No MaaS. No Multimodality.


Without MaaS cities will not be able to achieve their multimodal transportation strategy.

Transportation has forever been one of the most dynamic industries for our cities and towns. Moving people between two points faster and more conveniently have taken precedence resulting in the existing modeshare in cities today. However there is a constant strive to make clean transportation modes more convenient and reliable for the users. One of the ways that cities are convinced will help achieve that, and are therefore focusing on, is promoting multimodal behavior. Cities today have different modes existing or ready to be introduced that will help their residents conveniently start adopting multimodality viz, public transit, carsharing, shared and privately owned micromobility devices and walking in addition to the privately owned car. A reality check for modeshare in cities shows how the single occupancy car still dominates. Pre-COVID modeshare stats in the US show that driving alone was as high as 70% in cities such as San Diego and Austin whereas lower but still the majority (>40%) in Seattle and Chicago. Similarly in Vancouver-Canada, the city still shows just about 4% of bike trips in the total modeshare stats. In Europe, cities in France & Germany showed the car being the primary mode of transportation in the Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE) study. These cities have alternative modes of commuting available and have some presence of shared mobility services as well. So the question remains, how do we increase modeshift towards cleaner, shared transportation services?

Combine all modes through a MaaS layer. Or even better, a MaaS discovery layer. By integrating multiple shared mobility modes in a city along with public transit under one system where users are provided a convenient way to complete their journey with multiple modes or use a different mode for different use cases without sticking to the default driving their cars option. MaaS is all about introducing an aggregated view of all the modes available for the user to travel from one point to another, and depending on the patterns, preferences, incentives (and/or other parameters) chosen, suggests a convenient way to get there. This can be done quite effectively through the use of technology although it’s certainly not the starting point. 

Previously, movmi looked at transportation plans from 20 municipalities across Europe and North America and found how MaaS can be designed and tailored to suit the needs of small and big municipalities. In an effort to make access to alternative mobility modes as easy, are MaaS platforms able to strike a balance between mobility service providers (MSPs) and end users? While changing behaviour cannot be achieved without a truly user-centric seamless approach, are business interests of MSPs being considered enough?

Through this article you’ll learn how MaaS:

  1. Creates a reliable, seamless multimodal user experience
  2. Improves visibility for MSPs in a sea of options available to users
  3. Ultimately increases alternatives for the users and create a rewarding ecosystem for existing and new MSPs to offer the best of their services towards a multimodal future

No MaaS. No Multimodality.


A successful user experience: Simple, Seamless and Secure

Changing behaviour seldom succeeds if users are asked to opt for an even slightly complex or less convenient new habit. Exemptions being, circumstances during life changing events such as a global pandemic. In mobility, users are prone to resort to their previous habitual patterns. Simplifying the dilemma of choice is one of the key aspects that a MaaS solution must resolve.

Building a seamless experience in any mobile app especially for transportation is always the goal, but what a truly seamless experience means might be different across scenarios. The popular filters that a MaaS app provides so that users can choose their preferred mode is time duration, cost of trip, convenience (least changeovers). Although used alternatively, multimodal trips do not necessarily mean intermodal. Multimodal is defined as the use of many modes whereas intermodal is defined as the use of more than two modes in the same journey. While MaaS tries to offer a great experience to its users to have the choice, users have preferred modes for set use cases. Survey data shows that only a negligible proportion of MaaS app users have more than four mobility apps on their phones. The Vancouver MaaS 2020 pilot revealed that 56% of the users changed their mobility patterns based on the choices available and about 26% started combining multiple modes together. 

The payment side of things can get a bit confusing and may deter users. Depending on the technical complexity and business preferences of MSPs (and public agencies) involved, ensuring that a user is able to pay through the MaaS platform becomes tedious. It’s important that the platform offers flexibility in this area to take the ‘shortest path’ based on how quickly the transaction may be completed whether at MSP or MaaS end. MaaS platforms have challenges concerning how much of the user identity info is shared with the MSPs. Deep linking transfers everything to the MSP’s plate, but from the user experience, that’s anything but seamless. Migo, one of the MaaS discovery apps we’ve interviewed and one of our partners, does this differently. Migo has launched a platform that in essence (and uniquely?) provides a seamless user experience, but lets the MSPs choose who handles the card swipe. That way MSPs use the user identity info for fraud prevention and tailoring marketing activities which benefit the user. And that decision is centered around providing the best user experience. This way the user can try new mobility services without downloading a new app and re-entering credentials each time, try the service several times, and then download the MSP app which then means they’ve become a loyal user for the MSP. Migo, and other MaaS discovery app providers who have taken this approach need to implement robust security to protect the users payment information (Migo, for instance, has PCI level 2 compliance). With such a level of security in transactions, MaaS discovery platforms with full integration work better than the deep-linking approach.


What does MaaS have that MSPs need?

Simply, reach. And that’s 10x when public transit integrated and the city’s involved in regulating. MaaS providers have the advantage of presenting a comparison beyond just prices to the user. 

Transactions strengthen relationships.By knowing who their users are, MSPs can offer better services and tailor their offers. MSPs, as any other business today, invest in creating the best experience for their users. Beyond decision filters, the execution elements such as interactions with a service and ease and transparency of payment impact user preference of a service over another. Integration is a must for the best user experience. MSPs would not disagree, but knowing their customers (users) adds more value to them and fosters healthy competition which in such cases most certainly results in the user’s favor. 

