MaaS – What is it good for?

Barak Sas
Managing Director, Mobility Business

I participated in ITS UK’s MaaS Forum meeting on Wednesday 26 June, which was filled with industry professionals from both government and the private sector, and it turned out to be highly insightful. Here are my main takeaways on MaaS in general and specifically on the UK B2G space. As always, this represents my opinion and my opinion only:

1. Creating a Government MaaS App is a Political-Social Decision

The market already has private companies that deliver similar solutions – like Google Maps and Uber – but supporting the public transit backbone, offering incentives for active travel, or aiding disadvantaged populations can be more effectively managed through a government-run MaaS scheme.

2. MaaS is “Just” a Building Block in Government Transport Policy

The MaaS app itself is not a magical solution to reduce car usage. It’s not enough to create a MaaS app to encourage active travel, shared cars, or bus ridership; there needs to be a clear policy with goals and carrots & sticks. For example, encouraging bike use requires better infrastructure and more available bikes, not just their presence on a MaaS app.

3. MaaS App as Part of a Larger Ecosystem

The MaaS app is a window through which people interact with transport. This ecosystem includes various transport providers (rail, bus, cars, micromobility) and solutions in payments, data, and behavioural change, all serving a government-directed transport policy. The app is the visible part (and the engine) of a much larger system.

4. Encouraging Shared Cars, Including Taxis

While promoting public transport is a mission we all hold dear, we must acknowledge that cars serve a purpose. To provide a viable alternative to private car use, we need to encourage shared cars and taxis as part of the transport policy and integrate them into the MaaS app.

5. The Term “MaaS” Needs to be Replaced

No further explanation needed.

6. Funding and Revenue: It’s Complicated

With years of experience in MaaS (B2C, B2B, and B2G), we now better understand the financial aspects:

  • People are not willing to pay extra for existing public transport, whether through markup, subscription, or any additional fees. This includes all transport options with transparent pricing, such as known bus ticket prices or e-bike rates through the app.
  • Revenue can be generated via commissions from transport operators, which councils should demand in new tenders and BSIPs.
  • Transportation is a social good, necessitating government intervention.

7. Nationwide Apps for Efficiency of Scale

In the UK, various MaaS solutions exist through FTZ funding or local initiatives. Similarly, the Netherlands had multiple MaaS projects. This is the case in many countries.

Developing locally by different providers challenges the commercial viability of these projects. Consider these examples of potential efficiencies:

  • Integration Costs: Nationwide integration with providers like National Express and Voi can minimise R&D costs.
  • Ease data standardisation: A relevant example would be the work done by the National Parking Platform (NPP)
  • Commercial Agreements: A nationwide rollout would aggregate demand, compelling transport providers, including buses, into commercial agreements.

I am not calling for a monopoly on MaaS but rather for allowing circa three providers to have nationwide access, giving users the option to choose between them. This approach is similar to how some prefer Google Maps while others prefer Citymapper, both offer competing yet identical services.

MaaS is “good” as it provides people with better access to transportation and enables the government to direct transport policy. We need to focus on improving the ecosystem and leveraging MaaS to achieve this.