Mobility as a Service: Further Integration

Author: Andrew Carpenter

Published: March 6, 2018

This is part three of NCMM’s 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?” and MaaS Level One posts to get started.

After services manage to aggregate trip information and planning into one space (Level One), the next step, Level Two, is a “hard integration,” to bundle them so travelers can pay for a single trip, regardless of the modality, through one centralized site. In Level Three, all participating mobility services are bundled into different subscription packages.

For a reminder, here is the Topology of MaaS:

Graphic of the Mobility as a Service Topology


One-stop shop

As mentioned in our previous post on this topic, there are already apps that make it easy for customers to plan out their entire trip from one interface. The missing ingredient in the U.S. is being able to pay for everything within that same app, a step that would bring a service into Level Two of MaaS.

However, some companies in Europe have already begun to incorporate payment options into the one-stop planning interface.

Germany’s moovel and Finland’s Whim have introduced multimodal ticketing in multiple cities, and continue to grow their offerings across the continent. For example, moovel’s customers can now book and pay for a train ride on Deutsche Bahn, Germany’s national train service, and then cover the last stretch of their trip with Car2Go or NextBike bikeshare.

What makes this such an important development is the impact of this seamless “plan-decide-pay” option on human behavior. Let’s take driving as an example. Part of what typically pushes travelers who live where there are multiple transportation options available to nonetheless drive themselves in their own cars is the ease with which they can just hop into the car, whenever they want, and go. In this scenario, there are basically two decision points: one, I will drive, and two, I get in the car. What humans are somehow able to forget along this decision path until it is too late is the aggravation of keeping the car fueled, maintained and ready to go; sitting in traffic; and searching for some place to park that car at their destination.

So, to entice people out of their cars, other transportation modes need to mimic the perceived ease of deciding and then driving in a privately owned vehicle, to the extent possible. To be an equally or almost equally attractive choice, multi-modal transportation systems need to decrease the “friction” for individuals as they move from considering to doing, friction caused by having to take multiple actions or make multiple decisions. Integrating planning and payment into one space is a giant step toward achieving this.

In rural areas it is much more common for people to not have another transportation choice that comes even remotely close to the efficiency and convenience of driving their car. The challenge for rural mobility managers is also different; rather than focusing on moving people from their cars to other transportation modes, they are rather engaged in figuring out how to provide rides for those who don't have access to a vehicle or need an alternative in the case of an emergency. Success for rural mobility managers is to give people access to essential destinations.

In both urban and rural areas, an additional motivation for mobility managers to connect individuals to options that can make vehicle ownership unnecessary is so those with lower incomes can allocate their scarce resources to more basic necessities, such as food, housing, or medicine.

If they can achieve this, while still connecting those individuals to business clusters in small cities or towns for jobs, training, and other services, they can help those individuals build up resources—financial and otherwise—so they can address deeper barriers that prevent them from moving toward more financial security. The MaaS model helps local service agencies economically provide the regular connections and emergency rides while making it easy to integrate new options with minimal disruption for all parties involved.


Bundle up

Level Three MaaS builds on the one-stop model of Level Two integration, adding a layer of service through bundling. In Level Three, customers can still choose to pay per single trip, just as in Level Two, but now also have the option to purchase a subscription to different packages of services, offered at different price points depending on what is included in the package. This allows users to choose which modes they envision they will most likely use and pay the membership fee that covers a certain amount of travel within those modes.

Whim’s app in Helsinki includes two subscription levels which show the range of what can be offered: €49 per month buys unlimited transit use, and discounted taxi rides, car rentals, and bikeshare trips within the city, whereas €499 per month allows unlimited use on all modes. (Note that Whim compares the cost of this unlimited package to the cost of owning a car, but with far more options than traditional ownership provides).

Both subscription packages also offer options for traveling into the greater Helsinki region for a surcharge, showing how the model is viable beyond just dense urban cores.

In Gothenburg, Sweden, a company named UbiGo conducted a study on the viability of a Level Three model, and found that users adopted MaaS quickly and easily. The pilot’s subjects were even disappointed in it ending, and now the company hopes to launch a full service in Stockholm.

The up-front payment model offered through UbiGo and Whim type systems, versus a pay-as-you-go model, makes it even easier for people to make positive decisions to use alternatives to private vehicles since all one has to do is “unlock” their trip with a ticket or app. In this way, people are incentivized to use the modes that they’ve already “bought.”

In addition, the true cost of moving around is made more apparent to consumers, and helps them to compare the value of what they have purchased with other options, such as car ownership.

Whim and UbiGo are out in front on exploring these later levels of Mobility as a Service. So far their experiences provide the best view of what this approach can look like, and especially in the case of UbiGo, how people may use MaaS.

Although companies are beginning to make progress through the topology of MaaS, to fully realize its potential, public agencies and policymakers need to join the conversation in order to promote the model and enable it through legislation or funding mechanisms. This is the fourth level of Mobility as a Service, which we will cover next week.

There are multiple steps to reaching the full concept of Mobility as a Service. In response to this new and promising trend, we've developed a series of materials that show what communities should look for as they develop MaaS, and how they can move the field in this direction. 

Check out our “Mobility as a Service in Practice” brief, and mark your calendars for our MaaS webinar on March 8th at 2:00 EST.

Image Credits:

Header Image: Carlos Felipe Pardo, Flickr, CC BY 2.0

MaaS Topology: Jana Sochor, ITS World Congress 2017

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Have more mobility news that we should be reading and sharing? Let us know! Reach out to Andrew Carpenter (