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Public-Private Coalition Looks to Boost Mobility-as-a-Service in Europe

Twenty organizations have come together to push development of services that will make multimodal and individualized transportation easier for travelers to use.

Europe is already a testing ground for some of the most advanced urban mobility projects in the world: self-driving shuttles, high-participation urban cycling efforts and a multi-modal transportation experiment, to name a few. Now the continent has a dedicated group of public and private organizations working to further accelerate the development of urban mobility.

Twenty entities, including Xerox, Aalborg University in Denmark, the University of Tampere in Finland, and other groups from Austria, Sweden and the United Kingdom, banded together last week to form the Mobility-as-a-Service Alliance. The group used the 22nd Intelligent Transportation Systems World Congress in France as its stage to announce its intent: “to put the users, both travelers and goods, at the core of transport services, offering them tailor-made mobility solutions based on their individual needs.”

By working together in one large group, the alliance hopes to create economies of scale that will break down barriers in the way of developing mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) programs.

The concept of offering personal solutions to transportation has been gaining ground in recent years, with several components of a comprehensive system falling into place in different countries around the globe. London and Singapore have both developed streamlined payment options that allow people to pay for trains, buses and some taxicabs all using the same device. Finland is testing a system meant to plan out users’ routes using multiple options and allow travelers to pay for all of it at the same time. A system put into use in the Los Angeles area compares various possible transportation options and then awards users points for choosing low-carbon options — points that can then be redeemed for discount travel in the future.

A large part of all of those projects, as well as the MaaS Alliance, is developing connected systems that make transportation more convenient for the traveler.

“Bundling services to simplify access to mobility is a key step to ensure the best use of all modes of transport,” said Jacob Bangsgaard, director general of the Federation International de l’Automobile’s region one, in a press release.

Other participants in the alliance include Hungary’s National Mobile Payment, ITS Ukraine, AustriaTech and the Swedish communication technology company Ericsson.

Providing streamlined payments alone might be enough to sway some people who otherwise wouldn’t use a given transportation option. Steven Swartz, co-author of a recent McKinsey and Co. report on urban mobility, said that patrons of Lyft and Uber have shown in user studies that easy payment options are one of the largest reasons they use the ride-share services.

“The payment integration is a huge component of the value proposition — not having to transact,” Swartz said. “It’s not only a little bit faster, but also more convenient, not having to worry about getting change or getting receipts.”

Ben Miller is the associate editor of data and business for Government Technology. His reporting experience includes breaking news, business, community features and technical subjects. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in journalism from the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno, and lives in Sacramento, Calif.