• Tim McGuckin

Shared Mobility in 2020 - A Framework for Shared Success

Updated: Jan 8

MaaS America is approaching it's first birthday. What began as a personal and professional interest in the disruptive aspects of shared mobility led to a concept for an American-oriented mobility association, an Advisory Committee, an 8-member Board of Directors, and now an organization preparing to hold its first event, MaaS-A-Con (www.maas-a-con.com), happening March 11-12, 2020, San Ramon, CA, in collaboration with the visionary Contra Costa Transportation Authority (www.ccta.net).


In the last year, Mobility as a Service has moved beyond the esoteric and, while not mainstream, it is at a point now where most of us in the transport community understand it's key elements (journey planning, real-time passenger information, and mobile payments - all presented via a smartphone GUI and driven by vast amounts of data) and how it's meant to work. We know the players of MaaS in a broad sense: public agency owner-operators (of streets, transport infrastructure and public transit services); private sector, mostly venture-backed service providers of various ride-hail, ride-share and micro-mobility services, and the public. We've also become aware - most notably in large cities such as NYC - of the adverse impacts of ride-share on public transit ridership, impacts that reduce ridership (and revenue and perhaps government support) and street speeds (which are lower due to more ride-hail vehicles which increase congestion). We mustn't forget either the human costs of this development: the 80% reduction in the price of a NYC taxicab medallion, a prime factor in more than a dozen taxi driver suicides.


Though we cannot predict the future of MaaS and what it bodes for all the players, what we have observed to date has moved us past simple curiosity and passive observational awareness of the ramifications of this new paradigm. We are now at a place where we want to discuss and create solutions about how to make MaaS work, sustainably, for all of us.


And by "all of us," I mean not just public sector transit operators who may see MaaS as serious threat to their paradigm which is, to put it simply, transport that serves the public good.


I also count private sector actors - the inventors, innovators and investors who come to the mobility space with a different paradigm defined by the motive to make a profit, which is something they can do only if the services they offer are those people want and can buy.


Perhaps the biggest difference between MaaS and all prior transport systems and approaches before MaaS is that both the public and private actors must have their needs fulfilled if this new hybrid paradigm is to succeed.


And it must succeed, as I see no alternative to MaaS. Why? Well, combine 1) smartphone penetration rates of 96%, 2) large strides in AI, machine learning and data analytics, and 3) low latency, high-data-rate 5G networks that enable real-time transaction processing with consumer demands for seamless immediacy, and there is no going back.


It is clear that just until recently, advances in private sector driven shared mobility has not waited for policy to catch up. But as evidenced by Uber's loss of its operating license (pending) in London, and what you see is push-back by the public and the cancelling of the 'societal license' some Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) may have taken for granted. In short, there is a limit to the 'ask for forgiveness' approach.


MaaS, to succeed, needs trust, and trusted communications between the main actors. But while you can talk 'honest' all you want, that doesn't mean you will come to terms. What you need is a structure that will allow MaaS to manifest into an ideal form wherever it is happening.


And at MaaS America, starting with MaaS-A-Con, that is the direction we're heading - toward the creation of that framework. We've been developing this since mid-2019 and MaaS America's Board of Directors has already created an outline of what are the framework principles that must be present to support sustainable public and private business models for MaaS. The mission is on!


MaaS America cannot accomplish this alone, though. It needs the experience, policy expertise and hard work of engaged volunteer members. If you are not yet a member, please consider joining and helping with this effort!


For more information about how you and your colleagues can get involved with MaaS America - and work to advance the American form of mobility, please contact Tim McGuckin, MaaS America's Executive Director at tim.mcguckin@maasamerica.org. And attend MaaS-A-Con!

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