Bringing Mobility as a Service to the U.S.: Opportunities and Challenges
Bringing Mobility as a Service to the U.S.: Opportunities and Challenges
The development and deployment of Mobility as a Service (MaaS) systems in Europe has been increasing at a rapid rate over the past few years. However, in the U.S. during the same time frame, MaaS implementation has been limited. The unique opportunities and challenges associated with MaaS in the U.S. will be explored in this article. Furthermore, examples of MaaS systems being developed in the U.S. will also be presented.
Setting the Stage for the U.S.
To begin to understand the unique challenges associated with deploying MaaS systems in the U.S., it is important to review the current environment within which trip-making is done, as well as the characteristics of travelers. First, personal mobility in the U.S. is dominated by personally owned vehicles, which accounts for more than 80% of trips. These personally owned vehicles produce 15% of U.S. emissions, are unused over 95% of the time and consume 27% of the income of U.S. median income households. The reliance on costly personal vehicles leaves lower-income individuals without access to affordable mobility.
Second, there are seven major trends that over the past five to ten years have had a significant impact on transportation, which are:
- Demographic changes, most notably large numbers of Baby Boomers and Millennials
- Preferences for urban living and more flexible lifestyles
- Availability of WiFi, the global positioning system (GPS), sensors and smartphones
- Expectations of connectivity anywhere and everywhere
- Changes in vehicle driving and ownership preference
- Viewing travel as part of life experiences
- Redefining transport through new service providers and systems
Third, there are seven trends that are expected to affect transportation over the next five to ten years2:
- Synchronizing and connecting every network
- Performance-based public–private partnerships becoming the norm
- Diversification and consolidation of transport manufacturers and service providers
- Modular, combined shared “e-mobility” systems in urban areas
- Commercial deliveries and phased introduction of drones
- Driverless vehicles and their potential
- MaaS with routing, booking, payment, unlocking, gamification and trading
Finally, the current extent of the availability of various transportation services in the U.S. is shown in Figure 1.
Given the background provided earlier, there are several opportunities that will drive MaaS development and implementation in the U.S. First and foremost is redefining transportation in terms of mobility, rather than modes. Historically, we have focused on individual modes (e.g. bus, subway, walking, cycling) and whether they are public or private. Recognizing that mobility represents an individual’s travel better than specific modes will allow the U.S. to make a positive impact on a traveler’s ability to make a trip however works best for them. One person’s trip decisions will not be the same as another’s.
In order to fully embrace this redefinition, we need to change the existing travel models to account for (1) new mode choice behaviours (e.g. lower car ownership); (2) incorporating incentives or rewards; (3) integrating technology-enabled transportation tools; and (4) incorporating effects of new transportation tools – both individually and collectively.
Second, the implementation of integrated payment systems is a necessity for MaaS and has a direct impact on mobility. In the U.S., integrated payment system development is being driven by:
- The U.S. mobile market: 77% are smartphone owners and 78% expect to buy tickets via a mobile device
- Mobile payment can be deployed much faster than ticketing systems
- Banks are competing with other payment players
- Contactless near-field communication (NFC) technology is a standard feature in mobile devices
- The advantages offered by open payment (that operates in a mobile ticketing ecosystem, such as the Open Mobile Ticketing Alliance)
Third, we need to develop and promote mobility “equity” tools to meet the needs of those who are poorly served by transportation in their region.
Fourth, the use of data is a key element of MaaS, and provides not only an understanding of travel patterns (that can be used as input to travel models), but can be turned into traveler information. The opportunities associated with using data in MaaS schemes are:
- Continued adoption/development of open transportation data, open source software policies and open protocols
- More data sharing to better understand goods and people movements, and predict how those movements will change in the future
- Insight from data collected from applications to understand people movement (rather than vehicle movement) fused with data from other sources (e.g. transport payment data)
Finally, there are several other opportunities for making MaaS possible:
- Incorporating new service providers, such as Transportation Network Companies (TNCs), and understanding their ability to complement existing services
- Encouraging the use of public transportation and new mobility tools
- Making better use of existing technology and infrastructure
- Expanding access to cellular networks, Wi-Fi and electric outlets in transit stations and aboard transit vehicles
- Focusing on personalized mobility (one person’s way of travelling will not be the same as the next person’s)
There are institutional, operational and technical challenges that must be overcome in order to deploy MaaS in the U.S. Before describing these challenges, it is important to understand one overall challenge. Typically, MaaS is being deployed in major urban areas that already have significant transit systems. In the U.S., the majority of the country is in rural and small urban areas. Having less transportation alternatives, less funding and less technology infrastructure, implementing MaaS in these areas is challenging. However, there is one MaaS that is being developed for these types of areas in the U.S., focusing on mobility for transportation-disadvantaged individuals, and is described later in this article.
