Making Mobility-as-a-Service: Towards Governance Principles and Pathways

Göran Smith, Doctoral thesis, May 2020

Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) is a service concept that integrates public transport with other mobility services, such as car sharing, ride sourcing, and bicycle sharing. The core idea is that intermediary digital services make it easier for users to plan, book, and pay for complementary mobility services, thereby facilitating less car-centric lifestyles. However, although MaaS has gained much interest in recent years, the concept has proven difficult to realize. Accordingly, there is a prevalent demand for knowledge on how to enable and push MaaS developments.

Conceptualizing MaaS developments as an innovation process that might contribute to a sustainability transition, this thesis sets out to improve the understanding of how public sector actors can facilitate action in the early phases and steer the innovation trajectory towards addressing long-term sustainability goals. The public transport authority in Västra Götaland (Sweden), and its attempts to facilitate MaaS developments, is used as a starting point. Three of its MaaS-related activities between 2016 and 2019 are analyzed based on participatory observation and stakeholder interviews. Additionally, the thesis draws on two qualitative studies of MaaS developments situated in Finland and Australia.

The thesis’ contribution to the research field of MaaS is threefold. Firstly, it explores expectations of MaaS. A majority of the actors involved in the studied MaaS developments reckoned that MaaS will support a modal shift away from private car use. Still, while some actors were confident that this will lower the negative externalities of personal mobility systems, others feared that it will reinforce social and environmental problems. Of note is that none of these views are yet backed by any extensive empirical evidence, the shortage of which is an ongoing challenge for MaaS developments. Secondly, the thesis identifies institutional factors that shape MaaS developments. The studied developments were enabled by novel information technologies and motivated by the need to lessen the negative impacts of private cars. Yet, the developments brought together actors that had not previously collaborated and challenged models of collaboration, business, and customer relations, which made them contingent on complex modifications within and beyond personal mobility systems. Thirdly, the thesis examines how the public sector governs MaaS developments. The governance approaches varied across Sweden, Finland, and Australia in terms of leading actors, methods of intervention, and underlying motivations, but were yet to deliver much tangible results for citizens in all three countries.

Based on these findings, the thesis proposes principles and pathways for MaaS governance. The principles advocate a broad set of activities to address all the institutional factors that impede MaaS developments. In contrast to the observed governance approaches, this includes activities aimed at strengthening mobility services and active mobility, and at weakening the private car regime. The pathways describe four roles public sector actors can take in MaaS developments – MaaS Promoter, MaaS Partner, MaaS Enabler, and Laissez-Faire – and illustrate how the method(s) of intervention can be adjusted between innovation phases. The principles and pathways thereby provide a comprehensive tool for understanding and enhancing public-private dynamics in MaaS developments.

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