Service in Practice” brief and listen to our archived webinar.