Type to search

How to Harness Technological Disruption to Create the Transportation System We Want

Jana Lynott for AARP September 4, 2018

The United States is on the verge of a major disruption to our transportation system—a truly seismic one, equivalent in scale to the disruption that followed the invention of the gas-powered automobile. Billions of dollars are already flowing to self-driving vehicle development and new models for getting around.

Take for instance the “Uberization” of urban travel, which may foretell a shift away from privately-owned vehicles toward solutions that are accessed with a few touches of your smart phone and consumed as a service.

But limiting ourselves to thinking about mobility as a ride-sourcing app would be a mistake. The disruption offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create a transportation system that works for everyone, including the 100 million Americans who do not drive for various reasons. Even for those of us who do drive, transportation can be challenging because of traffic congestion, long commutes, or inadequate sidewalks and bike lanes for active transportation options.

Universal Mobility as a Service (Universal MaaS), which builds on the already-used term Mobility as a Service (MaaS), is a term I’ve coined to help us reimagine how we get from Point A to Point B. It is a technology-enabled system of travel options that reflect four key dimensions of “Universal”:
1. comprehensive (all travel options within the same system),
2. affordable,
3. accessible, and
4. supportive of local aspirations for livability.

MaaS vs. Universal MaaS
To understand Universal MaaS, it’s helpful to differentiate it from the broader concept of MaaS. Much like a search engine that provides flight options for multiple carriers, MaaS is centered around a single platform that offers customers real-time information about available transportation options in their community—be they public transportation or on-demand services (taxi, ridesource (e.g., Uber/Lyft), or bike-, scooter- or car-sharing). Under this model, multiple travel options, by multiple providers, are tied together through transfers to complete a single trip, but only require a single payment.

What differentiates Universal MaaS from industry concepts of Mobility as a Service is three-fold.

  • First, there are no separate systems of transportation for those with special needs. Transportation services tailored to meet the varying needs of travelers would be incorporated within this system. Today, transportation planners are still too-focused on relieving traffic congestion for commuters, relegating services for those with special needs to human service agencies with other funding priorities. This has created an inadequate, dual-class transportation system.
  • Second, all aspects of the system would embrace the concept of universal design to ensure that each stage of a trip is accessible to everyone. Those stages include trip planning, interfaces for ride-scheduling and payment, the vehicles themselves, and the overall travel environment.
  • Finally, no one provider or software company will control the space or the customer. Ultimately, multiple providers will be able to effectively offer services in a competitive, yet coordinated environment, helping to keeps costs low and service quality high for the end user.

Check out this short motion graphic video and the full report on Universal Mobility as a Service by the AARP Public Policy Institute.


Universal MaaS Outcomes
It’s especially important to bake in the concept of universality now, before society moves toward adoption of self-driving vehicles, which will accelerate society’s move to MaaS. Sound policy can enable cooperation and integration and avoid negative consequences of self-driving vehicles, such as more congestion, sprawl and a dual-class transportation system. Whether this disruption meets the needs of everyone in the community is up to us. Universal Mobility as a Service offers a framework to manage the disruptive forces, leading to a more equitable and sustainable transportation future.

Learn more from AARP about the future of transportation in Livable Communities and sign up for AARP e-alerts to stay informed of new releases.

This sponsored story is published on behalf of AARP, which is solely responsible for its content. Stria is grateful for the support of all our sponsors. Learn more.
Never miss a headline! Get FREE weekly email from Stria.
Jana Lynott for AARP

Jana Lynott is a senior strategic policy adviser with the AARP Public Policy Institute. She is the author of a series of publications related to the Future of Transportation. As a land use and transportation planner, she brings practical expertise to the research field. This story is sponsored content and the author is not part of the Stria News editorial team.

  • 1
Thank you for reading! Want more? Get FREE weekly email from Stria.