Do you work in the Public Transport industry? If so, chances are you have heard about ‘MaaS’ or ‘Mobility-as-a-Service’. In this article we will explain more about this concept and show how Helsinki, the capital of Finland, has implemented this concept into their Public Transport system.
What is Mobility-as-a-Service, exactly?
When you do some research, you will find there are quite some definitions for Mobility-as-a-Service or ‘MaaS’. The most popular one is to provide a single platform for booking and managing multiple modes of transport to create an end-to-end trip. These may include public transportation, ride-sharing, car-sharing, bike-sharing, taxi, car rentals, or a combination of all the above.
Another key element for MaaS is providing users with a single digital payment method; only one transaction necessary for an end-to-end trip rather than paying for individual modes of transportation.
MaaS in the city of Helsinki
The city of Helsinki in Finland has deployed a MaaS-based transport strategy, and it has gained significant traction. The main platform is called Whim, and it currently has 60,000 active users per month. This enables travellers to choose between three mobility options: a full-access subscription, a basic membership with reductions on taxis and car sharing, and a pay-as you go model.
Helsinki offered a great environment for the implementation of MaaS due to multiple reasons:
- Finnish law requires transport providers to make ticketing functionality available to third-parties
- Great public transport operations with 99.7% reliability and 89% overall satisfaction
- Consistently-upgraded public infrastructure
- Public transport providers offer free access to data and paperless ticketing is in place
Following the success Whim saw in its home market, it has spread its operations to Birmingham, UK and Antwerp, Belgium. We have to keep in mind that platforms like these are in their infancy, but the concept has been proven in multiple regions. There will be challenges in scaling this across different societies with different consumer habits, varying levels of digital adoption, and mixed travelling patterns.
There are clear benefits to the customer. Firstly, the payment amount is clear and the payment method is secure and digitalised. The application automatically calculates the price you pay based on your subscription level, or offers a pay-as-you-go option.
The route is planned and displayed in detail, whilst offering flexibility for changes of circumstance or delays. Real-time data feeds keep the whole process accurate and reliable. The objective is to provide carefree travel. This is the overarching result of MaaS.
Challenges for MaaS
There are huge challenges associated with the MaaS subscription model. The main overriding obstacle is to draw the disparate parties together to collaborate under one banner.
As we outlined in a CCV blog article, the clear problems can been understood as follows:
Ticketing and scheduling systems have been established using various technologies and various languages. Somehow, the legacy systems for buses, trains, trams, metro, and taxis need to talk to each other in a standardised format.
Where there is innovation, there is vulnerability. MaaS stakeholders must ensure bulletproof cybersecurity in the face of hackers, and be able to accurately identify travellers and their tokens at each stage of their journey. Protection of customer data is paramount, and fraud must be actively targeted.
#3 Business models
Different operators have different business models, pricing structures, and value-add offers. Some may have built a brand reputation on a set of values. Some players may have been in direct competition with others for decades. It’s difficult to move into the collaborative mindset under these conditions.
#4 Suppliers and partnerships
With such a huge shift in technology, existing suppliers and partnerships will be put under pressure. This isn’t easy to manage, particularly if long-term contracts are in place or relationships are well-established.
The compatibility of different data sets is a challenge, but this is essential to giving the end-user a consistent experience across operators.
How do the mobility operators receive their share? Taxis generally charge according to distance travelled and the duration of the journey, while buses have fixed prices per area. Combining multiple modes of transportation requires precise calculations and the price estimations are only as good as the computation algorithm is. How much would the price differ when booked through the application rather than buying tickets straight from the operator? How are delays managed from a price perspective?
With the widespread appetite for MaaS, a new way of thinking must emerge. A culture of collaboration, trust, and non-competitiveness is needed to build the shared platforms that travellers need. The payments industry must ensure that stakeholders get their share quickly, accurately, and consistently.
MaaS implementation requires the involvement of trusted third-party authorities who drive the innovation and mediate between key players. In a competitive environment, it’s important to create win-win scenarios for everybody. This will require tough diplomacy, and expertise in technology for payments, scheduling, and more. MaaS is a mindset change. Industry stakeholders must adopt a truly customer-centric approach, and travellers must think about mobility in a holistic way.