Mobility as a Service (MaaS) could make the way we move around more comfortable, more efficient and more sustainable. MaaS systems integrate various means of transportation on a common platform and simplify their use.
It’s not only cities that are groaning under the continuous growth of motorised private transport. Streets and parking areas routinely reach their capacity limits and cannot be expanded as needed. Much of this traffic is due to small journeys: 50% of car journeys in Basel are less than five kilometres; in the Canton of Zurich, 65% are less than ten kilometres. Although the transition to electric vehicles will reduce local emissions, it requires identical capacities if the principle of owning a car remains. In order to improve transportation efficiency, many cities and transportation service providers are considering MaaS systems. Mobility as a Service is designed to bundle as many transport options as possible and considerably simplify their use. A MaaS system automatically suggests the fastest, cheapest, most comfortable or most sustainable form of transport to get from A to B – including the intermodal use of several forms of transport. At the moment, Mobility on Demand requires expertise as well as the will and patience to research and weigh the different mobility options themselves. In other words: Should I use an e-scooter, my bike, public transportation, or would it be better to walk? The MaaS system integrates all available sub-systems in one platform, including car-sharing offers, rental bikes, car-pooling, or demand-responsive public transport. The system communicates with users via a highly usable app, suggests the best route and displays the costs in real time.
MaaS is particularly interesting for high-density cities, but by no means limited to them. Helsinki is an example of a successful introduction. In Switzerland, the Yumuv pilot project ran until the end of 2021 in Zurich, Basel and Bern, exploring potential, acceptance, offer structures, and usage scenarios. SBB, VBZ and BWB were involved, but also micro-mobility providers such as Tier, Bond, Carvelo, Voi and Mobility. Yumuv prioritised the best offer and suggested routes and alternative options. An intuitive app on the smartphone took care of planning, booking and billing too. Two billing systems were available: The traditional pay-per-use principle was supplemented by a bundle model on a subscription basis. Both types had approximately equal usage. However, the subscription users made more frequent and shorter journeys – less with their own bikes and more with e-scooters. ETH Zurich was involved in the project as a scientific advisor. What became clear was that cities and municipalities take over the role of system drivers, and that an attractive public transport system must already exist. It’s interesting to note that a MaaS system collects lots of data, allowing the offer to be continuously optimised.
In order to be economically viable, MaaS systems must therefore integrate as many transport providers as possible, be as simple to use as possible and also be transparent in terms of costs. This is where the subscription model with flat rates currently seems to have the advantage, such as in the example of Augsburg, Germany, which entices people with limited free offers. Moreover, if one wants to attract people who have so far only used their own car, the MaaS offer should also include comparable, conveniently usable e-cars. This is true for both private and business users. SAP Switzerland, for example, launched its own service in mid-2022 that gives employees individual access to public transport, car sharing, e-scooters or bikes. Conceived as an alternative to a company car, the service is in high demand. Here, too, there is an app that serves as the key, a mobility budget is stored in it, and the monthly invoices are automatically sent to SAP. Business mobility has been an underestimated segment to date with a major impact – including on a company's carbon footprint.