MaaS and the Concept of Scale- The US is really big, the Netherlands really small.


MaaS and the Concept of Scale- The US is really big, the Netherlands really small.

I was fortunate enough to attend the MaaS Market Concept to Delivery seminar held this week in Atlanta. It was sponsored by my friends at the UK’s ITS International magazine.

I learned a lot, but maybe not exactly what the speakers had in mind.

First of all, they all had a dog in this fight. Although they tried not to, they were pitching their particular solution to the Mobility as a Service concept, and most were telling the same story, even to the point of using exactly the same powerpoint slides.

It goes like this:

“Let’s develop a credential (card, transponder, phone app) that works on all transportation modes in a metropolitan area, whether it is a parking facility, Uber type vehicle, light rail, bus, bike rental, powered rickshaw (yep), or taxi. It should work across all agencies providing such services (In Atlanta, for instance, there are dozens in a 13 county area.)

The smart phone app, and most were pitching that, would not only serve as a payment device, but also give real time information about where to catch a bus, where to transfer to a train, and what to do at the other end to get to your final destination.

Examples of the success of these programs were given (Finland, Netherlands, Portugal). But one speaker told me privately that she was overwhelmed by the scale of the US Market. Amsterdam has about 50 square miles, Los Angeles over 500. Portugal is about the size of Georgia, Finland, population wise, is half the size of New Jersey.

It was great to see slides of happy Dutchmen riding their bicycles to work where the average commute was about 3 miles. Would this work in Los Angeles or Houston or Atlanta? Not so much.

However, the more than dozen firms that presented were certain their technology would solve the problems of scale presented by the US market. Just give them a chance.

The most realistic speakers were a professor from Georgia Tech and the Director of the Georgia State Road and Tollway Authority. Note they weren’t selling anything.

The prof spoke about the difficulty of changing one’s habits (get in the car and drive to work) and that had to be done if we were going to get folks out of their cars. The Director noted that government agencies like his had no clue how to approach the MaaS problem and virtually pleaded with the vendors to help them sort through how to make it happen.

I think the concept of one credential working on all mobility platforms is a good one. Here in the US the decisions will have to be made at the city and county level. That means a lot of selling going on. In Europe the decisions can be more easily made at the state or federal level due to the way their governments are designed.

I’ll give you more input over the next week. There is a lot here. Most goes back to that old standby, global warming and the evil personal vehicle. Betcha didn’t see that coming.



John Van Horn

John Van Horn

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