User data security is crucial. MaaS providers may need to comply with the gold standards of PCI compliance where user data remains encrypted. Here too Migo’s solution is impressive. They not only comply with GDPR and California Privacy Law, but are able to do that while allowing MSPs to create a relationship with their users – by not being the merchant of record if that helps. Implementing MaaS projects, brings forth these concerns if a platform is able to be flexible enough at the same time secure. Yet again, Migo manages to strike that unique balance.

MaaS systems need to be intelligent enough to present the otherwise unused service to a user, this way the platform catalyzes behavior change and adds more value to the MSPs. What about customer loyalty towards MSPs? MSPs prioritize repeat ridership. Financial sustainability and growth highly rely on customer lifetime value (CLTV). Users who otherwise do not choose a new mode and have a rather fixed pattern or choice can be incentivized to use the MSP app so as to reward their loyalty better. Trying to get new users to try a service that they have not heard of before immediately provides visibility to that MSP. One of the ways MaaS apps can do this is displaying the MSP brand inside and allowing them to describe themselves to the user. This also allows MSP to explain their unique value proposition a lot more through a dedicated space to talk about it in.

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Can the User-City-MaaS-MSP relationship be Symbiotic?

All stakeholders may have slightly different expectations from a multimodal enabling MaaS platform. There are a couple of unique outcomes that resonate across all four stakeholder groups. They are 1) reliability of services 2) financial incentives

Users expect nothing less than a reliable, easy, impartial and flexible way of moving between origin and destination. They would also like to see the right mix of public transit and private MSPs in the offered choice of trip as that supports the trustworthiness of a MaaS. Nonetheless, users will not be keen to change their behaviour for instance driving a private car, for a new mode which is not a few steps ahead in convenience or affordability. 

The aggregator model has been tried across sectors. One example is the car rental industry. While car rental portals help bring new customers, they mostly have benefited the smaller and lesser known car rental companies than the mid-large ones. An aggregator platform tempts users to consider pricing as one of the parameters and this has created substandard customer service levels in many car rental companies, squeezed smaller players’ profit margins and commoditized user experience with little room for improvement from the rental companies. Multimodal MaaS platforms need to be more than aggregators. While providing value to users, the MSP’s interest needs to be kept in mind. This includes presenting opportunities for users to try services that they haven’t tried before and facilitating MSP-user relationships depending on user preferences and booking patterns. From the operators perspective, great MaaS platforms act as a great tool to create visibility to new and non-loyal/non-frequent users allowing them to reach these groups of users in a cheaper manner. 

That said, the business model for a MaaS provider is based on ridership and transactions. And with just a small amount being charged for local ground transportation (a $20 ridehail trip versus car rental fee for multiple days), MaaS providers rely on the sheer volume of trips through their platforms. And in a tightly contested mobility market, only with public agencies such as the city, transportation agency and public transit being the driving force can MaaS succeed. The Vancouver MaaS, driven by public transit authority, also sheds some light on how MaaS can introduce a new mode to users and kickstart a new relationship between an MSP and a user. 30% users agreed to have tried a new form of transportation for the first time through the Shared Mobility Compass Card pilot. This includes first time users for carshare, bikeshare and even public transit.

To earn sustainable profits, MSPs must have loyalty and repeat business. Loyalty relies on trust. Trust cannot be built without experience. While MaaS apps provide the multimodal option to all users, single mode repeat users are quite valuable to that MSP and may have a better experience through the native MSP app. Often users are forced to download and register a new app just so that they can try the services. With MaaS, existing MaaS users can easily be pitched a new MSP and can try creating a seamless experience. This overcomes the user’s hesitation to download a new app before being convinced of its value. Once fairly regular over multiple scenarios and rides, users may also be routed to experience a more personalized offer through the MSP native app. This is a win-win for the MaaS and MSP, in which the former doesn’t need to compete with each MSPs user experience or personalize too many elements for users while the latter gets benefited by user’s loyalty. 

Migo drives this by nudging users to commit to the MSP. With operators such as Marcel, Lime and Bolt in France, Migo’s full integration allows users to try these services by creating an account from the MaaS platform and depending on the agreement with the MSP the MaaS platform manages payment or hands over user info to the MSP to complete the transaction. While making it seamless for users, Migo’s identity and payment platform was developed to ensure that integrating a new MSP partner will be seamless and quick too – generally a week for full integration. 

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Source: www.unsplash.coml

In conclusion

MaaS is more than just a buzzword. Depending on how a MaaS platform is regulated, a city will be able to successfully change its residents’ transportation behaviour. Case in point being Antwerp (Belgium), where operators are required to be a part of at least two MaaS platforms in the city. That way the MaaS strategy maintains its focus on driving multimodality and not on creating a walled garden for users to access mobility services. It all boils down to making MaaS a symbiotic relationship between the city, the operator and the user while providing financial sustainability to the platform itself. Key takeaways of what works towards that are;

  1. Creating seamless user experience is crucial, but managing secure transactions will help build trust and better MSP-user relationships. Deep linking cannot provide that, needs to be a full integration with in-app payment. Not all MaaS operators can integrate a new payment platform. Flexibility here goes a long way and is currently unique.
  2. MSPs will need some autonomy in differentiating themselves based on user experience. Rewarding loyal users with better experience and additional features will in turn reward MSPs financially when users are nudged to download the MSP app.
  3. MaaS is a great way to discover all new mobility options in a city. Not just for residents, but for visitors too, MaaS when done right opens up doors for a better city experience. Here users will not need to download individual apps during their visit which takes away the hassles of these edge case requirements from the MSP side.

Do you agree with us? Are cities heading in the right direction with their multimodal strategies? Is there a better way to achieve a higher, cleaner, shared transportation mode share that respects the needs of all parties, users, MaaS, and MSP?

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