ONE OF THE CHALLENGES ASSOCIATED WITH THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE BIG CITIES IS THE NEED TO PROVIDE CITIZENS WITH A COMPREHENSIVE AND EFFICIENT TRANSPORT NETWORK WITH WHICH THEY CAN REACH ANY POINT IN THE WAY THAT BEST FITS THEIR PREFERENCES.
The growth of cities and their expansion into peripheral areas is one of the characteristics of today’s large urban areas. As defined by the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) we are in “the Metropolitan Century”, where there is a proliferation of mega cities that demand greater resources and infrastructure.
One of the challenges associated with this transformation is the need to provide citizens with a comprehensive and efficient transport network with which they can reach any point in the way that best fits their preferences.
New forms of travel
This proposal must also respond to new habits in travel, as the way in which citizens travel is constantly evolving.
Trends in individual consumption also reach mobility. On the one hand, the use of rented driverless vehicles (cars, motorbikes, bicycles and electric scooters) and shared journeys is increasingly prevalent. On the other hand, there is an increase in networks connected to each other to optimize journeys; In addition, there is greater environmental awareness on the part of travellers, a fact that leads them to opt for modes that are more respectful of nature and with less emissions of C02.
All this promotes sustainable and inclusive mobility in society. In this paradigm shift, the advent of technology and its different applications has been paramount. The increase of digital devices by citizens opens-up a new means of communication and allows operators and businesses to expand the services offered to travellers with greater flexibility.
Digital transformation and servitization are global and impact many sectors, including transport. A new concept is born out of this called “Mobility as a Service” (MaaS), where the passenger makes use of transport by booking it online, via the Internet, from a mobile phone and with just one click.
Technological applications open-up a wide range of possibilities for connected mobility”.
Changing mobility habits
There has been a shift from the habit of buying a car for individual use to paying for a particular service depending on the route and the types of means being used (metro, bus, commuter trains, fleets of private or mixed vehicles, etc.) or the different associated expenses if it is a shared journey with another individual (petrol, insurance, electricity, etc.).
One of the great advantages for the user is the possibility to rent the specific number of seats required, instead of a complete car, and to opt for the vehicle that suits the user best depending on the route (bicycle, motorcycle, electric car, etc.). In addition, intermodality is promoted, as a large part of its routes can be done by public transport (commuter trains, metro, bus) and complement a shorter journey with another type of public or private network.
Why is it so innovative?
MaaS combines several key ideas: electric mobility, connected vehicles, real-time information, as well as journey management and mobile phone payment thanks to digital applications.
All this makes MaaS so innovative, as it puts an end to the most traditional model of travel, focused on the sale of the product (vehicle) for its own use, and it makes progress towards new ways of understanding transport, more associated with “servitization”, which can be defined as the transition from the acquisition of goods, as private vehicles, to that of service users.
Hence the increase of preferences for shared mobility (carsharing, motosharing, bikesharing, carpooling, etc.) and its combination with public transport networks.
All this transformation entails a paradigm shift in the way transport services are distributed, and also in commercial models.
This way, a great number of technology-based startups emerges in the market that must be complemented by urban transport networks to create a robust transport system in large cities.
Throughout this new range of possibilities, railway plays a predominant role. Its numerous environmental and connectivity advantages suggest it is the backbone of this combination of means.
THE USER, IN THE CENTRE OF THE SERVICES
The key concept behind MaaS is that users become the centre of transport services. Currently, mobile applications enable the provision of tailored mobility solutions based on individual needs. The great novelty is that users have a very easy and convenient access to the transport service most appropriate to their route, within the package of service options that they have at their disposal.
The great potential of this ecosystem is that users have a simple, reliable, flexible door-to-door service at a good price that fits all styles.
CUSTOMIZED DIGITAL ITINERARIES
The use of new technologies is one of the key points also in terms of mobility. The possibility of integrating all transport services into a single platform opens-up a huge range of new possibilities for the traveller. Presently, travellers can check and receive, online and with no need to travel, suggestions about the most suitable multimodal routes according to the preferences of each person, reducing the chances of encountering delays, congestion or problems associated with validating the purchase of tickets. These options have enabled the “MaaS model” to fully meet the user’s needs and to customize their journey.
LARGE SECURE DATA EXCHANGE
The fact that users have a wide range of options to plan and finalize their trip via their mobile, or through websites, is possible thanks to the previous large exchange of data. An effective, safe and massive process in which cooperation to generate and share knowledge, aggregate third-party data efficiently and link booking services, payment gateway, etc.) is especially important. This is the way to create new opportunities and expand travel options to the end user.
The challenge now is to achieve full coordination between public transport services and the growing number of smaller private providers offering a specific service in this chain, as well as to strengthen all security assurances.
Each of the operators usually has their own application, with a separate interface and a payment mechanism, and each service maintains its own relationships with customers. In this sense, aspects such as authentication and security in each API (Application Programming Interface) are essential in each of the providers.
ICTS, THE BASIS OF CHANGE
The MaaS model is characterized by its reliance on Information and Communication Technologies (ICTS), which are the ones that help to make this new mobility model a reality and the joint action of services by different agents (rental companies of diverse vehicles, transport operators, travel cards top up, etc.)
The increased use of web and mobile applications has a direct impact on transport and leads to an increasingly interconnected city. The ability to integrate all transport services into a single platform is an improvement which provides users with an intermodal and uninterrupted mobility network. The big breakthrough is that through a single interface, very diverse functionalities are combined, such as the planning of a journey, the booking of the chosen mode, ticket issuing and payment.
COLLABORATIVE ECONOMY APPLIED TO TRANSPORT
Mobility as a service also helps promote a greater collaborative economy and meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Cooperative models and the availability of electric vehicle networks help to reduce, for example, the vehicle fleet of private cars in circulation, with the positive impact on C02 emissions into the atmosphere.
In addition, having several alternatives for shorter journeys within the city centre encourages many of the inhabitants of peripheral areas to opt for commuter or metro lines as the main means of travel. This promotes the use of the railway, the least polluting and most environmentally friendly mode and contributes to the improvement of spaces, air quality and a sustainable future.