For Mobility-as-a-Service to save the planet we need to focus on people and infrastructure not technology and gadgets

181129 Le Point articleUrbanisation continuously increases the challenge for cities to be good places to visit, live and work in. Cities today are more or less always designed around cars and today it is impossible to add roads and parking to meet the ever-growing demand. Investments in public transportation, bicycle lanes and streets for walking to reduce the number of cars in the cities are expensive but even worse, takes long to implement. Since each city has its own unique situation the responsibility to deal with the issue has fallen in the knees of city administrations rather than nations. But at the same time traffic infarct in cities has severe sustainability impact to the country and the planet.

It is clear why Urban Mobility is on the agenda today. According to EU over 60% of European citizens are living in urban areas of over 10 000 inhabitants. Urban mobility accounts for 40% of all CO2 emissions of road transport and up to 70% of other pollutants from transport. Congestion in the EU is often located in and around urban areas and costs nearly EUR 100 billion, or 1% of the EU’s GDP, annually. There we go: global warming, pollution, frustration, waste of time and waste of money are just some of the problems caused. At the same time I’ve learnt from my years with Springworks that average trips with cars are 3-4 km and takes 9-10 minutes, and cars are typically used less than 4% of the time. In essence we ruin the planet when we make cars, use cars and trash cars. In between they are standing in the way and cost a lot of money.

A couple of years ago the concept of Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) was invented as the remedy to all these issues. Ever since cities have been flooded with new fleets including bicycles, scooters, cars and everything in between, and they come in different versions including roaming, stationary, electrical and combustion. This has definitely not improved the situation, rather the opposite since we continue to add vehicles instead of improve the utilisation of the ones we have and start remove vehicles. In Stockholm where I live we have colourful roaming bicycles and electrified scooters all over the place. Operators of fleets come and go and some even leave some “vehicles” behind when leaving. Car2Go abandoned Stockholm late 2016 with some 5000 users and 250 cars and DriveNow left Stockholm some weeks ago both blaming parking cost, road tolls and too few customers. There are similar stories in other cities including the mother of electrical car pools, Autolib in Paris with over 4,000 cars, 3,200 docking stations and 150,000 subscribers, which was shut down this summer. But even when these vehicles are used it is by people who already are in the city and it primarily replace use of public transportation, cycling and walking. And since each of the mobility services are operated in isolation they don’t contribute to MaaS yet.

I am deeply worried about our planet and have decided to focus my efforts on the Urban Mobility issues since I believe there we can make a big and quick difference if we really want to. The challenge is complex but enormous amounts are invested in the mobility space why I believe the key to the solution is cities orchestrating all components and initiatives using a systematic approach (in Sweden we say make everyone pull in the same direction) aiming at MaaS.

One of my core beliefs is that each city need a Mobility-as-a-Service platform to start gather different transportation related services on and make them available to companies who develop transportation services to citizens, visitors and organisations. A service platform like that needs to support all types of urban mobility related services, multi-lateral business relationships, data integrity, financial transactions and have to be very agile, secure, robust and scalable. I’m not aware of any platform meeting those requirements today but the Springworks SPARK platform meets all except the financial transaction support and we are continuously looking for more partners and cities who want to be among the first to deploy their first versions of MaaS IRL.

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