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The Unsustainable Car-Centric Mobility Paradigm

The 120-year-old car-centric paradigm for personal mobility has reached its limits. It fosters  congestion, which decreased slightly due to lock-downs in 2020, but still resulted in productivity losses [1]. It causes accidents, with the highest rates of road traffic deaths in Africa and South East Asia [2]. It drives up pollution — in the EU, urban mobility accounts for 40% of all road transport CO2 emissions and up to 70% of other pollutants from transport [3]. And it yields low return on precious physical infrastructure because of high-maintenance costs and cars sitting idle in parking spaces that could be used for business or community activities. There is urgent need for a more people-centric paradigm in which public transportation will play a critical role.

Global leaders are committed to changing the passenger mobility paradigm. They want to increase productivity, improve public health, reduce inequalities, and ensure long-term environmental sustainability. The European Union's European Green Deal [4] states that reducing emissions by 90%, by 2050, requires "moving to more sustainable transport means putting users first and providing them with more affordable, accessible, healthier and cleaner alternatives." The Biden Administration's American Jobs Plan [5] calls for a $621 billion transportation investment over an eight-year time frame, including $165 billion for urban public transit and railways to "build new rail corridors and transit lines, easing congestion, cutting pollution, slashing commute times and opening up investment in communities that can be connected to the cities and cities to the outskirts, where a lot of jobs are these days."

The drop in public transit ridership due to COVID-19 (the top transit systems in the U.S. and Europe have experienced 70% to 90% ridership losses [6]) was the final wake up call for passenger transportation operators such as public transit companies, railways, and on-demand passenger mobility companies [7] to rethink their business models.

The convergence of next-generation connected vehicles with digitally enabled business models, such as ride sharing, ride hailing, and micro-mobility, makes it possible to embrace the next normal of mobility as a service (MaaS). Passenger transportation executives must work with the ecosystem of transportation policymakers, car OEMs, financial services, and many other industries, to harness the power of technology innovation to deliver on the promises of MaaS:

  • Convenient end-to-end journeys

  • Affordable multimodal services for all

  • Community friendly neighborhoods

  • Safe roads for drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and cyclists

  • Environmental sustainability

The Dutch national railway's (NS) corporate vision [8] encapsulates such digitally enabled business model transformation perfectly: "We're evolving from moving people from A to B, to understanding what moves people. Everybody wants to keep travel safe, enjoyable and affordable. Hassle free, with maximum freedom. The trick is to make that happen. That means: seizing the specific opportunities offered by new technologies. And building on our strengths: our capacity for action, our insights on what our customers want, and our logistical expertise. It's all about constantly improving and innovating."

Monetizing the Value of Mobility-As-A-Service with Account-based Ticketing

As passenger transportation operators embrace the next normal of mobility as a service, they must figure out how to monetize the new business models. This is particularly true for railways and urban public transit companies that have historically relied on traditional transaction-based (aka ticketing) and subscription-based (aka season passes) revenue models. They need to transform their business processes and the underpinning technology architecture to personalize the way passengers can pay for their travel, offer convenient omni-channel experiences for journey planning, booking, and payment, and intelligently use data to enhance service planning and management.

The transformation must start with a customer-centric mobility as a service approach to dynamically offer different tariffs and plans. Take for instance Stadtwerke Augsburg, which introduced "Mobil-Flat," Germany's first mobility flat rate, in 2019. Mobil-Flat enables customers to subscribe to a fixed-priced plan to get access to a combination of transportation options, including public transit, car sharing, and bike sharing.

The complexity of personalized subscriptions must be invisible for customers. It requires a seamless integration of user-centric MaaS apps that offer intuitive planning and booking, and transparent payments across multimodal journeys. This can only happen if the MaaS app is empowered by a back-office platform that can process events and trigger pricing calculations, match it with user preferences and loyalty programs, and handle settlements and accounting, at the scale of several hundreds of millions of events per year with complex charging scenarios. NS Railway went through this transformation when it introduced NS Flex, an account-based ticketing platform that offers transparent pricing and payments across train, bus, tram, and metro [9].

Finally, that data collected through an account-based ticketing platform must be made readily available for analysis, so that MaaS data can be used intelligently to personalize subscriptions and journey preferences and meet people's interest in more environmentally friendly transportation options. And it can be used to make evidence-based planning decisions about opening new routes, changing schedules, and identifying geographical areas where there is an opportunity to partner with other operators.

How to Succeed in the Future

Passenger transportation operators that want to realize the benefits of mobility as a service must invest in three core capabilities:

  • A compatible platform that enables transportation companies to seamlessly embrace an account-based ticketing model that brings together a single view to the passenger and an intuitive orchestration of revenue management and payment settlements across MaaS partners.

  • A data-centric platform that enables to realize the value of customer and partner data to optimize the user experience, improve the service, and create supportive public-private multimodal ecosystems, while protecting privacy.

  • A modular platform that empowers transportation operators to continuously innovate and upgrade customer experience and account-based business revenue offerings, while controlling the complexity of the software architecture.

Passenger transportation companies that invest in those capabilities will be able to build stronger engagement with customers, increase the yield of their capital investments, innovate with partners across the mobility ecosystem, and deliver on societal purposes such as reducing traffic accidents and improving environmental sustainability. Those that do not will lag and continue to grapple with legacy revenue models, costly assets, and unhappy customers.










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  • This blog, co-written with IDC to be based on their market insights, is part of a blogs series

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