Is there a need for Public MaaS?

By Pekka Möttö, Kyyti Group CEO

Who should be responsible for sustainable development in transportation? Sustainable meaning less pollution, less congestion and less urban space used for cars. This should be a no brainer – a public authority of course.

What tools does the authority have to make sure that sustainability is achieved? Legislation, regulation, education, a massive budget… In developed societies the public sector typically has the necessary tools to prevent undesirable development. Undesirable development is something that makes problems worse rather than solves them.

How is the big picture of transportation typically organised? A public transport system and private car side by side. Something has been changing the status quo recently. New mobility players have entered the market. This has happened by using the modern technology, which enables reaching the customer and providing services in a whole new way. This is a new development which can not be turned back and of course it should not be turned back. This should be seen like there is finally a way to upgrade the public transport system to better meet people’s different needs and to reduce the need for private car.

This change is what we call MaaS, Mobility as a Service. MaaS is a concept in which a wide range of mobility services, with public transport as the backbone, are integrated into one solution. MaaS is about getting around in a more flexible way without using your own car. MaaS is something that is believed to change the big picture of transportation. MaaS is a key to one of the world’s fastest growing markets and obviously there are a lot of players willing to take their share of that market. These new players have the tools to reach end users and the will to dominate the market by owning the end users.

For some it would be great if privately funded tech giants would provide solutions for the future mobility needs, but there are reasons why this market should not be given away from the ones responsible for overall sustainability.

Data is the most important reason not to give the market dominance to private players. Data is needed to understand how people actually move around to identify problems and to be able to fix the problems. Data is crucial and losing access to data would be a total disaster for all of us. Uncontrolled growth would be seen on the streets in a way we would not like. Importance of transportation data is at the core of urban infrastructure. Whatever happens, access to data must be maintained at authority. Cities need to have the tools to control their streets.

Reaching the customer directly is the other reason why public entities should consider providing a MaaS solution directly for end users. The one who has direct contact with a customer has a major opportunity to influence the decisions people make. If the one reaching the customer is a private player, they obviously try to maximise the use of the services with the most revenue for them – controllers will demand high conversion rates to their own services. Are these services the ones best for sustainability, is the question, and the likely answer is no. We already have seen new mobility services worsening congestion and filling the sidewalks with four or two wheel vehicles. Do we want to see a further modal shift from high capacity public transit to cars and from walking and cycling to motorised devices? I don’t think we do.

Am I saying that private players should be kept out of the MaaS? No I’m not. I am saying that whoever is responsible for the sustainable development in mobility should not give away the control of the transportation system. Many may not have noticed yet, but there is already a battle going on for the ownership of the end user. What should public sectors role be in this game, is a good question. My message is, that tools are available for those willing to be in the game.

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