This month on the ‘Women In Shared Mobility’ series, our CEO Sandra Phillips interviewed Crissy Ditmore, the Director of Strategy for Cubic Transportation Systems.
Crissy Ditmore is the Director of Strategy for Cubic Transportation Systems, the worldwide leader in the provision of transportation technologies. As part of Cubic’s Strategy team Crissy works on the expansion of Mobility as a Service across the globe. With 12+ years’ experience in the mobility industry she continues to assist urban, suburban, and rural development of sustainable futures for complex mobility needs. Crissy has a Masters in Project Management, is Co-Chair for the Mobility on Demand Alliance Public Policy Committee, and is active with the Coalition for Smarter Transportation. She is a 2019 MaaS Transit Magazine Top 40 Under 40.
Women in Shared Mobility: future of maas in north america, policy framework and social inclusivity
Crissy Ditmore, Director of Strategy, Cubic Transportation Systems
Sandra Phillips, chief executive officer, movmi
Before we begin, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Thank you for having me, I’m excited to start this conversation with you on what is happening in the industry and how that’s unfolding everywhere. I’m the Director of Strategy with Cubic Transportation Systems. Cubic is a technology provider internationally probably best known for our major fare collection systems, but we offer a lot of different kinds of technologies in terms of intelligent traffic management, real-time passenger information, definitely one of the biggest providers in the mobile space and working on how all of those things fit into a future smart city framework.
1. When will we see maas projects gaining traction in north america?
I will argue that we have initial technologies that are building us towards a MaaS solution in North America. I think one of the big differences, and how this has been rolled out internationally, is a concept that MaaS is a single thing and in reality, I think it is a whole host (a toolbox as it were) of solutions that are going to help us enable a different kind of interaction in our environment. Mobility-as-a-Service is a combination of public and private transportation services in a given regional environment that provides holistic, optimal and people centered travel options that will enable end to end journeys paid for by the user as a single charge and which aims to achieve key public policy objectives in a lot of the international projects and some that you mentioned and some others even from the founding.
MaaS global and their product Whim, in Finland, was really one of the first to do a subscription set of services and as one of the first providers in that space, I think that people started thinking that’s the end goal and that it has been executed in other cities across the globe. What we’re starting to see is, how it unfolds, will be different in every region and I think that’s to be expected, everyone’s going to have different laws and regulations and capabilities but there’s an underlying tenant of addressing a public policy goal, that is what will be the basis of how you execute your technology stack to meet that goal. In the end that’s really what is going to help define Mobility-as-a-Service in a region and be the biggest opportunity for interacting in a more robust way as a user as well as a government entity with each other. We’ll be able to see and do an effect more of those decision points on behalf of the public and it builds towards a specified goal.
2. what type of policy framework has to be in place for a project like helsinki’s whim to be a success? What would that look like?
I’ll answer in a slightly different way, arguably, in North America everyone has been saying kind of like you started with, ‘when are we going to get it here?’ It’s being executed across Europe and arguably some points across Asia Pacific and so there’s been a lot of projects going on and ‘when are we gonna get these projects?’ and what we’re finding is the execution of those projects are being baselined off of a goal. That goal is different in different areas and the policies that you can align your Mobility-as-a-Service approach against, include; congestion mitigation management, environmental mitigation, it could be access to jobs or housing for urban development. Each of the cities that have implemented a MaaS solution started with an overarching public facing goal, that was defining how they wanted to stack technologies to meet that goal.
The funny thing of that is, earlier this year APTA, the American Public Transit Association, they did a research study where they took a lot of CEOs from US entities on this mission across – they went to Finland, I know they went to Germany, they looked at a few different projects and how it actually played out and what the biggest takeaway that they found, is each of those cities were starting with a goal in mind of what the end result would be and that goal was aligned to a policy goal. Whatever that looked like was different in every area. Whereas the North America market so far has been very narrowly focused on MaaS as an app. I have been very particularly on resetting our expectations against, MaaS is not simply an app and if we’re only ever going to talk about it in that way, we are severely limiting the potential that we can offer in a broader set of solutions. If you think of it in terms of each of those businesses that’s offering a subscription set of service, that’s really the private sector approach, such as MaaS Global and Uber for that matter has a subscription set of services, that you can have access to these different things, for this time frame in this region.
Each of those is to some extent leveraging public transit in different ways. Whim has an annual report. Their Whimpact report definitely showed their approach from a business standpoint utilizing public transit as the backbone, but not all of those private companies (that have that subscription set of services) is necessarily approaching a problem set from ‘utilizing the public infrastructure better’ standpoint. Sometimes they have competing priorities and goals that are based on other business models. The emergence of these programs and truly, their success in some areas, has been based on whether or not it was closely integrated with the public transit services and offerings.
Even MaaS Global, arguably, their first city in Helsinki project, went really well. They had initial great adoption, really fast. They had fast growing usership and we’re looking to expand that in several different cities. In some of the cities that they went to they had limited success when they weren’t very closely partnered and aligned with a public entity, whether that was the city or the transit agency. They see more success in the areas where they are very closely aligned and they’re part of the stakeholder group that’s really pushing for their success. I think if we take those as lessons learned and apply that across everywhere it says, when we’re making decisions that are in favor of the public good. We are not just maximizing the use of our existing infrastructure, we are maximizing the best use of the investments that we’re going to make moving forward and as we have to change how we fund some of those things, arguably, in the US anyway, we’re looking at ‘how are we funding our transportation services?’ ‘How are we going to change how we charge?’ ‘How we tax for those services?’ ‘How are we able to change really an end-to-end decision process, not just from the user, but from the overarching government standpoint – how are we able to really interact with each other?’
