Shared Mobility Thoughts

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MOBILITY-AS-A-SERVICE (MAAS) MINGLER, 2020

Mar 16, 2020

What if all transportation services converged and became tailored to your specific travel needs and requirements? Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) is integrating technology on public transit and connecting journeys on either side through the use of software, an example being an app on your smartphone. Last month we held a mobility mingler in Vancouver, an invite-only event housed under the Chatham House Rules. We were joined by an expert panel and the discussion focused around how we can successfully implement and sustain Mobility-as-a-Service systems within Metro Vancouver’s infrastructure.

At our mobility mingler the key topics discussed:

  • How to change ‘sticky’ modes of mobility
  • How can we ensure reliability in integrated mobility
  • The ideal standard for data sharing
  • Anti-trust Laws

Keep reading to learn more about the topics discussed at the mingler or for more information on the Mobility-as-a-Service, browse our blog posts and watch our ‘Women in Shared Mobility’ interview series here.

maas

Mobility-As-A-Service (MAAS) MINGLER, 2020

How to change ‘sticky’ modes of mobility

‘Sticky’ mobility modes refer to methods of transportation, such as individual cars, that have become part of modern culture and are the hardest modal behaviour to break. Mobility companies today are combating with a mode of transportation that has been effective for a century with the infrastructure to prove it.

At the mingler, it was suggested that one way to break this pattern is to create new mobility habits among the population. Bigger companies with a large budget who can create endless paid marketing campaigns won’t break these habits. Instead, these companies need to fully understand each market and their potential user base. Marketing needs to be targeted to each person on an individual level, demonstrating that you share the same core values, understand what they need, and can offer it to them. Mobility companies need to create personal connections to their users and this can be done through utilising and leverage influencers within different social circles. Once the individual can relate the the new mobility concept within their own social circle, it will easier for them to acknowledge, try it out and eventually adopt.

One point made by the panel, was the need for the introduction of new infrastructure in order to enable change. Currently, driving infrastructure within cities is excellent. Perhaps creating more liveable bike, walk and transit friendly areas will encourage people to leave their cars at home and break their habits. It was also suggested that changing previous perceptions such as perceived safety concerns over riding a bike or walking in an unfriendly neighbourhood will be very difficult to change. The easiest way to encourage people to disrupt their usual routine is by making the newer modes more convenient, easier and cheaper – that is what really drives adoption. However, if there are no or limited choices to begin with, how can we expect people to change how they move around the city?

The B.C. government is currently accepting proposals from communities to be part of a pilot program to test micro-mobility devices such as e-scooters and electric skateboards. Last October, the province introduced new legislation that allows communities to figure out how best to include the use of zero-emission electric stand-up scooters, electric single-wheeled cycles, Segways and hover boards to operate on the road or sidewalks. This is definitely an encouraging step towards creating sustainable, alternative modes of transport for the residents of the metro Vancouver and surrounding areas.

Another way to deter people from the individual car-culture is to create negative issues that they have to address when, for example, driving on their commute to work. Issues such as congestion and therefore congestion pricing, parking issues and therefore curb pricing. Obviously, the city has their vision but private organizations have their profitability to think of, this is especially the case with the new wave of ridehail that has entered the city recently. If we make it a priority to analyse the data created from these ridehail companies, perhaps we will understand human behaviour better and will be in a better position to change it.

How can we ensure reliability in integrated mobility & MaaS

The panel agreed that competition is good. When there are many players, negotiation between services is necessary. Each transportation mode has their own unique operational advantages. Demand for each service is influenced by these MaaS transportation systems – therefore competition exists at various stages of the journey. Modes can compete or complement one another in terms of cost, speed, accessibility, frequency, safety, comfort, etc. Understanding that different communities have different needs. Understanding what on-demand services are required within each area and then implementing them. Utilizing each service appropriately will create more reliability within MaaS systems. This competition between services ensures that monopoly is avoided, which is, ultimately, the best news for the individual user.

