Science and Technology

MaaS webinar: Bonus Q&A session

MaaS webinar

In our recent webinar, Mobility as a Service: Progress and new insights from an Australian trial, we sadly ran out of time to answer all the questions asked by attendees. But we’ve persisted, and we now have all of the answers to all of the questions.

If you missed the webinar entirely, the video is available to watch, embedded within our Mobility as a Service: Progress and new insights from an Australian trial article. The webinar outlined the methods and progress of our MaaS trial in Sydney project.

A few questions were answered, and right below we’ve embedded video of those answers. Further down this page webinar speakers, Professor David Hensher of The University of Sydney’s Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies, and Sam Lorimer of IAG, have kindly provided written answers.

Oh, and one more thing before we get to the Q&A. A couple of people asked if our webinar moderator, Kate Mackay, was performing her duties on a boat. Yes, she was indeed. Kate covered her nautical background in our interview with her, Kate Mackay: Planning transport futures.+

Now, to the video, and to the bonus written answers! Hit play, watch the video, then scroll down the rest of David and Sam’s answers.

In some sectors (e.g., electricity, insurance) there are brokers who monitor various plans and, on behalf of the customer, make changes based on their usage etc. Do you see that this may emerge?

David: Definitely. We see the evolution of plans in response to market experience and indeed that is exactly how the bundles were designed sequentially each month, adding one while trying to also minimise loss from other bundles.

Sam: I’m not sure most people are quite yet willing to completely outsource their travel plans to a third party or algorithm broker just yet! But I agree that being able to provide proactive suggestions on improving their travel (in terms of cost, convenience, options for unfamiliar trips etc) are definitely desirable as we saw in the trial by nudging people towards their ideal plan based on their last 90 days of travel behaviour.

Does / could / should the app offer a financial comparison mode? So what the cost for transport was on MaaS versus what it would have cost otherwise?

David: Indeed it should and in the trial we did this outside of the app with reports on how much was spent and how much can be (was) saved by subscribing to a bundle. Individuals themselves however can also do the calculation given the available discount per trip.

Sam: I showed a slide with the view that participants saw when they needed to make a decision on selecting a plan, where it showed how much it would cost them on each option based on their last 90 days of travel behaviour.

Similarly we showed them how much they saved on their monthly invoice by participating in a plan so they were informed in terms of overall savings and whether a plan was right for them.

Sam, once the trial was up and running, did many more IAG employees want to get in on the MaaS action?

Sam: I didn’t mention it in the presentation, but we only developed the app for iPhones which did mean we had quite a large number of people who were keen that we couldn’t accommodate from the Android world!

We did a lot of work to inform employees about the trial at the beginning, so we had a big spike in people expressing interest, and then this slowed throughout the trial as we stopped adding new participants.

Anecdotally we did get lots of questions whenever we presented internally on the trial with people asking to join – especially when current participants explained how the savings worked.

Why was the discount on GoGet was considered a failure? Is there any sign that government would support public transport discounts or incentivise active modes of transport when linked to a MaaS service?

David: Not enough people interested in GoGet is the main reason – and discounts are not impactful. We suspect that a longer trial would be able to pick more up.

Sam: The car share component was challenging because so many trial participants already had a private vehicle, which they could still use during the trial.

GoGet had an extremely loyal following from those without personal vehicles who often used it extensively, but the incentives we provided didn’t seem to increase that use among those who didn’t already use it.

We ran a promotion for one month offering the equivalent of a free 2-hour GoGet hire to see if we could get people to try it out for the first time, but we only had a handful take us up on the offer. Interestingly it was often used for things like collecting furniture where a different type of vehicle was required.

I noted that in the bundles, thrifty was not included. was this the same issue as per the GoGet hire demand?

David: Thrifty was included in bundle but no discount. IAG employees get a very generous discount on Thrift rental already. An example of convenience in booking but clearly that did not really have much of an influence since easy to book outside of Tripi. Again there are still opportunities for rental once in the general population.

Sam: Yes given IAG’s preferential relationship with Thrifty, we had already negotiated a great and predictable rate for vehicles to avoid price fluctuations for participants. They also weren’t giving up their private cars, almost all the hire car use was for trips which were going to take place no matter what additional discount was offered (limited scope to change behaviour).

Amongst those who didn’t own cars, they expressed that this did provide them a nice benefit for weekend use.

Does the MaaS broker integrate the Demand Responsive Transport services from different providers so that the user does not need so many apps?

David: Yes – that is the whole purpose of MaaS – a one-stop shop.

Sam: Skedgo already does a good job indicating the options to the user in a single app across these modes so that any search for a trip by a user is in one place for planning purposes.

We chose not to integrate the actual booking mechanism into a single app because in some cases that actually reduces flexibility and the scope of options available to participants since the single app struggles to be as feature-rich across all modes as each individual service – it’s time-consuming and expensive to keep up.

But we importantly ensured that all billing for travel (regardless of how booked) went via the MaaS broker and was individually itemised and discounted by IAG.

How have local transport authorities been taken on board to realise certain policy objectives (like mode shift)? What is their influence over this (commercial) trial?

David: Local as State I assume like Transport for NSW (TfNSW). It isn’t involved directly in the trial but TfNSW was very supportive in providing a corporate card facility from Opal for trial participants since monies went from user to the aggregator to the supplier where the supplier received the full price and the aggregator picked up the discount to the user.

Sam: Yes, we had support and interest but no direct involvement. I think one role of the trial is to validate whether there are sufficient societal benefits to this model that it should be taken into account by such authorities.

Will the introduction of autonomous vehicles in future have an impact on MaaS especially on Public transport considering autonomous trials are ongoing?

David: I think we answered it but definitely and with no driver in ride share in particular there is an interesting question of whether the service cost will result in a lower user price. Some studies suggest that cost savings to suppliers may not be that great given other costs will increase.

See the book about to be published by Hensher et al (2020) on MaaS in chapter 8 on the evidence. Hensher, D.A., Mulley, C., Ho, C., Nelson, J., Smith, G. and Wong, Y. (2020) Understanding Mobility as a Service (MaaS) – Past, Present and Future. Elsevier, published May 21 2020 (softcover and e-book).

Sam: Autonomous vehicles will just be another service to include in future MaaS offerings and I don’t think they specifically change the MaaS proposition. They may have a great impact on safety, but there is the query around people substituting trips on public transport for these vehicles.

I think many of the studies around how the introduction of rideshare like Uber in regions has (often negatively) affected congestion and public-transport patronage will apply equally to autonomous vehicles.

With the inclusion of Uber as a ride-hailing service in the MaaS bundles, would that allow the support for business accounts for their alternate services as well? For example, UberEats delivery (so a logistics component) and JUMP bikes (micromobility)?

Sam: Yes, it is quite feasible to offer other services such as UberEats. We discussed that but ultimately didn’t offer it as it didn’t seem to fit with the ability to reduce car kilometres or improve environmental outcomes for this trial specifically.

What were the criteria and profiles of the participants recruited? How representative are they of the NSW population?

David: They are IAG employees only and indicative of professional and office class of works with a CBD-centric focus. Quite a large age range and income and residential location.

Sam: Employees could express interest and were screened on their current travel behaviour (car use, public transport, multi-modality) and geographic location of home and work to ensure a good split across those dimensions.

Work locations included CBD, Parramatta, and Hurstville for commute purposes. Role diversity ranged between call-centre and branch staff through to very senior management, so the sample is probably indicative of a subset of the population who are most likely to be interested in this type of product.

How often were the operators – Uber, GoGet, etc. – paid for their services?

Monthly.

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