During the discussion on the current status of MaaS in India, the panellists; Prof. (Dr.) Ashish Verma, Convenor, IISc Sustainable Transportation Lab, (who moderated the session), Venkata Subbarao Chunduru, Director – India, IBI Group; Dr. Rajesh Krishnan, CEO, ITS Planners and Engineers Private Limited and Tapan Gosaliya, Co-Founder & Director, Amnex Infotechnologies Pvt. Ltd; deliberated the following points: Relevance and value of MaaS in the context of larger development goals of Sustainability, Quality of Life, Economic growth, Social Equity; assessing the benefits of MaaS for mobility service providers, and other related government and private stakeholders; assessing the readiness in Indian cities in introducing MaaS and the challenges and way forward for faster and easy implementation of MaaS in Indian cities.
As defined by MaaS Lab. (University College London), Mobility as a Service is a user-centric, intelligent mobility management and distribution system, in which an integrator brings together offerings of multiple mobility service providers (MSPs), and provides end-users access to them through a digital interface, allowing them to seamlessly plan and pay for mobility.
Setting the tone, Prof. Ashish Verma, explained the fundamental concept of MaaS, gave some examples across the world where MaaS has been successfully implemented: Whim (Helsinki), Ubigo(Stockholm), Moovel (22 cities in Germany) and Izuko (Japan).
Dr. Rajesh Krishnan pointed out the importance of understanding mobility demand in the first place. Unless the mobility demand is understood, we cannot fashion a solution that comes together in the MaaS platform. The next step is to have a plan to solve a problem. This is something that cities need to do. As an example, we need to answer how do various components that go into MaaS are joined up together and solve congestion?
To address such issues, robust models are required for operational analysis. Most cities have it.. For example, London ONE Model (VISSIM) captures the transport demand for Greater London Area. Most Unified Metropolitan Transport Authorities (UMTAs) also have it. Next, we need to design each component of a multimodal network so that the capacity we are planning matches with their plan. Unless we do that, we can provide a number of facilities but they will not come coherently and we will not get most of it. He also said that supply-side, as well as demand-side measures were required. One of the interesting tools that we should employ is demand management strategies through the MaaS channel so that we can influence demand. On the other side, we should monitor how the supply is provided. It has to be ensured that they match up. Several applications with integrated fares have to be made attractive for both MSPs and end-users. Designing the mode change points is also equally important for the successful implementation of MaaS. To implement the MaaS, it is important to have a well-thought-out policy. It should be ensured that the amount paid by the end-users and its distribution among the MSPs is fair and equitable. Dr. Krishnan summed it up stating that it is important to consider who owns the MaaS platform. A specific MaaS platform provider such as Whim or the city itself?
Technologically, we need to make the MaaS platform simpler and easy to use by the end-users. This will help in gaining positive momentum. We should also leverage the existing decision platforms such as India Urban Data Exchange (IUDX) that IISc is building. One way to accelerate for a city is to own the infrastructure rather than a particular MaaS provider.
According to Venkata Chunduru, the approach that was adopted for smart cities should be taken as a reference for MaaS implementation as well. He said that MaaS is the aggregator of aggregators. He gave five different approaches that would help implement MaaS in India. First, each city should define MaaS in its own way. Generalizing it for all the cities, especially in the Indian context, will make things more complicated. Next, ensuring user-centricity is of prime importance. Third, open-mindedness to technology adoption is required. Fourth is the focus on regulations that need to be in place beforehand in order to achieve smooth functioning and avoid chaos. Fifth, embarking on the journey of MaaS keeping aside all the apprehensions about it is
Tapan Gosaliya highlighted the importance of digitalization and digital technology and it is important to give these wings through the private sector. The helm of affairs of regulation and operation of mass rapid transit systems like metro and railways should be handled and taken care of by the Government, owing to the complexities within these systems. Contrarily, the operation and management of public transit systems and other micro-mobility modes should be handled by the private sector and not by the Government.
Therefore, entrepreneurship and small initiatives should be supported and encouraged. However, it is very critical to understand that monopolies within the private sector should be strictly avoided. The government sector should work in close collaboration with the private sector to ensure the MaaS implementation turns out to be a success. It is important to run pilots on a small scale and then replicate it on a bigger scale. However, it should be ensured that generalized templates for all the cities should be avoided. Instead, each city has its own needs and factors and that influence the mobility needs and choices. Customized templates should be designed, tested, and implemented respecting the needs and factors of the cities, respectively. In his concluding remarks, he said that for making MaaS implementation a success, it was important to understand that apart from solving the technical challenges, it was equally important to consider the practical issues.
- Implementing MaaS in India is futuristic and quite challenging, both technically as well as practically owing to the complexities and diversities in the transport systems and the way they operate.
- It is important to understand and quantify the mobility demand using robust transport models in the first place.
- After the mobility demand is quantified, it is critical to develop a detailed plan that captures all the aspects of MaaS.
- It is preferable to have tailor-made policies for different cities respecting their mobility needs and travel patterns. In other words, one-size-fits-all MaaS policy for different cities will complicate the complexities further, and thus not recommended.
- The collaboration between MSPs, government departments, infrastructure developers, private operators, and end-users is the key for the successful implementation of MaaS in India.
- A proper balance between the supply-side (MSPs) and the demand-side (end-users) should be ensured to achieve equity and sustainability of the system.
- Some pilot projects testing MaaS implementation in various cities will act as a reference tool that can be utilized by other cities.