MaaS: Translink’s Future of Mobility Speaker Series 2019


The future of mobility could look very different from todays current transportation offering. Climate change, new technologies, and a shifting global economy are creating both new opportunities and challenges that we need to consider. Our founder, Sandra Phillips, was asked by TransLink to MC their latest ‘Future of Mobility Speaker Series’ even focused on Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS).

One new technology is mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) — the idea, that both urban and country dwellers in the near-future will – through a single web interface like a smartphone app be able to plan, book, and pay for a journey that may include segments on transit, ferry, car share, bike share, taxi, rental car and whatever new methods of transport are introduced into the industry, like new comer, micromobility.

MaaS experts David Zipper and Catherine Kargas explained what it will take to realize mobility-as-a-service at the latest talk in TransLink Tomorrow’s The Future of Mobility speaker series, which was held on July 24 at SFU’s Vancouver campus. In this article we take a look at the key points considered by each speaker – keep reading to learn more about MaaS from the experts within the industry and on Translink’s panel.

To read more articles in our shared mobility trend series, click here.

MaaS: Translink’s Future of Mobility Speaker Series

what is mobility-as-a-service (maas)?

Mobility as a Service (MaaS) began test trials in Sweden back in 2014 and is the integration of numerous methods of transport services into a single mobility service that is accessible on-demand for the user. To meet a customer’s request, a MaaS facilitates a diverse range of transport options, including both public transport, and private such as car/ride/bike-sharing, taxi and car rental, or a combination of the all listed. For the user, Mobility-as-a-service can offer added value through use of a single application or platform that provides access to mobility, with a single payment channel instead of multiple ticketing and payment operations and solve the inconvenient parts of individual journeys.

A successful MaaS service also brings new business models and ways to organise and operate the various transport options, with advantages for transport operators including access to improved user and demand data and new opportunities to serve unmet demand. The long term goal of MaaS is to provide an alternative to the use of the private car that may be as convenient, more sustainable and that will help to reduce congestion in major urban cities, at a lower cost for the individual user.

TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond

future of mobility series
TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond | Source:

The introductory speaker at Translink’s Future of Mobility Series was Translink CEO Kevin Desmond who began by expressing that Translink’s goals are to not only to ensure public buses and trains run on time for their users and offer constant reliability, but also to create new innovations. They look at how they can apply the current trends in transportation tech (open and shared data, connectivity, shared driving) and how it can help improve their services, over the next decade. 

A key point Kevin made was that in order “to maximize the benefits of mobility-as-a-service” collaborations between both public and private transportation companies needed strengthening. Under the leadership of movmi’s CEO Sandra Phillips, TransLink has already stated to collaborate and integrate their services with Vancouver companies, Mobi and Evo and Modo. Their aim is to create more collaborations and partnerships with private companies by hosting seminars and talks, with the experts on mobility.

Questions that need to be addressed however, are how data shared between companies will be managed and governed? Who should own data? How to address privacy issues? 


The first keynote speaker for Translink’s Future of Mobility Speaker Series on Maas was David Zipper. David is a transportation writer who writes about the future of urban mobility. His perspective comes from a range of experience he has, for example, he was a former city official for Washington D.C. when ridehail was introduced. He works with the American Public Transportation Association and helps them think about how agencies should respond to new technologies and he uses his experience from working directly with mobility startups to achieve this.

David Zipper, Transportation Writer | Source:

Vision behind MaaS

In order to understand David’s vision for the future of MaaS, you have to take a look back at previous methods of transportation. There has always been a fixed number of ways of getting around – walking, driving, bus, train and taxi, which are the same modes that have been available since 1972. It wasn’t until about 15 years ago there was explosion of mobility services and all of which have emerged so quickly.

“With all these shared services, is there a way to knit them together to allow people to move fluidly move throughout a city?”

New technology developed within the last decade such as longer lasting batteries, the popularity of smart phones alongside the emergence of big data has people excited by what the future of shared mobility and MaaS has to offer. Reducing congestion and pollution, reclaimed parking spaces and improved health for community are just some ideas for what is possible.


According to David, the four main components that are required to define a ‘pure MaaS’ system are:

Multimodal Trip Planning – Being able to plan a trip through a combination of modes using one platform or app. This is something that is currently being used, for example Googlemaps planning – however, this could always be improved.

Multi Modal Ticketing – Paying for you full journey using one platform is something that as a population, we are lacking. Ticketing integration is currently difficult to obtain through lack of cooperation between different mobility companies.

Subscription Feature – That could allow you to pay, for example, $80/$100 per month which would allow you multi modal methods of transportation is something that is key to providing a pure MaaS system.

