New Mobility Concepts Have Implications for Transit

Posted on May 16, 2019 by James Blue, Publisher

"Mobility as a Service” (MaaS), a term coined first in Helsinki, Finland, features a suite of new services, technologies, and legal framework to enable this integration.
"Mobility as a Service” (MaaS), a term coined first in Helsinki, Finland, features a suite of new services, technologies, and legal framework to enable this integration.

A number of articles in this issue address a variety of transit topics that reflect how the public transportation industry's agenda has shifted to a more mobility focused one. Taken together, these changes will likely alter how our industry plans, designs, and delivers services for the public. It is up to us to ensure that those changes benefit the public we serve.

What is the ‘new mobility’ anyway?
Before we go further, though, let’s define terms. The New Mobility Program at University of California Los Angeles’ Institute of Transportation Studies defines it as the intersection of travel behavior, economics, engineering, regulation, and infrastructure, which has enabled technology and business forces to produce new travel options, including ride-hailing services, automated and connected vehicles, and new “micromobility” modes, such as bike- and car-sharing.

The management consulting firm McKinsey and Company defines it as a real-time combination of travel modes, all door-to-door, supported by real-time information technologies such as smartphone apps and integrated cloud-based electronic fare-payment options. This is also increasingly called “Mobility as a Service” (MaaS), a term coined first in Helsinki, Finland, with its suite of new services, technologies, and legal framework to enable this integration.

Many of these concepts have been around for decades; even the integration of them is not really new. In fact, in the U.S. in the 1990s, the Transit Cooperative Research Program had a study track called "New Paradigms." It noticed how agencies, such as Transport for London, became less service provider and more service broker, and along the way, added real-time internet services and common fare media (Oyster card) to help facilitate more seamless use and efficient delivery. Then, Uber, Lyft, and related services, as well as Lime and other bike-share and car-share companies with their smartphone apps and ability to pay in their technologies showed us the next level of integration.

Effects on industry are profound
So yes, these changes are already happening. There are opportunities, as well as threats, to these disruptive forces. New mobility can strain existing infrastructure and undermine longstanding regulations, but they also present exciting opportunities for new transit partnerships. From Los Angeles to Orlando and Detroit to New Orleans to Kansas City.

“The future is not a promise, but an achievement,” wrote Bertrand Russell many decades ago, in a simpler time. The industry's move to mobility management presents a great opportunity for us to share ideas and shape our futures together.

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