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),
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.
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.