Preparing for a carless future
Today, cities have an opportunity to increase public transit ridership. New transportation options like dockless bikes, scooters and ridesharing – are quickly making their way – or are already established – in many cities. However, these options sometimes seem to be coming faster than cities can handle, and while a city’s first instinct might be to expel these new mobility options, the different modes of public and private transit can (and should) work together to make travel seamless for all.
The solution? Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) – a concept that combines multiple modes of transportation (public and private) to create full first/last mile journeys so riders can travel from their front door to their destination as quickly and conveniently as possible. MaaS provides a compelling and cost-effective alternative to private car journeys, reducing congestion.
Mobility services – from journey planning to mobile ticketing – already exist to help solve parts of the problem. To develop MaaS, the next step is linking services together and adding private mobility options to solve the first/last mile problem and the mobility supply issue that cities face as populations surge. This is where MaaS comes to fruition, but while implementing it may seem daunting, there are steps that can be taken today to turn this vision into a reality.
Today’s technology-driven world has made instant gratification not only desired, but expected – people are used to simply pressing a button and accessing whatever service or information they need. This is what has made services like Uber, Grubhub and Venmo rise in popularity in recent years. To ensure public transit remains relevant, cities need to modernize the services to fit changing customer expectations.
Non-private transportation will always work better as a cohesive system, rather than multiple modes competing against each other. If riders can seamlessly combine multiple options to reach their destination faster and help to reduce congestion, they will.
Practical steps to improve mobility
Transit agencies often see MaaS as a futuristic concept that isn’t feasible due to resource constraints. This is far from the truth. Here are some practical steps cities can take to start implementing a better transportation ecosystem today:
Real-time vehicle location tracking and mobile ticketing. Not knowing when the next bus or train will arrive adds stress and frustration for riders, especially when there are unexpected delays. Agencies can deploy technologies like real-time vehicle tracking and mobile ticketing to heighten the convenience of public transit. Implementing these technologies and providing system updates about delays and estimated arrivals undoubtedly improves convenience and the transit experience.
Public/private partnerships. By incorporating options like rideshare, dockless bikes and public transit into a connected mobility ecosystem, cities can suggest routes that combine these options depending on distance, timing or price, enabling full first/last mile journeys. Linking third party urban mobility services via a software development kit (SDK) or APIs gives riders access to an ecosystem of services in one or multiple places, and ultimately improves convenience and the rider experience.
Private companies also aren’t hindered by the same budgetary restraints that agencies are – they can invest in ongoing innovations that they can bring to the cities they partner with. Cities can then provide riders with best-of-breed technologies and services without locking themselves into expensive, burdensome infrastructure upgrades that may become outdated before the city is in a position to upgrade them.
Public/private partnerships, real-time vehicle location tracking, journey planning, connecting services together via SDKs and APIs, all underpinned by seamless ticketing options are all tools that are available to cities today and are able to make actual improvements to mobility in the short term. Helping create seamless and convenient passenger journeys without using private cars can be enabled today by setting the technological foundations. Developed to help solve the transit supply issue, technologies such as autonomous vehicles will help move people onto shared transport options reducing congestion for all – something we can all get onboard with.
Brian Zanghi is the CEO of Masabi, a developer of SaaS ticketing systems for public transport agencies.