Significance of Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Networks for Mobility as a Service (MaaS) Ecosystems
Commercial and private mobility is being disrupted by several trends such as mobility service offerings, improvements in sustainability, and digitalisation. New mobility concepts are intended to contribute towards low-carbon mobility whilst also providing customer-focused services. Mobility as a Service (MaaS) is a new concept that merges multi-modal transportation services into a single point of contact with MaaS typically based on public transportation, supplemented with extra mobility services.
MaaS is predicted to have a favourable environmental impact by shifting individual or single person occupancy transportation to public transportation and sharing services, increasing multimodal trips, improving resource efficiency, and ultimately lowering emissions. In rural areas where market-based public transportation and other transportation services are not sustainable, public-sector involvement is essential. Collaboration between the public and private sectors has been recommended for MaaS and is commonly known as a Public-Private Partnership (PPP). In Public-Private Partnership (PPP), public and private sectors jointly develop services and share the risks, costs, and resources associated with these mobility services.
Benefits and Shortfalls of PPP Networks for MaaS Ecosystems
In a global stakeholder survey in 2016, 80% of respondents expected a significant reduction in private vehicle use with over half of millennials thinking of delaying the purchase of a private vehicle due to widespread implementation of MaaS. Studies have shown that ride-hailing, ridesharing, and carsharing were also expected to increase due to the proliferation of MaaS. These factors have a significant positive impact on localised air quality, especially in heavily urbanised regions, as a result of reduced traffic. In addition to the positive environmental impacts, MaaS is expected to improve the efficiency of existing transportation services and public resources. It is thought to reduce road congestion, promote healthier travel choices, and improve transportation network efficiencies through effective management of transport-on-demand.
MaaS implementation has the potential to generate issues associated with inequality where premium levels of services are only available to those who pay more. This can segregate communities with less-affluent areas receiving diluted services that are less sustainable and ultimately less flexible than current mobility solutions. Furthermore, inequality in service offerings can lead to disconnects between the user, the transportation provider, and the transportation authority. Finally, the digitisation of mobility services can create an added disconnect for those who are less tech-savvy, leading to a widening of the ‘digital gap’.
Current PPP Networks for MaaS Ecosystems
A report in 2017 from the Coalition for Urban Transitions, Connected Urban Growth: Public-Private Collaborations for Transforming Urban Mobility, aims to help cities evaluate MaaS in relation to PPP. This research outlines the formation of new mobility partnerships, analyses prospective uses for new mobility services in public transportation, and estimates the economic and environmental effects of such applications. Initial results indicated that cities and their citizens stand to benefit considerably from the characteristics introduced by new mobility services into urban transportation systems.
Since 2016, residents in Helsinki, Finland, have been able to plan and pay for different types of public and private transportation inside the city, whether by train, taxi, bus, car-share, or bike-share, using an app called Whim. Anyone with the app can enter a location and choose a mode of transportation, and if no single mode covers the door-to-door travel, a combination could be chosen thereof. Users can pre-pay for MaaS as a part of a monthly mobility subscription or pay as they go using a payment account linked to the service. The goal is to make it so convenient for users to get around using MaaS that they opt to give up their personal vehicles for city commuting, not because they’re forced to, but because the alternative is more appealing.
A PPP network for MaaS is currently being constructed in Ontario, Canada. This is a collaboration between several companies including Hitachi, headquartered in Japan. The consortium is designing, building, financing, operating, and maintaining the Hurontario LRT, a light-rail system in the greater Toronto area. The system, due to open in 2024, is an 18km, 19-stop light rail transit line that will operate from Port Credit in Mississauga to the Brampton Gateway Terminal. Throughout most of the travel corridor, the LRT will operate on a separate guideway with traffic priority. The new route will also improve connections between passengers and other kinds of mass transit. Hitachi Rail STS will install its advanced safety systems along the line and in the trains to assist the driver with the course, speed, and traffic conditions allowing for some level of autonomy.
Los Angeles, USA, announced the formation of Urban Movement Labs (UML) in late 2019 — a ‘first-of-its-kind’ PPP to drive MaaS innovation throughout the city. The initiative brings together stakeholders such as municipal officials, people, the commercial sector, and academia to brainstorm innovative ideas, test them on LA streets, and then deploy them. UML is focused on three key areas: 1.) The Ideas Accelerators initiative that identifies current challenges and defines appropriate solutions, 2.) The Economic and Workforce Development Initiative which is focused on developing a pipeline of businesses and jobs for the local workforce, and 3.) The Urban Proving Grounds Initiative which requires input from community members regarding the solutions proposed and how they should be tested, evaluated, scaled to size, and eventually deployed.
The Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) in Florida, USA, announced in early 2022 that it has chosen the Balfour Beatty Vision 2 Reality (V2R) team and Autonomous Vehicle (AV) solutions supplier, Beep, to implement its new public AV service. This MaaS PPP offering is sponsored by United States Department of Transportation’s (USDOT’s) Better Utilising Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) grant of US$12.5 million, financing from the Florida DOT North Florida Transportation Planning Organisation, and local funds. The first phase of the programme will be a three-mile at-grade AV transportation solution, with the second phase encompassing a complete conversion of the JTA’s elevated Skyway APM system. In Phase 3, street-level extensions will be extended into neighbouring areas to connect downtown Jacksonville to nearby neighbourhoods using the MaaS solution.
The Future of PPP Networks for MaaS
MaaS has grown tremendously in recent years. Following a period of development and contemplation, it is now beginning to mature into a potent urban and rural mobility instrument. According to numerous external surveys, the overall MaaS and new mobility services market is predicted to increase at a rate of 25 to 35% per year from 2021 onwards.
Many external factors are driving this positive market development such as shifting consumer patterns, increased corporate interest in providing comprehensive mobility solutions to their employees, the need to reduce emissions, traffic congestion, road casualties, and air pollution, and an overall desire to improve the efficiency and resilience of transportation systems.
For MaaS to truly work, and for it to be a perfect substitute for individual transportation platforms, a high level of cohesion in adopting PPP networks is necessary. For example, mobility apps will be rendered useless if there is no connection between different services. For example, train and bus schedules must be synchronised whilst train stations must be able to receive a large number of bikes. The point of MaaS via PPP networks is to make journeys as seamless as possible whilst involving communities. Accordingly, there is a long list of solution providers required to make MaaS a useful tool, such as mobility management companies, telecommunication providers, payment processors, public and private transportation providers, and local governments.