From an institutional perspective, transportation organizations often have not worked together or coordinated services before. This could present a challenge in that a MaaS scheme assumes some cooperation among service providers and the MaaS operator. Additionally, institutions participating in a MaaS scheme may conduct business in different ways, meaning that a reorganization of services, operations, staff or customer service may be required. This reorganization may include the development of new tools for operations and customer service staff. Furthermore, application vendors would need to provide open solutions and share information with their competitors.
One last, and perhaps the most significant, institutional challenge is determining which organization would actually operate a MaaS scheme. This challenge is being faced in Europe as well - current MaaS schemes are being operated by private companies, transportation service providers or public agencies.
From a traveller’s perspective, the challenges associated with participating in a MaaS scheme include the following:
- Access to more information with which they can make more informed choices
- Helping travellers make trips that they may not have made in the past
- Implications of the decline in or demise of taxi companies in places where low-income, disabled, and older individuals rely on taxis
Other institutional challenges include obtaining the financing necessary for MaaS technology procurement, implementation and on-going operations and maintenance, and the lack of technology experience in organizations participating in MaaS.
In terms of operational challenges, many transit agencies operate independently and may not coordinate their services with other providers. Thus, participation in MaaS may require changes not only in the way agencies schedule and operate their services, but also in the role of each agency in the overall transportation network and MaaS scheme. Furthermore, different governmental and regulatory agencies provide transportation services under an array of policies and objectives while trying to satisfy travellers’ needs simultaneously. Other operational challenges include addressing changes that will be caused by the deployment of MaaS.
While technical challenges are often considered easier to overcome than institutional challenges, those associated with MaaS implementation could be more difficult to overcome since there are a wide variety of technology-related aspects of MaaS. The five major technical challenges that are being considered in U.S. MaaS development are:
- Old, unintelligent or lacking infrastructure in the MaaS service area and how to incorporate this into MaaS architectures. Another related challenge is the ability to use or integrate old technologies with new ones.
- If MaaS technology fails, can MaaS functions be performed manually?
- “Unbanked” travellers, such as those without credit accounts, may not be able to access new MaaS services
- Travellers who do not have mobile devices capable of functions needed to interact with MaaS applications
- Automation of functions that could alienate agency staff and customers. Similarly, the lack of technical guidance for agencies’ staff presents a challenge.
U.S. MaaS Examples
Smart Mobility – Silicon Valley, California
“There is a ‘perfect storm’ of state, regional and local public policy moving towards a commute mode shift [in Silicon Valley, CA] for: a) traffic congestion relief and b) a per-capita Vehicle Miles Travelled (VMT) reduction to protect the climate. Next-generation Enterprise Commute Trip Reduction (ECTR) software combined with Smartphone Mobility Aggregation can be used to implement a $3/day ‘revenue-neutral workplace parking feebate’ to reduce suburban Bay Area commuting from 75% single occupancy vehicles (SOV) to 50%. ECTR connotes a solution that: a) meets the needs of employers in assisting employees, b) expands upon current payroll commute benefits programs, and c) provides real-time commute metric dashboards. Mobility Aggregation (MobAg) provides a smartphone app with a seamless combination of public/private transit, bikeshare, rideshare, carshare, vanpool and electric scooter/bike ‘loan-to-own,’ with smartphone payment and commute mode detection.”
The components of Smart Mobility are shown in Figure 2.
