Mobility as a Service Could Boost Transit, Help Drivers Drive Less
Mobility as a Service (MaaS) companies like Uber and Lyft may hold the solution to transit agencies’ efforts to satisfy customers over the first and last mile or kilometre of their trips that may not be easy to serve well with conventional transit routes.
“The explosive popularity of Uber has certainly prompted policy-makers to consider the prospect of joining forces with ride-sharing companies as a means of providing more coordinated options in areas not well served by transit,” notes Canadian urbanism site Spacing. Some U.S. cities have already set up service or payment partnerships with Uber. And earlier this year, a report by the University of Toronto’s Mowat Centre suggested integrating transit and ride-, car-, and bike-sharing services through the Presto payment card already available to regular transit users.
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Correspondent John Lorinc reviews a couple of MaaS models from Europe and lists some of the questions that would have to be answered before applying them in a metropolitan area like Toronto. “The emergence of such entities depends, to a significant degree, on whether transit agencies (or any of the other mobility operators for that matter) would be prepared (or directed) to sell monthly passes or fares on a wholesale basis to re-sellers,” he writes. “That’s clearly a policy decision with financial consequences and trade-offs.”
More broadly, “there’s no question that allowing this kind of player into the mobility market would introduce a new dynamic, and one that is potentially disruptive for dominant transit operators,” Lorinc adds. “Policy-makers need to ensure that if they move towards allowing MaaS companies to gain access to the market, they’re not inadvertently creating private sector monopolies or oligopolies, as is now the case with the telecom industry.”
But MaaS could still be the mobility option that encourages drivers to use their cars less. “If residents can simply subscribe to a monthly package that gives them easy (and bulk discounted) access to a range of shared mobility services that extends across the complete chain of their travel needs, they’ll have an incentive to use the shared options more. And therefore their private vehicles less.”