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MaaS Market London conference attracts global experts

First publishedon www.ITSInternational.com
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The progress of MaaS in the UK's West Midlands 650.jpg
The progress of MaaS in the UK's West Midlands will be the subject of a case study on the second day of the conference
A plethora of global mobility experts is heading for ITS International’s 2019 MaaS Market Conference, reflecting the increasing pace of Mobility as a Service deployment. Colin Sowman reports

Mobility as a Service (MaaS) cannot exist without the digitisation of transport services - and digitisation is without doubt the biggest challenge the transport sector has ever faced. It will create more changes over the next five to 10 years than the transport sector has seen in the past 100 - and there will be winners, and losers. That will be the message from Paul Campion, CEO of the government’s Transport Systems Catapult, in the opening session of ITS International’s 2019 MaaS Market Conference in London. Showing delegates how to be on the winning side will be a host of presenters from the UK, the US and Europe.

Digital impact

Taxi-hailing apps have, to date, had the biggest impact of digitisation in the transport sector and have changed the way people think about travel. Todd Schneider’s analysis of the Taxi & Limousine Commission data in New York showed that in 2015 there were fewer than 100,000 Uber trips per day while the city’s famous Yellow Taxis clocked up 500,000. By the third quarter of 2017, they were almost level at around 350,000 trips per day. And by the middle of 2018, the number of Uber journeys was approaching the taxis’ all-time peak of 500,000 daily rides - while the latter had dropped to fewer than 300,000 a day.

The rise of taxi-hailing apps has also had an impact on other public transport services; research by University of Kentucky scholars concludes that each year after taxi-hailing companies are in a city, rail ridership will fall by 1.3% and bus ridership by 1.7%.

This is a stark example to all transport providers of how disruptive such services can be, and how quickly they can become the travelling public’s default method of getting from A to B.

How, then, are authorities and transport operators to respond? As the old saying goes: “If you can’t beat them, join them.”  

That is exactly what MaaS does. It expands this app-based convenience to all available travel modes, providing an opportunity for all transport operators to join the digital revolution. In doing so, it offers travellers a range of travel options they may not have considered before, instantly displacing loyalty and travel habits and often offering a choice of travel options based on time, cost or sustainability. Each provider will have to justify to every traveller why their route, mode or service should be used for every trip.

During the conference, delegates will hear about MaaS-style operations in the UK, Europe and North America. Chris Lane from the West Midlands Transport Authority will explain the public reaction to MaaS Global’s Whim app, while Claus Moshøj will describe recent developments in Copenhagen. This sees Rejsekort, Denmark’s national public transport travel card, being expanded to include other modes and combined with its trip planning app to create an in-house MaaS platform.  

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Dart Rail in downtown Dallas

Biggest obstacle

Also building its own MaaS-style operation is Dallas Area Rapid Transit (Dart) and its executive director Gary Thomas will explain its strategy and why it has chosen to go it alone rather than use a third-party MaaS provider. Also taking the opportunity digitisation provides to expand its offering, this time in Portugal, is Via Verde Serviços, as its mobility programme manager Filipe Coelho will tell delegates.

Back in the UK, the ESP Group’s Beth Cocker will describe the on-demand services it is providing for those with special needs, including those with dementia, and older people returning to public transport having surrendered their driving licence.  

In many areas the biggest obstacles to the roll-out of MaaS-style services is vertical transport providers’ reluctance to participate. This crucial issue will be tackled head-on in a dedicated panel session involving representatives from the bus, rail and taxi sectors relating their experience of, and plans for, participation in MaaS platforms. In the case of local authorities, concerns over losing influence and oversight of public transport in their area appears to have blunted enthusiasm for digitised transport (including MaaS). However, the loss of control is even greater if authorities are unable to participate.

Todd Schneider’s analysis of 2010-16 figures shows that in San Francisco, ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft accounted for half of the congestion increase and 36% of total delay in the downtown core. These transportation network companies also added 47% of the increase in vehicle miles travelled (VMT) during that period even though they only contribute about 5% of total VMT.

It is evident that city authorities cannot ignore the potential impact of digitised transport or the public’s willingness to adopt new services that make their life more convenient. This topic will be addressed in ‘Delivering Policy in a MaaS Universe – who’s in charge and who carries the can’, a dedicated panel session to start the second day of the conference. On the panel will be Michael Hurwitz, director of transport innovation at Transport for London; Gary Thomas, CEO of Dart; Gustav Friis who oversees the City of Aarhus’ MaaS Project in Denmark; and MaaS Alliance senior manager Piia Karjalainen.

First mile/last mile

By almost any measure, public transport is more efficient than private cars when it comes to moving large numbers of people. However, the key to getting people to use public transport modes in MaaS-style platforms will be to match the convenience of the private car.

In this respect the first and last mile of the journey are the most important, and will be the subject of a dedicated session on the second day. If first mile/last mile convenience is not there, then the traveller will decide to use their car. Once they have made that decision, then all the potential benefits to the community (fewer vehicles, shorter travel times and better air quality) are lost. Many see autonomous vehicles as the answer to mobility problems, and they will play an important part in the future of MaaS operations - but it is necessary to separate the hype from what is practical in the urban environment. Robbert Lohmann, co-founder of automated transit applications specialist 2getthere knows the capabilities and limitations of AVs and will share that knowledge. In the same session, Cubic’s Andy Taylor will explore the importance of trust needed to give the travelling public confidence to leave their own vehicles and use shared and multi-modal transport.

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Trust will play a big part in the uptake of shared transport

Facilitate cooperation

While MaaS must always start by utilising currently available vehicles and infrastructure, in most instances the design or layout is not optimal and reducing obstacles to shared and multimodal travel will be pivotal to the uptake and expansion of these services.

Dr. Artur Mausbach, urban planner and doctor of vehicle design with the Royal College of Art’s Intelligent Mobility Design Centre, will address such issues. He will consider how vehicle and infrastructure design needs to evolve to facilitate shared and multimodal journeys, with solutions that can range from quick and simple changes to the existing layout to totally new ground-up designs.

The financial viability of MaaS platforms will be considered at some length but it is perhaps too early to have a definitive answer. However, for many authorities, such services will have to be considered against the background of many bus, tram, metro and train services requiring subsidies from the local or national government. To start this debate, the Local Government Association’s Public Transport Consortium policy advisor, John Pope, will consider the potential of MaaS to reduce the amount of public subsidy needed to run essential transport services in and around cities.

MaaS Alliance member Sandra Witzel, from MaaS tech-enabler SkedGo, Dominick Moxon-Tritsch from taxi-hailing app provider Taxify and Cubic’s Crissy Ditmore will close the conference by considering the best ways for authorities and transport operators to progress MaaS. They will explore how to encourage and facilitate cooperation, and look at the additional benefits operators and authorities can gain from offering MaaS to their customers and residents.

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Transport Systems Catapult

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