Mobility as a Service (MaaS) as an enabler of seamless and more environmentally-friendly visitor travel at a destination
Although many tourists are prepared to use public transport and bicycles to move around a destination, they often abandon the idea in favour of personal cars. This happens because visitors do not always know about available transport options, their prices and accessibility. Mobility as a Service (MaaS) makes use of smartphone technology in order to visualize various means of travel at a destination and enable access to them by advance ticket purchasing and/or pre-booking. MaaS promotes low-carbon transport for sustainable tourism mobility in smart destinations.
As part of the MaaS4EU H2020 project, Transport for Greater Manchester is piloting MaaS for Manchester, the destination visited by ca. 1 million tourists per year. When ready, will be co-managed in collaboration with the city authorities. As part of the project, a smartphone app is being designed to provide detailed, integrated information about all transport options available in Greater Manchester, including pricing. The app will facilitate journey planning and offer an opportunity to its users to book trips on the go. The app will enable access of its users not only to the city's public transport, but also bike-share services and, potentially, rental cars.
Local residents and visitors are the main beneficiaries of MaaS. The key stakeholders are represented by the MaaS platform developer and its operator, local providers of various transport services, including bicycle and car rentals, and city authorities.
The amount of initial investment required is difficult to assess but patented MaaS technology is becoming broadly available which will reduce its cost. Public funds can be used to cover part of the costs and public-private partnerships (PPPs) can be formed to pool the resources needed.
Evidence of success
The project is currently under development but has demonstrated significant potential for uptake. This potential has been tested in targeted consumer surveys and carefully designed usability studies. The commercial success of similar projects already implemented in other cities in Europe (see, for instance, https://whimapp.com for Helsinki) pinpoints MaaS as a promising solution for smart and sustainable travel in popular tourist destinations.
Issues with connectivity and battery use may diminish the value of using the app on the go. Robust testing of beta versions is required to eliminate the occurrence of technical bugs and confirm the usability of the app design.
Potential for learning or transfer
The MaaS platforms, such as the one piloted for Greater Manchester, can be replicated in any destination served by multiple modes of transport. A similar initiative is currently underway in Budapest. There is potential for co-learning and co-designing a platform that suits the needs of prospective users in specific destinations. For instance, bicycle rentals can be included for destinations that are ‘flat’ and can, therefore, be explored on foot while, concurrently, e-scooter rentals can be made available in hilly destinations that require effort when visiting. MaaS can be designed in such a way that it is used not only by visitors but also by local residents. Lastly, MaaS can offer tickets for visitor attractions, potentially at a discounted price, thus providing a fully integrated tourist/leisure service for visitors and residents.