Customer Support – Without reliability and assurance, people will leave and not continue to use this service. 

No ‘MaaS’ system currently being offered contains all four components of MaaS, but a few cities are offering similar models of Mobility-as-a-service.


Denver Colorado is an example of a provider of transportation service also providing MaaS.

In Denver, users of Ubers app can purchase a ticket for public transportation. Uber is trying to expand their platform to become ‘The Amazon of Urban Mobility.’ However, with private operators such as Uber controlling the flow of movement, the likelihood is that public transit usage will decrease as more money is made from private ridehail companies who will inevitably get more placement on online platforms. David Zipper described this issue as being a “walled garden”. The company that owns the app has all the control and can decide the hierarchy of placement for every other vendor/partner in the model. Where will public transportation be placed within the app? 

Helsiniki is an example of a third party providing MaaS – (Whim)

The federal government in Finland mandates all transportation companies to have an open API (application programming interface). Any company, whether that is MaaS Global, Moovel or Free2Move (all of them offer MaaS apps) can then tap into the transportation data and provide MaaS. MaaS Global has built an app Whim which is used in Helsinki. This app allows users to see all different mobility services available from public transit to car and bike share. User are also able to purchase a subscription with this app. The removes the issues of the “walled garden” but the main issue with this model include individual brands loosing their identity. Will these apps charge a fee or commissions? Will these apps be successful? For example Whim has not been very popularity in Helsinki with fewer than 1% of non-vehicular trips being booked through the app so far.


Berlin is an example of a public transit agency providing MaaS.

Another mode of MaaS in operation is for the transit agency to manage the data, such as BVG in Berlin. They have created an app that includes car share, bike share and multi modal public transportation options. The user pays for their entire trip using this app and then the transit agency distributes the money to the partnered companies. The issue is, that on the Apple store and Google Play stores, transit agencies (Translink aside) have low ratings, so will they be agile enough to create a viable MaaS application in every city?

Reasons to be skeptical about MaaS – Companies are really excited about MaaS, but are citizens? Will a MaaS subscription nudge people away from cars or push them away from transit? If you’ve already paid your subscription, will you take car share instead of your usual public transit route?

Reasons to be excited about MaaS – It comes from a desire to reduce single occupancy car trips and is a great way to integrate public services. MaaS can also be flexible enough to incorporate new innovations and technologies down the road.

KEYNOTE SPEAKER, Catherine Kargas, Vice President of MARCON

Catherine Kargas is VP at MARCON, a research and strategy-consulting firm with expertise in the fields of mobility, insurance and energy. Her professional mission is to advise public and private sector sector clients and help them react to the multiple changes and disruptions affecting the new mobility ecosystem.

With an MBA from McGill University, Catherine Kargas is a certified business strategist with over 25 years of experience as a management consultant. She specializes in positioning, partnerships and innovative business models. Catherine Kargas is also Chair of the Board of Directors of Electric Mobility Canada (EMC), as well as a founding member of the Transportation Evolution Institute, a think tank studying and promoting sustainable mobility.

Catherine Kargas, Vice President, MARCON | Source:


The case study Catherine Kargas discussed was a system that her company worked on in a city in Quebec called Laval. Located north of Montreal and one of the fastest growing cities in Canada. STL is the transit agency in Laval but there are a total of four transit agencies involved in supplying transport to the Greater Metropolitan area of Montreal.

The STL service map has 309 buses, covering 46 routes, over about 1500 kilometers. There are over half a million para-transit trips by taxi every year. There are areas of this island that are very sparsely inhabited and therefore transit routes and bus routes are non existent.

In Laval a driveway can contain 3/4/5 vehicles. The aim of Marcon was to remove 1 or 2 of these vehicles by creating a integrated MaaS system within the area. The most innovative and technological progressive transit agency in Western Canada is the STL. Their idea was to implement something small and then to build it up, but MaaS cannot be implemented in just one small area of the entire region that you serve – and this became one of the biggest problems for the pilot.

A working group was formed from the STL, Communauto – the regions oldest car share operator, Co-op Taxi combined with the services from Marcon. Complex research and surveys were conducted and focus groups were used to go into greater depth on the implementation of MaaS within the area. Upon analysis of the data, these were the issues that Marcon and working group faced:

  • They had difficulty mobilizing partners – with four different transit agencies offering transportation systems in the area, in order to create a viable MaaS pilot, you need to be able to work effectively with each company and expand the area of the pilot.
  • They had difficulty offering services that are competitive with the use of car in the suburbs – The expectations of the users were enormous. The people who were questioned in the surveys only wanted to convert to MaaS if it was as comfortable as their car journeys and if they didn’t have to use more than two methods of transport per journey.
  • The technology solutions were extremely costly – The focus groups did not want to pay more than $150 for a complete subscription (offering all services) and the app created would need to be as user friendly and reliable as Google maps.
  • There were mixed signals between the survey results in the focus group results – Surveys showed that people were very excited in the idea of MaaS, but when the focus groups were questioned, many logistical issues surfaced.

