MaaS: revolution and stakes

The climate crisis and the development of cities place mobility in the face of new challenges, where innovation must be centred on the user and his expectations. MaaS (Mobility as a Service) reconciles ecological awareness and intermodality, with an innovative experience for the inhabitants of tomorrow’s cities. Offering solutions to urban, environmental and energy issues, this hybrid ecosystem combines software and hardware to reshuffle the cards and revolutionize mobility as we know it.

MaaS, the solution for tomorrow’s mobility?

A digital innovation: concept and objectives

Maas (“Mobility as a Service”) is first and foremost a means of simplifying and make the users’ journeys more fluid. A city’s transport offer (public transport, self-service, shared, free-floating, long-term rental, etc.) is increasingly rich and constantly changing, with many new players entering the market. Within this offer, there are differences in price, time, availability, practicality, depending on the time and weather conditions.

MaaS allows the user to have access to different services to choose, use and combine means of transport, during all the stages of his journey (inform, book, navigate, subscribe, pay, recommend…). To do this, MaaS links the physical (all vehicles) and digital (applications and user platforms) offers, all focused on the user experience. MaaS mobile applications are multiplying and are of massive interest to medium-sized towns and cities, which have well integrated the interest of its services as a means of transforming the mobility habits of city dwellers.

Challenges and benefits of MaaS

One of the main challenges of MaaS for cities is first of all to promote access to soft mobility, that means to any so-called environmentally friendly mode of transport by reducing the use of private cars, but also to make it easier for its citizens to travel in increasingly congested cities.

Service-based devices allow mobility professionals to increase their user numbers and collect personal data. An analysis and understanding of mobility habits, user expectations and vehicle performance is essential to the development of their business.

  • Refined knowledge of user practices
  • Improved services for travelers
  • More targeted transport choices
  • An increase in the rate of use of the various transport options on offer

Thanks to MaaS, tomorrow’s cities must make people forget a model that used to focus on the personal car in order to change the habits of city dwellers (in the city, 40% of car journeys are less than three kilometres long) and develop new reflexes. This concept could enable France to achieve its 2024 ecological transition objective, which aims to restore the bicycle to a major share of citizens’ journeys. The “Loi d’Orientation des Mobilités” (Mobility Orientation Act) goes in this direction by making all information on the public and private mobility offer accessible and by facilitating the implementation of multimodal ticketing services.

Origins and development of MaaS in France

The concept was born in 2017 in Helsinki. The “Whim” application, designed by the Finnish start-up “Maas Global”, allows its citizens to move around the city as simply and economically as possible by offering to connect different means of transport.

On the French side, municipalities and national stakeholders have clearly understood the stakes and opportunities of this brand-new form of mobility, which fully integrates soft mobility in a long-term transformation of Smart Cities. The SNCF and RATP have therefore decided to set up local initiatives supported by municipalities.

Thanks to the “Star” application implemented in 2018 by Keolis, a subsidiary of SCNF, Dijon and Rennes were able to combine bicycle, bus, carpooling and metro, while indicating in real time the availability of parking spaces in the city. Similar applications have been introduced in several cities in France, including Annemasse with “TAC mobilités” and “Moovizy”, which was launched in Mulhouse and Saint Etienne. “Star”, “Moovizy” and “TAC mobilités” offer travellers a single application that allows them to prepare itineraries, consult the next passages of the different modes of transport or even search for timetables.

With the stéphanois example Moovizy, the first application called “Maas” in France, the application (available for download from the “store” on IOS and Android) offers its users the possibility to calculate their routes from a single platform. To date, the platform offers complete information on the types of transport available, an intuitive user interface and a multitude of options. Moovizy includes public transport in Saint-Etienne and Lyon, the “Vélivert” bicycle offer, car, taxis, car-sharing and car-pooling.

Even if the application for almost 25,000 regular users throughout the conurbation does not yet allow them to pay for their journeys directly on it, it nevertheless offers the possibility to follow the city’s bus and tram traffic in real time, to find out about disruptions linked to construction sites or traffic information… Based on all this data, the application offers several alternative routes in case of problems.

In Dijon and Rennes, “Star” offers itinerary recommendations (with estimated travel time), live timetables of the various transport services and has a playful function as it provides weather forecasts, traffic information and transport advice. The “Tac Mobilités” platform developed in Annemasse has almost the same features as those seen above. However, while it is only possible to buy bus tickets on it for the moment, the RATP group hopes to enrich the application in the future.

Although the actors in Maas are not yet very numerous, initiatives in this attractive market are multiplying. According to the French group Transdev, “In France the turnover of public transport is around 25 billion euros, the one of mobility is six times higher. »

What are the MaaS’ threats?

One of the first risks in big cities is surely the monopoly of the web giants, the potential leaders of the sector, a danger for the traditional or incoming players that we risk seeing disappear. The field is still open with often local solutions, which have not yet conquered the whole territory. The race is therefore on for players seeking leadership in this area. The second risk is the increase in problems related to the protection of personal data and their excesses. Indeed, MaaS applications collect more or less sensitive data on users, journeys and payments, and must therefore protect and respect the processing of this data.

Beyond the threats that seem to be the same as those of digital usage in general, MaaS meets and exceeds the ever-changing expectations of users while responding to the current climate crisis. A real tool for changing the modes of travel of city dwellers for intelligent, multimodal, greener and more personalised mobility, all this, accessible to all. The MaaS is therefore becoming a must for a city committed to the success of its mobility policy.