3. to be a truly public service, private companies need to work in co-ordination with public transit agencies to ensure maas is a success.
I think when we’re really maximizing our efforts, that’s going to be the eventual inevitable end. When we’re really getting to a point where we are offering all the alternatives that make it easy for a person to not have to make a choice to drive themselves. I’m not saying people aren’t going to own cars, I’m not in the war on cars camp. I know that’s very difficult conversation to have sometimes but people are going to make different choices for different trips for different reasons all the time. What we want to do is create enough alternatives that they want to take the choice of not driving themselves all the time. When we are maximizing the use of our community, when we’re really starting to get to a place where we have offered a robust set of services, that at any point in the day, when something changes or something happens, that they have a whole set of alternatives – that they don’t have to make that choice to drive themselves. That’s where we’re really going to see peak adoption and and people really start to enjoy this.
I think inevitably when those private companies are interacting with the public sector you get a much more reliable business model. One of the discussions that I think is important in MaaS in general, is that the reason why MaaS can’t be an app is because the technology is not going to ever define for you a policy goal that you want to meet. So an app can’t make that decision for you and to enable that process against a multiple stakeholder group, means we have to start having conversations outside of our realm of authority. One of the biggest parts of MaaS has nothing to do with technology. It is all about coordinated stakeholder conversations and to apply all of the technologies that you need to really provide a robust MaaS solution, means the transit agency isn’t going to be completely responsible for procuring all of those things. It might be the DOT, it might be the state or the province, so that region of stakeholders will have to be part of a holistic approach to solutioning and partnering. to be able to give the end user experience, that’s really going to drive behavior change.
We’ve talked about Whim a couple of times, but my favorite quote is from Sampo, the CEO, ‘it’s an ecosystem and not an ego-system’ and I really enjoy that because that’s the case. What we’re going to see, what has to happen, is stepping outside of the need for control, and being able to bend in order to create solutions that meet a greater good. This is not easy and what it will require is a really strong leader and that’s what we saw in Finland, that changed the country’s code. To be able to require open APIs is that allowed for the integration of those services. It’s people, it’s not governments, it’s not businesses, it’s not entire transit agencies, it’s a single person in each of those areas that has the leadership and the vision and the capability to execute against that vision. That’s the kind of leadership that’s really going to move all of these things forward. It will go faster in areas where you have strengths in a leader that’s willing to take on the hard conversations that will have to be solved in order to meet these partnering decisions.
4. WHAT IS THE POTENTIAL OF MAAS TO CHANGE SOCIAL INEQUITY WITHIN THE SHARED MOBILITY LANDSCAPE?
I think it’s one of the reasons why the public sector has to lead in the decision-making process. I also believe it’s one of the reasons why the North American market is not that far behind. Part of the reason why a lot of the startups in this space didn’t start in the U.S. is because we have a lot of regulatory and legal provisions that require equity and accessibility and so it’s easier to do business in places where this isn’t the case compared to a place, the US market specifically, that has a lot of those legal requirements. It’s going to just, as a prerequisite, mean you have to think harder about making sure all of those needs are met and in my opinion, when we’re not trying to address the needs of everyone that could be using that system, we’re very much missing the opportunity that MaaS can achieve.
When we are looking at how to address the needs of people who don’t have access to technology, who may be unbanked or underbanked, who may be part of an aging population, ideally we would want them to not have to drive, but we’re certainly not giving them alternatives on how to not drive. I think it’s actually North America’s greatest opportunity in defining how to create a set of solutions that meets the needs of all users, not just able-bodied and young, but those who are aging and those that may have any kind of cognitive or a physical issue, that makes it difficult for them to interact in their environment. How we’re creating this solutions – that can be a shining moment for the U.S. to show the international stage that these kinds of solutions can be built in a way that incorporates the needs of all kinds of users.
5. For 2020, what would you like to see happen with regards to maas and the transportation options we offer people?
I think one of the most underrated requirements, to really move MaaS forward, is the need to have a reliable service, that has information that people can have access to and make different decisions in the moment, meaning real-time information. I think it’s severely underrated, how having a reliable Network, really is going to make a difference in individuals capabilities to make decisions to link some of those services. People are always going to choose what is easiest and if I am waiting for my bus or my train and it’s late and I haven’t been able to get any sort of update on when I might be able to go, I’m gonna make the easy choice and for most people the the alternative would be taking a cab or taking a TNC but those are riders that can afford those choices, so you’re going to have a user group that’s that’s kind of stuck using a system that’s not reliable.
I think if I were to have my druthers, I would say we need to fund transportation appropriately, so that we’re giving agencies the necessary requirement to be able to offer a reliable system and then because the system is reliable, now I can implement real-time information against that system so that people can make different choices. If you start offering reliable choices that are easy to make, people are going to start shifting behavior on a more regular basis. So while I think all of what Mobility-as-a-Service can do, and how we can start changing our infrastructure use. These are all really high level goals that I really want to see happen. I think an important first step is ensuring that we have appropriately funded that transportation network so that it can be the backbone of a MaaS solution.
What are your thoughts on the future of shared mobility and what developments are to be expected in 2020? What about the future implementation of shared mobility within rural areas? If you would like to be interviewed or to nominate a woman working in Shared Mobility for our next series, get in touch with us here.