Next-Generation Mobility Management
What is mobility as a service (MaaS)? It’s a term that’s been used increasingly in the transportation community, but what does it really mean in the digitally driven, transport services environment of today? MaaS is the consolidation of various forms of transport services into one, on-demand mobility service (MaaS Alliance).1 In today’s transportation environment, municipalities and transit agencies are riddled with a myriad of public transit choices, plus self-guided options such as scooters and bike-sharing. With so many possibilities, users face the potential to depend on numerous modes of conveyance for getting from Point A to Point B, all of which are interacted with separately. But what if the experience was facilitated by a single operator?
The Convergence of Transportation Modes
The modern city traveler has limited time and a lot of options. Consequently, the transportation realm has reached a tipping point between a multimodal and mixmodal approach. In many cases, a user will use multiple methods of travel to reach their destination, whether it be work, home, or a night on the town. Through today’s multimodal approach, agencies are organized in a siloed way, with bus, train, paratransit and other services all being run by different departments, often resulting in the lack of ability to optimize for the customer journey across different modes of transportation.
Consider the Internet of Things (IoT): most of our day-to-day involves Internet-connected devices. There are few everyday tasks, purchases, or services that haven’t been digitalized and streamlined. Then there’s transportation, which has made considerable strides from ride-sharing to mobile ticketing and mobile passes, yet all of our travel modes still function and oftentimes are managed separately.
Every day, the bar is set higher in terms of connectivity and on-demand availability for every conceivable service, and it’s time for transportation modes to raise the bar as well, ultimately providing a fluid travel experience that meets the user wherever they are—a mixmodal approach.
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A Better, More Comprehensive Solution: Beyond Public Transit
Here’s where a complete transition to mixmodal comes in. Everyone wants to get from one place to the next, but we need a better, more comprehensive solution that isn’t limited to transit exclusively. For a truly mixmodal transportation experience, a MaaS operator needs to facilitate the full range of available transport options: public transport, taxi or car rental/ lease, and bike-, car-sharing, ride-hailing and whatever comes next. The point of convergence should be a single view of the customer journey, which should lead transportation agencies to create a unified but personalized experience for each commuter.
Steps to Transitioning to a Mixmodal System
It’s clear what the problem is, and why a mixmodal approach is necessary for simplifying today’s course for transport. But what are the steps that need to be taken in order for a successful mixmodal transition?
- Enable disparate modes of transportation to talk to each other
Municipalities need to facilitate a restructuring from a siloed, multimodal transport model to a mixmodal model. This will allow for future planning using data from all modes of transport, including parking, scooters, and mobile phones; not merely transit or agency data.
- Cities and government officials must leverage technology to manage everything under one system
A mixmodal future calls for a single system and platform that will bring together all transportation options in order to provide a seamless user experience. At the rate of which mobility is evolving, with new modes being introduced frequently, municipalities need a way to manage the entire spectrum of mobility modes under one umbrella.
- Leverage private-public collaborations
Public transportation agencies have the opportunity to be true mobility facilitators, by acknowledging that there are more players in the game who have the potential to be enablers and integrators, rather than competitors. By making a single technology platform available to private mobility solution providers, municipalities enable them to “plug and play” with new innovative solutions, while still adhering to their specific rules and regulations
Reconstruction of Miami-Dade County’s Department of Transportation and Public Works (DTPW)
Miami-Dade County in Florida is an example of a new way to organize transportation services.
In 2016, the mayor combined the traffic and transit departments in order to reevaluate mobility as a whole. The city planned to integrate public and private transportation services. It wasn’t an easy transition, but it was necessary for improving every transportation experience for citizens. It was important to the mayor that the DTPW start looking at mobility from a customer journey perspective rather than a mode-specific perspective.
According to Miami-Dade’s web site, “Embracing the concept of ’mobility management,’ a strategic approach to service coordination and customer service that is becoming a worldwide trend in the public transportation sector, [DTPW] is moving away from the traditional role as a fixed-route service operator, and toward collaboration with other transportation providers, both public and private, to create a full range of well-synchronized mobility services within [our community.]”
Citizen-Centric Transportation Solutions
In merging departments and working toward a more inclusive solution, it became clear to Miami-Dade that today’s world calls for a public transit approach designed to connect people to opportunities through every possible transportation option. With this in mind, close collaboration between the two divisions started to happen.
Miami-Dade started by upgrading their traffic signal system that operates inclusive of all city and state roads. During the first six months, they realized a 30-percent decrease in travel time for a highly frequented, 22-mile route. “We’ve been able to reduce travel time from over an hour to 50 minutes on average. Our best run so far has been 43 minutes,” said Carlos Cruz-Casas, assistant director at Miami-Dade’s Department of Transportation and Public Works (DTPW). “As a department, we’re moving people more efficiently, and it’s a result of a more comprehensive departmental approach.”
In the end, it’s all about humanizing a journey that all citizens undertake to get around, and using technology to do so. Planning has to happen from the perspective of the user.
Consider a typical agency-run bike share program. Miami-Dade County put out a request for a proposal for a bike-share system in order to accelerate its mixmodal plan. The RFP took 18 months; during that time, a number of dockless bikes and scooters were introduced into the community. Cruz-Casas explained that it’s important for public transit not to view these options as competitors, but modes of transportation that can help each other and create a better experience for citizens—the ultimate end users.
The Need to Assist Underserved Communities
Equity is essential to Miami-Dade’s mixmodal plan for the future. “We have a responsibility to make sure, regardless of physical or economic ability or digital literacy level, that you can get from one place to another,” Cruz-Casas explained. Programs and services are being tailored to ensure that underserved populations receive equal benefits from new technology embedded in Miami-Dade transportation options. Miami-Dade continues to work closely with private and public partners to create an infrastructure network that can keep pace with population growth. “Moving around should not be an obstacle,” said Cruz-Casas. “Moving around should be easy, seamless and fast.”
Now that so many modes of transportation have been brought into the mix, people are taking more fluid journeys. It’s of the utmost importance that cities take action to enable these journeys, and make it as easy as possible for citizens to get around.
The cornerstone for this switch in approach is a centralized platform that enables the ability to visualize and analyze trends, view data in one location, house all rates and regulations and manage all mobility modes under a single system— whether changing rates or enabling new modes of transportation or offering first and last-mile solutions. Application programming interfaces, or APIs, create connected systems that enable the public sector to create a path for better public-private collaboration in order to offer innovative solutions to today’s and tomorrow’s transportation challenges. People need to come first—they’re the reason transportation services exist, both public and private. So long as cities put the users first, transit authorities will be in the right position to provide better solutions, supported by technology.