What Is Mobility as a Service?

Mobility as a service integrates transportation options like ride-hailing, bike rentals and public transit to make getting around urban areas easier.

Written by Jacob Biba
What Is Mobility as a Service?
Image: Shutterstock / Built In
UPDATED BY
Matthew Urwin | May 04, 2023

Mobility as a service (MaaS) brings together a variety of transportation operators into a single ecosystem of mobility. Think of MaaS as the sun, while ride-share companies are the planets that orbit it.

What Is Mobility as a Service?

Mobility as a service integrates various transportation options and operators under a digital platform like an app to make getting around urban areas easier.

Like most other “as-a-service” business models, MaaS users just pay for what they need, like a trip to the grocery store using a ride-hailing service like Uber or Lyft, or a visit to the doctor via a shared electric scooter or bike. Mobility-as-a-service apps allow users to access an array of transportation options available in a city, typically showing availability and arrival times as well as offering a payment system.

“I think it’s about providing something that’s also accessible and more convenient than current means of transportation.”

MaaS is a “user-focused way of providing mobility for different needs,” said Chris Stoffel, director of studio engineering at Zoox, a MaaS robotaxi company. “I think it’s about providing something that’s also accessible and more convenient than current means of transportation.”

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How Is Mobility as a Service Being Used?

Mobility as a service aims to make transportation and mobility services easier and more accessible for people to use.

 

Streamlined Public Transit Systems

MaaS is used to put public transit offerings and ridesharing services together on one platform, allowing people to access all their transportation options at once. Take St. Louis Metro Transit, for example. It partnered with Transit to make the Transit app, which enables residents to request a public rideshare vehicle in the same app they use to check bus schedules and access train tickets.

St. Louis residents can also use their Metro pass as a ticket for the rideshare service, and they can easily convert a rideshare ticket into a Metro pass when transferring to a bus or train. Creating a single platform where customers can pay for a range of public transportation options saves riders the hassle of managing multiple payment methods for different services.

 

Cost-Efficient Spending on Public Transit Services

As part of its 2021 MaaS program, the city of Pittsburgh analyzed data from a mid-pilot report and found that every mobility service, except for public transit, grew over the first year of the program. In response, Pittsburgh’s bikeshare system, POGOH, added new bikes and bike stations in the city, while Zipcar added cars to its local fleet. 

Spin, an electric scooter company, experienced high usage from Pittsburgh residents as well. In a survey of more than 2,200 Spin users, 35 percent said that scooter trips replaced trips they would have normally used a car for — the equivalent of 257,000 vehicle miles, the report stated. Pittsburgh and its MaaS partners could then invest more resources in the services residents relied on the most. 

 

Reduced Vehicle Traffic in Urban Environments

In 2017, Helsinki, Finland, implemented a MaaS program as a way to curb emissions and help achieve the country’s goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2035. More than 2 million trips had been booked using the city’s MaaS app, Whim, the first year, with 6 percent of the residents using the app to get around, according to a report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development released last year. As a result of Helsinki’s MaaS program, 12 percent of Whim users no longer used their personal vehicles, while others were strongly considering doing the same, the report stated.

Similar MaaS programs in the cities of Stockholm and Gothenburg in Sweden, also saw residents giving up their cars. In the Gothenburg pilot program, personal vehicle use dropped by 50 percent among participants.

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Mobility as a Service In-Depth Case Study

In 2021, Pittsburgh’s Department of Mobility and Infrastructure (DOMI) partnered with the MaaS app Transit to launch Move PGH, a two-year pilot program that has reshaped how residents get around town. Once you enter your destination in Transit, the app shows you transportation options and arrival times, as well as the nearest locations for scooters and bikeshare stations and real-time public transit updates.

The program’s mobility services include Pittsburgh Regional Transit; POGOH, an electric bike rental program; Zipcar, a car rental company; and Spin, an electric scooter company. The city has also created 50 mobility hubs where these services are located and can be accessed.

“You have everything you could want in one physical space, and then also in digital spaces, using the Transit app,” said Rylan Seifert, a policy analyst for DOMI. “You can unlock a bike share, you can get a bus pass and view all the arrival times all from one digital space as well.”

By bringing together a variety of mobility services, ranging from electric scooter rentals to public transit, and making them available to residents via a single smartphone app, the city has reduced people’s reliance on personal vehicles.

Move PGH shows the potential of MaaS to make cities like Pittsburgh more reliable and accessible via public transit. When people in Pittsburgh need to go somewhere, they open one app and plan their trip around town seamlessly.

