MaaS for Micro-Mobility – the implications, by Giles Bailey

Cities around the world face a range of challenges meeting the needs of growing urban populations, climate change and sustainability. Options are complex and interact across a range of dimensions such as transport, economic development, and the environment.

A key part of delivering this agenda is the need for high quality and more environmentally sustainable transport systems. This has also led to the rise of new mobility services, such as carsharing and numerous other micro-mobility services that can complement existing public transport systems. These micro-mobility services include scooters, e-scooters, bicycles and e-bicycles, as well as other potential and emerging form factors. Micro-mobility may be personally owned and used, or increasingly shared. However, these new mobility services have often failed to fully integrate themselves into cities' existing transportation landscapes and support the vibrant, safe and effective use of urban public space.

As defined by the MaaSAlliance, “Mobility as a Service (MaaS) is the integration of various forms of (sustainable) transport services into a single mobility service accessible on demand….” This provides opportunities to access a diverse set of transport options via integrated applications, integrated payment and best value propositions. MaaS is being delivered in a range of user contexts and methods. Firstly, local authorities / city transport operators/ etc are reinforcing and broadening their mobility offer to typically include more flexible and additional modes of (public) transport. These offers are illustrated by the Oyster card in London, Navigo in Paris and smartcards in numerous other cities. This type of service provides a much more comprehensive access to public transport services. It has, however, proven much more complicated to include private and new modes of mobility in this mix. More on this point later in the article. Intermediaries, whether as independent operators of a MaaS solution or as white label operators to authorities or businesses have entered the market. Each of these intermediaries faces a formidable challenge in corralling the mobility systems in a city, integrating an offer as well as making a profitable margin from the price a customer is willing to pay for the resulting service.

In many areas, the role of the MaaS intermediary is significantly aided by open data policies, whether mandated by government or developed by operators, as well as some collaboration across the mobility space. However, these open data policies require transparency and enforcement.

Some of these intermediaries are also not wholly from the transport space. They include online content providers, other retailers, OEMs and a range of other businesses. Also, payment providers (Visa, MasterCard, Amex, UnionPay, etc) can fit into this role as a MaaS intermediary which is a role they already, in practice, fulfil across the retail and broader payment landscape.

“MaaS needs to return to the core issue of making transport flexible, easy, convenient and critically comprehensive for travellers. ”

However, MaaS had started as a consumer proposition that has become a technology and process challenge across the mobility space. MaaS needs to return to the core issue of making transport flexible, easy, convenient and critically comprehensive for travellers. This may not mean having only one App, or payment method, or website. This may not be the biggest consumer issue, as opposed to the breath of usable services in any specific area. This returns us to the role of micro-mobility – and the role of MaaS for micro-mobility. Choice in mobility is at the centre of any robust transport eco-system. The car based transport networks seen in many global cities are in many ways a failure of providing choice. Good and efficient public transport (buses, light and heavy rail) is part of this choice set. But in a modern city, so is some element of micro-mobility (both shared and personally owned). An effective MaaS system must include micro-mobility opportunities to provide a depth of choice to the user.

Micro-mobility is usually based on small, light, flexible and relatively inexpensive devices – particularly versus public transport or private cars. While aggregating a service across an urban area may lead to a substantial capital and operating outlay, micro-mobility services are by nature easier for smaller operators to start. They also provide substantial scope for niche operators in specific parts of a city, for certain user groups, or for certain types of business models. This is an inherent strength in the sharing economy as the need for centralised business processes is decreased. This variety is seen, for example, in the carsharing systems in Germany where many towns and cities have highly localised operators. This localisation and diversity reinforces the need to consider MaaS solution designs that enable this range of smaller business to participate and in a way that supports their business models and size as well as meets the requirements of local public service tenders.

Data is key to this micro-mobility model. This provides real time visibility of mobility options and consumer choice as well as modal integration. While encouraging each business operator to provide transparent data to a centralised system point is very time consuming and probably not feasible, what is feasible is for the city authority to insist from the outset that shared micro-mobility operators follow a set series of local policies – probably via a licence agreement that stipulate the need for open data. Again, this data needs to be collected and controlled in a way that allows for micro-mobility business models to effectively function, protects personal privacy, but also city planning and enforcement objectives, as well as the development of robust MaaS solutions.

“Public transport and car sharing opportunities are part of this mix but so must be micro-mobility”

The city authority has the clear role in this situation to broker a long term, sustainable, fair and transparent role for the micro-mobility operator by clearly stipulating the rules of engagement. Cities need to also stipulate and develop these rules for the public transport operators – whether city owned, franchised, or privately operated as well as for shared cars and for example electric car infrastructure and eventually autonomous vehicles. The authority should be acting as the enabler of the MaaS eco-system across micro-mobility, public transport, and cars. Without this role, MaaS will develop as an unstable and incomplete proposition for users and new business innovators and risks being developed in a context that preordains its eventual local failure.

MaaS is an exciting evolution of the mobility market. It brings potentially a number of benefits to consumers and could make sustainable transport significantly more appealing and easier to use. However, MaaS only succeeds on the breadth and depth of the local transport offer. Public transport and car sharing opportunities are part of this mix, but so must be micro-mobility. However, even more importantly for micro-mobility, the needs of the small operator need to be considered in “MaaS for micro-mobility”. This means the guarantor of an overall transport system - the city - acting in a way that sets clear ground rules and mandates open and transparent data that protects personal privacy across the mobility operators.

Vianova’s Vision As an emerging thought leader in the area of mobility and urban space management, Vianova is keen to work with cities that are eager to promote new transport modes such as micro-mobility, enforce reasonable and fair rules of deployment on territories, better integrate these new modes into the wider transport system, as well as better manage public spaces to meet the broader needs for efficient and sustainable mobility. We are working with a range of cities as well as private landowners to deploy this vision.


This article has been written by Giles Bailey (Head of Policy & Partnerships) with the assistance and guidance from Thibault Castagne and Thibaud Febvre, co-founders of Vianova

Giles Bailey is Head of Policy and Partnerships at Vianova, based in London

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