A case was made for the importance of communication between operators, the city and users. There needs to be a common thread of discussion that will allow policy makers to make informed decisions when bridging the gaps of integrated systems. Openness is the starting point to make the goals achievable. This also applies to data sharing and open APIs among operators. One panelist made the point that the city of Vancouver sets a tone for the region, but the surrounding suburbs have the ability to ‘gang-up’ and counter the policy decision of the city. If operators can agree to standards, they can be equal partners.

The panel agreed that an effective way to create successful and reliable integrated mobility was with the help of government subsidies, particularly when bridging the gap between the suburbs (more rural areas) and the city. For example, ride hailing can connect suburban areas to the core city transit areas combined with microtransit. In order to understand this better, simulation models would be required and subsidies would definitely help accelerate the adoption.

What’s the ideal standard for Data Sharing within MaaS systems?

The ideal data standard for sharing depends on the individual’s position within the industry. Should government agencies have all the data and then distribute when and where needed to private operators? A point was made by the panel that governments would be able to handle data privacy and control the use and sharing of private data. However, there are totally different opinions on whether public office should have control of data.

It was suggested that data visibility is compartmentalized and that understanding the background and intention of data sharing needs to be clear. Analysing the data, ‘what is it showing?’ and ‘what should it be used for?’ needs to be a priority. If private operators share their data with public agencies, it would help local governments understand commuter behaviour better. This data sharing would be a show of good faith and would enable public support. It would also be a way of repaying the infrastructure funding that the government brings in. There needs to be give and take, honesty and openness with data sharing within integrated mobility systems. 

In October of 2018, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) implemented their first set of data specifications and data sharing requirements to focus on shared dockless mobility modes, such as dockless e-scooters and bikes. Called the Mobility Data Specification (MDS), MDS allows the City to engage in real time with mobility service providers about a variety of data such as how many vehicles are in use or where vehicles are at all times. Today, LADOT is using this improved data flow to actively manage dockless scooters, bikes, taxis, and buses. Despite success there is still debate as to whether or not this should be the new standard.

The General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) defines a common format for public transportation schedules and associated geographic information. The General Bikeshare Feed Specification (GBFS) which shows in real time data on the availability of docked and ‘dockless’ bike sharing services. Both of which focus on real time data and flexible as a service. There is also the SAE who are developing their own standards. It’s difficult to know which is the correct standard, but it is something we need to figure out and this will only be done through tracking the progress of these systems with long term goals in mind.

Antitrust laws

Antitrust laws are regulations that monitor the distribution of economic power in transportation services, making sure that healthy competition is allowed to flourish and services can grow and evolve. Uber, for example, has a feature ‘Dynamic Pricing’ which appears to be, on the surface, ‘low pricing’ but this is artifice – to escape scrutiny. It works through Algorithmic Pricing, which determines what price to deliver based on different variables like your location, time of day, traffic patterns and even your user history with Uber. This data is collected, and the algorithm predicts the top price that you are most likely willing to pay. This makes it harder for users to trust the service as the pricing is not reliable. This is why competition is important – to ensure users can make the right choice for their individual needs. However, both monopolies and duopolies have their pros and cons. More drivers means less waiting time for users but more riders after a certain volume means creating a bottleneck for driver availability, which introduces this surge pricing.

The panel agreed that there needs to be balance between private and public control to creating a trust-worthy, successful integrated system. Including features like integrated payment choices and taking away the friction to improve convenience will inevitable encourage people to break their current travel behaviour and try a new method of moving around the city.

 

In conclusion, the long term goal of MaaS is to provide a convenient 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. In order to create a successful MaaS system within the city of Vancouver, all the players that are involved in the project have to have an understanding of the objectives and the benefits of of the service. All partners must be treated equally and each partner needs to contribute, whether that is with investments or data sharing. Policies must be in place that will protect the rights and privacy of the individual user as well as encourage mobility companies to stay active and competitive within the city.

Want to learn more about creating successful integrated MaaS systems within your city? Send an email to workshop@movmi.net to be the first to hear about our upcoming MaaS workshop.

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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