“What we’re doing is bringing together all of our transportation providers in Pittsburgh under this one umbrella to coordinate better collaboration between these groups,” Seifert said.

 

Benefits of Mobility as a Service

With mobility as a service, cities can promote forms of public transit that are easier to use for residents across a broader slate of demographic groups.  

 

Increased Sustainability in Cities

MaaS may prove to be a viable way to reduce people’s reliance on car ownership, which could curb emissions, congestion and transportation costs in cities. 

For Stoffel of Zoox, one of the most significant benefits of mobility as a service is convenience. Much like the personal vehicles parked in people’s driveways, a MaaS option can cover basic transportation needs of an individual or family during a typical day, Stoffel said, without all the hassle of owning that car — like parking, maintenance and depreciation. 

“I think people will start to question, ‘Oh, do I actually need to have my own vehicle for these needs?’” Stoffel said.

It’s the same with electric scooters, rideshares, carshares, bikeshares and public transit, and while all these services have been available as standalone transport options, having them all under one app makes them more accessible, especially if you have a city or municipality pushing it, as Pittsburgh and European cities like Helsinki have done. 

“Mobility is a very important part of our lives,” Stoffel said. “And we’re seeing that demand growing in every city, in every area. Even in places it’s already been established, it’s continued to evolve.”

 

Improved Safety for Riders and Pedestrians

If MaaS takes off, less people rely on cars to get around, which means less potential for car crashes. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates over 31,000 people died in car crashes during the first nine months of both 2021 and 2022, prompting driverless car companies like Cruise to address this issue. 

Cruise provides driverless robotaxi cars as a rideshare service for residents. In San Francisco, the company extended public access to its robotaxi service to provide rideshare options all day long, giving residents who are unable to drive a safer alternative for getting home. 

As the autonomous vehicles industry continues to advance, driverless rideshare services can become an integral part of MaaS’ mission to replace private cars and prioritize forms of travel that give both riders and pedestrians peace of mind.

 

Greater Equity for Underserved Residents

MaaS also has the potential to make transit more equitable for low-income residents in cities.

In surveys of Move PGH riders, Transit found that users were more likely to be non-white and low income, compared to the majority of city residents. Nearly 18 percent had a yearly household income of less than $10,000, while just over 37 percent earned less than $40,000. Also, more than 65 percent of respondents said they didn’t own a car, according to the mid-pilot report.

According to Seifert, all four of the transportation operators offer a low-fare program. POGOH, the bikeshare program, offers a Justice Pass for $10 a year, and other operators offer similar discounts. The city also set “access zones,” which the city has identified as “transit deserts” where car ownership is low, and where discounts are automatically applied for trips starting out of those areas, Siefert said.

 

Mobility-as-a-Service Companies

The electric scooter rental company Spin operates on college campuses and in cities across North America and Europe. The company, owned by Ford, introduced its first fleet of scooters in Seattle in 2017 and now operates in dozens of cities and more than 25 college campuses. Its Spin 6 scooter has a range of 40 miles on a full charge and a maximum speed of 15 miles per hour. Spin is aiming to be carbon negative by 2025.

 

Moovit is a mobility-as-a-service app that has 1.7 billion users across all its platforms and operates in 112 countries and 3,500 cities. Tampa, Florida, partnered with Moovit to launch a MaaS pilot program, which will link electric bikes, scooters and the city’s public transit system with the Moovit app, to help curb transportation costs in the city. “The cost of travel, both financial and time cost, is going up across Tampa Bay,” said Vik Bhide, the City of Tampa’s mobility director. “With the Moovit app, the City of Tampa is trying to make it as easy as possible to get people where they need or want to go.”

 

Transit is a MaaS app that consolidates different mobility options in a single digital space to make transportation more accessible and easier to navigate in more than 300 cities. Working with transit departments and organizations, as well as mobility service providers like bikes and scooters, Transit provides real-time information about public transit as well as locations for partner operators and payment options for mobile bus passes. 

 

Maybe one of the most well-known MaaS companies, the ride-hailing company Uber operates in more than 10,000 cities around the world. The company is pushing to become a “zero-emission mobility platform” by 2040 in an effort to curb climate change, with all rides occurring in zero-emission vehicles, public transportation or micro-mobility options like electric scooters and bikes.

 

Zipcar is a carsharing service where users can rent a car by the day or by the hour, choosing from a selection of vans, sedans, luxury SUVs and other vehicles. Gas, insurance and up to 180 miles of driving per day are included. One Zipcar translates to 13 fewer personal vehicles on the road, while 90 percent of users drove 5,500 miles or less per year, amounting to 32 million gallons of oil saved.

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