How can Mobility as a Service (or MaaS) help us decarbonize our trips?


A women is sitting in a bus

Mobility as part of our daily lives and its environmental challenges

Mobility has become a central topic in regional and local policies, as it does not only take a big part of people’s daily lives (181 million daily trips in 2019), but it also produces environmental strains that impact climate change and the air quality. As of today, mobility of people and goods is the first source of greenhouse gas emissions: it is 30% of the total emissions and road mobility represent 95% of the emissions. With the COVID health crisis and the development of home office, and with the recent 2022 IPCC report, a significant decarbonization of mobility can only come from modal shift and reducing of solo-driving.


What does Mobility as a Service mean?

The different mobility offers are relying on digital innovations to deploy themselves and boost the use of public and soft transportations. The MaaS – Mobility as a Service – concept comes from this digital transformation. It presents itself as digital multimodal services. Its goal is to smooth the access to the information and the use of alternative transportationsto personal car by gathering them on a single platform. The integration of transportation services’ data on a MaaS platform allows the user to have a complete vision of the available offer for their trip: location, timetable, prices and even the purchase of the ticket directly on the platform. On the long term, MaaS intends to boost the usage of alternative modes that produce less greenhouse gas emissions and less pollutants than the personal car. Therefore, MaaS can been seen as a true catalyst to decarbonize mobility.


The integration on the regional level of all the available mobility offers from a local area is not administratively and technically fully possible today. However, local authorities have the possibility to create a reference source of all the available public offersand add the private offers to be the most exhaustive possible.


Associate, combine and integrate the mobility offers

One of the challenges ofMaaS is not only the integration of the mobility offers on the same platform but also the interoperability between each other. It is then necessary to integrate all the offers together to suggest the most optimal trip possible. Some apps already provide the ability to compare trips according to different modes, but they do not combine them in an intermodal logic: the user always ends up using one mode, sometimes two if they use the bus and the subway. The challenge is then to suggest trips combining various transportation modes to optimize the travel time and to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions.


But reality is more complex: transportation modes can indeed be combined thanks to data gathered from the operators, but the terms and conditions of payment make it more difficult to integrate. Existing mobile applications (in some cities)are already providing one-stop-shop including subscriptions for public transportations and single payment through the app for private modes such as taxis. But the integrated pricing scheme in such a mobility service stays difficult to deploy massively. Even though it is a key factor to the success of MaaS.


So, is MaaS the solution to decarbonization?

As we understood, the objective of MaaS is to boost the use of public transportation and soft modes, either daily or occasionally, to reduce the use of the personal car and therefore also reduce the greenhouse gas emissions coming from road mobility. But with the digital transformation of the mobility sector, as well as the attempts of interoperability, new issues are arising like the one of particularly isolated living areas. The broadening of living areas in the cities’ outskirts is highlighting areas that are not well covered by public transportation services or other modes, sometimes even not at all. It is then crucial for the local authorities to be more creative in developing alternative transportation offers to the individual car in these isolated areas. On the other hand, living in large cities does not necessarily mean shorter trips. According to the 2020 National Inquiry on Mobility and Lifestyle in France, the shortest trips (in terms of distance and time) are mostly made within average-sized cities, and therefore CO² emissions are weaker. The proximity of daily services and job opportunities encourage walking and using soft modes such as biking. MaaS is thus a real opportunity for mobility decarbonization strategy. It is also a key lever in the decision-making for local and public authorities regarding their transportation and mobility policies: indeed, with MaaS platforms, users and passengers’ data is fully centralized and easily accessible. From the user’s perspective, MaaS provides a better customer experience and time savings. But it is important to remember that there is no MaaS without a mobility offer! So,it is now the time to think about and develop a mobility offer accessible to everyone, available on any area and at different geographical scales.