This MaaS deployment directly addresses one of the biggest challenges, which is developing MaaS for suburban and rural areas. Silicon Valley is primarily a suburban area, which is auto-centric, as shown in a comparison with Helsinki, Finland (which is urban and transit-centric) in Table 1.
One of the most innovative aspects of Smart Mobility is providing monetary incentives to employees who use non-SOV modes to work. As shown in Figure 3 (an example from Seattle Children’s Hospital), an employee will receive a “feebate” when they use alternate modes to get to work.
MaaS as a Customer Service Integrator - Ithaca, NY
Dwight Mengel, Chief Transportation Planner at the Tompkins County Department of Social Services in Ithaca, NY, has developed a MaaS concept that specifically addresses rural and small urban areas, as well as transportation-disadvantaged individuals. This concept’s business model has the following value propositions and characteristics:
- Consumer education about mobility
- Individual mobility solutions and accounts
- Discounts and public support
- Clearinghouse for financial transactions
- Concierge service (24/7) to resolve complaints
- Guaranteed Ride to work and home
- Local business co-marketing and discounts
- Member-based organization
- Tools for inbound marketing and applications
A sample “menu” of MaaS services and example pricing in this MaaS scheme is shown in Table 2. Tables 3 and 4 show examples of MaaS costs for a small urban and rural area, respectively.
Table 2. Sample Mobility Menu
Small City Mobility Budget
Annual Bus Passes (2)
Table 4. Rural Household: 1 car, 2 adults, 1 child, Walkscore = 0
Rural Mobility Budget
Volunteer Driver Revenue
Vanpool Program Subsidy
San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s (SFMTA’s) Vision for MaaS: Access over Ownership
Timothy Papandreou, Chief Innovation Officer with the Office of Innovation at SFMTA, has described a vision for MaaS in the near future that provides travellers with access to a menu of mobility options that meet their individual needs whether they live in an urban, suburban or rural area. While currently, the Bay area has multiple modes, with little or no integration, multiple payments and multiple bookings. The modes are privately-owned vehicles, public transit, regional and intercity services, air, shared fleet vehicles, employee shuttles, jitneys, commercial deliveries, taxis, limousines and transportation network companies (TNCs).
The SFMTA’s vision for MaaS includes a focus on the customer experience by providing one application that includes integrated routing, booking, payments, credits/offsets and games/added-value. Using this application, a traveller provides a destination and the application returns all available options along with the amount of time it will take to get to the destination and the cost of each option. Once you make a selection, the application provides the opportunity to reserve and pay for the trip, and provides the routing. The MaaS vision is to purchase a package of “Mobility Minutes” for local, regional, national and international travel. For example, a $150 “My City” Plan (for example, on a monthly basis) includes 1,000 city minutes divided into 100 Rideshare minutes, 100 Carshare minutes, 400 Transit minutes and 400 Bikeshare minutes. The plan would also include walking credits and the ability to share minutes. Another example is a $500 “My Travel” Plan, which includes 300 Flying minutes and 700 City minutes.
 Timothy Papandreou, Director, Office of Innovation at San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, “The (Likely) future of Urban Mobility: Key trends, issues and opportunities for cities,” LinkedIn post, August 25, 2015, http://www.racfoundation.org/research/mobility/380610
 Source: Lindsey Hallock and Jeff Inglis, “The Innovative Transportation Index: The Cities Where New Technologies and Tools Can Reduce Your Need to Own a Car,” February 2015, http://www.uspirg.org/sites/pirg/files/reports/Innovative_Transportation_Index_USPIRG.pdf
 Devin Patel, “Connecting The Dots: The New Mobile City,” presented at the 2015 ITS World Congress, Bordeaux, France, October 5-9, 2015
 Steve Raney, Executive Director, Smart Mobility, Joint Venture Silicon Valley, “Silicon Valley Mobility as a Service (MaaS): Software EcoSystem Acceleration,” May 12, 2015
 Dwight Mengel, “Mobility as a Service (MaaS): Ithaca, NY vs. Vienna,” presentation to Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA) EXPO 2016, Portland, OR, May 22-27, 2016