From Catherine’s perspective, behaviors are difficult to change, expectations are enormous, you are going to be compared to the best of what digital offerings there are. Simplicity is the key. Costs associated with car ownership is huge. Helping people understand how much it is actually costing to own and operate their car is important. Wider coverage and more modes of transportation are necessary.

The ease of use is enormously important as is reliability. It has to be accessible to all those who want to have access to it and its got to be as flexible as using a car and it has to be cost competitive.

There is a huge fear of loss of control from a mobility provider perspective and losing that contact with the end user. There is also a fear of loosing the consumer to another mode – modal shifting and data sharing.

Recommendations for creating a successful MaaS system

All the players that are involved in the project have to have an understanding of the objectives and the benefits of MaaS. There needs to be alignment. All partners must be treated equally. Each partner needs to contribute and can’t expect just the transit agency to pay for everything. Cost sharing the business model is very important. The principles that you’re going to introduce about data sharing are also vital.

Creating a MaaS pilot is unlike creating any other pilot. For those who are working on creating a MaaS project it is very important to gauge evaluation of the interest in it and it has to be as close to what you’re going to launch as possible. This before and after picture of your user-ship is key. If you don’t have a before and after evaluation, you won’t be able to evaluate its success. The technology is going to cost a lot. Even though we see successful multi-modal apps like Google, the technology it is not as seamless or as widespread as you might think. Also, just because it worked in one city does not mean it can be replicated and expected to work perfectly in the next, each city is unique with its own set of issues.


MaaS series

How should data be shared within companies and how can all data (including consumer) data be protected? 

“Our vision is that for British Columbia, we could have a policy that says ‘No data sharing – No business license.’ What we envision is that, any company – and right now is a good time to talk about it because Uber and Lyft, as well as scootering sharing is not here yet – any company that wants to enter the market needs to have an open API, such that, aggregate apps, you mentioned Google maps trends and city mapper can access that data. The big benefit of that is that allows smaller companies to enter that market really rapidly and provide more mobility options to us as a consumer.” – Hendrik Wolff, Professor of Economics at Simon Fraser University.

“If you talk to Uber or any other providers and say ‘We can’t allow an agency or city to have this kind of information it’s too dangerous for privacy’ – Well, Uber had their own data breached and was hacked with hundreds of thousands of trip information being sent into the dark web, There’s all kinds of private information stored on your compass card, that Translink is charged with taking care of, so I I tend to think that, in my view, I’m not very sympathetic to the argument that public entities are able to respect privacy while managing complex data sets in order to handle payments and also to use that information about trips to improve planning.” – David Zipper, Transportation Writer

Does MaaS look the same for everyone? Who owns each consumer group?

“It is one of the sore spots that exists between aggregators and mobility service providers because the you know no one has actually to date as far as I know confirmed or defined who that customer belongs to, so it becomes a shared customer… Years ago, the European Union commission created app technology that essentially, in my mind, helped create the foundation of MaaS. It was through one app every customer provided all of their information, ‘what are your physical impediments?’ ‘What do you like?’ Unfortunately, I thought this app was absolutely fantastic – it had been translated into 5 different languages and for some reason it died. But in my mind, it is something that every MaaS app needs to have in order to be able to ensure that it is fully accessible.” – Catherine Kargas, VP, Marcon.

Do we need a sexier way of talking about MaaS? How do we engage the public more?

“If we are going to get to a world where there are competitive services like this and ideally we should get to that point, then every one of those apps is going to have its own sexy name. That’s where the sexiness is going to take place. I don’t think it’s going to take place at the MaaS level. I think the sexiness is going to happen at the at the app level and so I’m really excited about what the future holds” – Catherin Kargas, VP, Marcon

“Why should you as a resident of a big city like Vancouver care? To me it’s like if this whole area is going to become sexy, it’s gonna be sexy because people are going to recognize that this is all about making it easy, comfortable and affordable for me to get around my city without a car – that’s sexy” – David Zipper, Transportation Writer


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Note: This article has not been endorsed or sponsored by any of the providers mentioned and there is no affiliation between movmi and them.

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