From Urban Walled Gardens to Borderless Interoperable Multimodal Platforms

 In Blog

Blog post by Iomob’s CEO, Boyd Cohen.

On 15 September, MaaS Transit is hosting the webinar“Evolution to Platforms for Account-Based Ecosystem and MaaS in Europe” sponsored by Global Mass Transit and Cubic Transportation Systems.  In advance of that webinar, I would like to lay out our view at Iomob on the evolution of the MaaS Ecosystem towards an interoperable, borderless platform approach.

The early days of MaaS have been largely marked by small pilots from local authorities and brave launches by B2C players like MaaS Global.

An underexplored aspect of different approaches to MaaS/MOD worthy of further discourse is what the options beyond urban walled garden models are?  Most of the public sector trials to date around the globe have been some form of urban walled garden model.  That is, new apps deployed at an urban scale, combining different modes of mobility, sometimes with deeply integrated private mobility supply (e.g. scooters, taxis, carsharing, etc). These apps tend to be walled gardens in that they are a single app and the only source of combined public and private mobility service journey planning and booking in the city. And these deployments are independent of each other, meaning users are not able to travel between different cities or use the same app in different cities.

At Iomob, from day one, we embraced intercity and intracity mobility and interoperability.

Intercity and Intracity

Our public and private sector clients often serve multiple cities or even countries and demand a platform that allows users to travel across artificial borders (municipal, regional, and even national). Iomob just announced a forthcoming deployment with Brightline Trains, the first high-speed private rail operator in the US. They target city pairs that are “too far to drive and too close to fly”.  They will soon serve Miami to Orlando and Las Vegas to Los Angeles. Iomob’s Mobility on Demand platform will allow Brightline passengers to discover, route, book, and pay for seamless door-to-door journeys between cities across the US, including on-demand shuttles, taxis and ride-hailing, public transit, and micromobility as first and last-mile options.

 

Interoperable

Another important feature for the scalability of our industry, in Iomob’s opinion, is interoperability.  That is, for enterprise-grade platforms like Iomob, we must allow users of deployments attached to our MOD platform “mobility roaming”.  What we don’t want to do as an industry is exacerbate the app fragmentation that has led us to this problem in the first place. If users have to discover, download and onboard user and payment profiles in every city they travel to, modal shift happens at a considerably slower pace. It is also a barrier for inclusive, sustainable mobility to become the dominant paradigm when traveling at home and abroad.  Interoperability can allow for national MaaS deployments where local public and private actors (e.g. local PTAs, football clubs, energy companies, etc.) can deploy their own MaaS apps that are all interoperable and connected to the same platform.

How does this relate to account-based ticketing (ABT) approaches? Account-based ticketing transit systems allow travellers to utilize their preferred payment method (smart watch, phone, credit card) for their entire door-to-door journey (and even aggregated monthly journeys). Journeys are tied to that payment method in ways that greatly benefit the user. For example, if there is fare capping by day, week or month, once a user has spent their cap for that period, the rest of their journey(s) can be free.

Something to be considered is how a borderless, interoperable platform can integrate with ABT capabilities to support intercity and even cross-border mobility in ways that achieve level 4 MaaS sustainability and policy objectives?

 

Here are just a few examples I hope we can debate in the webinar:

  • A national interoperable MaaS platform could allow a resident to travel between and inside cities in the country seamlessly. The national transport authority could implement their own fare capping systems that allow people to commute between and inside cities capping their entire mobility journey. This could help, for example, stem the tide of massive urban migration which puts pressure on housing prices, infrastructure on more. If residents say in Utrecht, had capped daily national mobility costs, they could decide to stay in Utrecht instead of moving to Amsterdam because their mobility budget would be capped.
  • With the growing pressure in Europe to encourage modal shift from air to rail for short-haul flights, national or even the European Parliament could implement subsidy schemes to make sure that intercity rail journeys are more affordable than short-haul flights. Obviously, there are other related carrot and stick policy tools such as adding more carbon tax to short-haul flights (or banning them like France is doing) and using that additional tax revenue to pay for the subsidy.
  • Like healthcare or energy companies, private companies could even get in the act by incentivizing healthier, active travel choices throughout Europe. Gamification systems could reward the most active travel users or those with the lowest carbon footprint. Obviously the lowest carbon impact is not needing to use emitting mobility sources because cities and neighborhoods have been designed so well they don´t need anything beyond active travel.

 

I am looking forward to joining my fellow panelists Carme Fabregas, Suzanne Hoadley, and host Bonnie Crawford for an entertaining discussion on all the above, and surely a lot more!

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