Mobility as a service (MAAS) : What operational reality ?

The transition to “service-oriented” mobility is one of the major developments in mobility and transport at work nowadays. The MaaS (Mobility as a Service), which CEREMA defines as “an integrated system offering information, reservation, purchase and validation, for the widest possible range of mobility services”, is part of this transition. There are now about fifteen MaaS applications in Europe, a growing phenomenon, particularly in large urban areas. But beyond the concept, what reality can the MaaS cover in the field?

To find out more, Chroniques Urbaines met Denis Rambaud, Vice-President of Mulhouse Alsace Agglomération in charge of transport and mobility, who shared with us his feedback on the Mobility Account, a pioneering MaaS initiative in France launched in 2018.

How do you describe the MAAS in the Mulhouse Alsace Agglomeration? What were the main reasons for setting up the Mobility Account and the features it offers?

Denis Rambaud: The Mobility Account is a software package, developed as part of a study on the transport offer in the urban area and the services that users need in this area. The first motivation was to win new public transport users, with only 12% of them using public transport. The aim was to encourage individuals to use means of transport that they do not usually use.

Two major obstacles, previously identified, had to be removed to increase the use of public transport: the lack of a suitable offer at the right time to reach the desired destination, and the perception by users of means of transport reserved for specialists.

With the Mobility Account, the idea was to offer a “Swiss Army Knife” of mobility services, accessible via an application on a smartphone. The functionalities integrated from the beginning were buses, trams, car-sharing cooperative services, self-service bicycles,  then parking solutions were added. In this way, our offer is made to match the needs of the maximum number of our fellow citizens.

After one year of deployment, what is your assessment of the users’ acceptance of the Mobility Account? To what extent does MAAS effectively contribute to the ecological transition of Mulhouse Alsace Agglomeration?

Denis Rambaud: The results are above our expectations. The Mobility Account now has 4000 subscribers, with an average increase of 15% per month since its creation.

Users are willing to taste the different proposals made to them in terms of transport modes: 14% use car-sharing, a very significant increase (from 100 to 500 users in one year), 2/3 use the application for parking services and 2/3 of users use the bus network. Above all, 2/3 of users now use one more service than those they initially signed up for. Thus, the application makes it possible to introduce users to new modes of travel. It helps everyone to understand that they are not blocked in their mode of travel.

The Mobility Account has three main advantages for users. It simplifies registration procedures, provides centralized information on many modes of transport and guarantees the best price for travel. The guarantee of the best fare is made possible by payment at the end of the month, post-use, combined with automatic application of the most advantageous fare (unit or subscription), depending on the actual frequency of use of each means of transport by the user. In addition, following feedback from users, the possibility for users to control their transport budget has been integrated, by creating their annual budget and receiving alerts in case of overruns.

Furthermore, the Mobility Account contributes to the ecological transition by promoting the use of alternative modes of transport to the private car, and by guaranteeing the best price for travel.

In your opinion, what will be the main success factors for developing MAAS in the city of tomorrow?

Denis Rambaud: The first key to success is that the urban area, a public actor, plays the role of organizing authority and trusted third party to manage users’ personal data and guarantee their confidentiality. It is the only one to have their aggregated user information and to decide on the range of services offered on the application, as mobility operators cannot interfere with it. This steering by the conurbation was decided in response to users’ reluctance to manage the Mobility Account, which would have been entrusted to the subsidiary of a local SEM, as initially envisaged (users feared that their personal data would be used by private operators, including those of the platform’s means of transport that they did not use).

The second key to success is the involvement of users in the creation of the Mobility Account. There can be no application that works without users testing and involvement to make it as easy to use as possible. For example, the idea of entrusting the management of the Mobility Account to the public actor emerged from this co-construction approach.

1. In 2019, the agglomeration had 272,712 inhabitants, editor’s note.

Interview by Camille Raynaud for Urban Chronicles™.

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Green SoluceMobility as a service (MAAS) : What operational reality ?
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