As connected cities become the catalysts for economic growth, high-capacity transit communication networks play an important role in driving smart city evolution.

In the Transit of the future series, we’ve looked at how intelligent on-board connectivity and digitized transit operations above and below ground open a world of possibilities for passengers and transit authorities alike.

But what’s next?

Transit reimagined

If the saying is true that “it’s about the journey, not the destination,” then it’s worth noting commuters want a journey that’s as fast, simple and seamless as possible. Increasingly, their expectation is mobility-as-a-service, and public transit authorities that are quick to embrace digital disruption will be positioned to provide it — creating a new, intermodal transportation ecosystem with a door-to-door passenger experience that’s more efficient, convenient and cost-effective than ever before.

Next stop, digital disruption

Digital disruption moves fast. It took less than a decade for Netflix to displace the brick-and-mortar movie rental business, for Airbnb to shake up the hotel sector and for Uber to take taxis on a game-changing bumpy ride.

These disruptive newcomers used virtualization, cloud-native technologies and data analytics to deliver customer-focused services that enhanced the user experience in a way that’s set a high bar for other industries to follow.

Now it’s transit’s turn. With cities growing, car ownership falling and public pressure mounting to cut emissions, transit has a key role to play in moving people sustainably. That’s the opportunity. But passengers aren’t just going to show up, especially if the transit experience is out of line with their heightened expectations for convenience, personalization and cost.

Mobility as a service,’ or MaaS – can be transit’s answer to digital disruption.

Putting the passenger first

If the MaaS vision is realized successfully, transit providers will fulfill their potential as critical enablers of smart city transformation while securing their business future.

The service puts the passenger at the centre of the transit model. Its aim is to provide a digital platform that integrates end-to-end trip planning, booking, electronic ticketing and payment services across all modes of transportation — public and private. Instead of finding, booking and paying for each mode separately, it will let users plan and book door-to-door trips using a single app that integrates rideshares and taxis, surface and subway transit in a single commuter experience.

That alone is user-centric, but MaaS proposes to go even further, using data to adapt the commuter experience to real-time conditions, accounting dynamically for all possible options and each user’s own preferences (for example, time and convenience vs. cost).

So what’s needed to make it happen?

The building blocks of MaaS

Digital transformations affect systems and processes across an organization. The prerequisites for MaaS include:

Connectivity: Continuous connectivity is required for both passengers and vehicles, allowing the system to adapt in real-time to changing conditions. This helps keep the rider in control and informed about schedule changes and options available as they move from one modality to the next. This connectivity is foundational to gaining a system-wide view of operational performance that can scale.

Data and applications: Every player in the ecosystem will contribute to and leverage a goldmine of data that can be analyzed to understand passengers’ end-to-end journeys, removing friction between modes of transportation. That promises to boost ridership in most geographies, including for long distance commuter rail and dense urban transit systems. Big picture data analytics can also improve transit expansion planning by providing information on densely utilized routes, making the case for investment in those areas.

Passenger experience innovation: The experience of other disruptors has shown that constant customer experience innovation is key. With MaaS technologies, authorities can introduce new on-board services that make journeys easier and more comfortable. Subway cars could be reconfigured as mobile co-working spaces for productivity in transit or allow for food and beverages to be ordered en route to be picked up in the station.

Business models: The total cost to passengers would decrease without decreasing revenue to transit providers. Public transit use is likely to increase dramatically as planning, scheduling and payment get streamlined and simplified. It even opens up new revenue opportunities, since it’s not just people that need to move efficiently and rapidly through a city. End-to-end coordination could allow transit systems to venture into the territory of logistics or support long-distance travel — for example, by managing baggage for passengers connecting with airlines.

No one leads, everyone wins

The foundation for providing this service is an open platform that can grow with the vision as new applications and services come online. It requires authorities to shift their posture from a siloed transit provider to a partner in a larger network and collaborate with competitors. A MaaS ecosystem could deliver a better overall experience for every possible passenger, increasing transit’s overall appeal and boosting ridership. In the end, everyone stands to gain.

Even if it’s still early days, it’s important for transit authorities to start thinking about how they choose to approach digital disruption. The good news is that there are now abundant examples (both cautionary and successful) of the risks of ignoring it and the benefits of embracing it.

BAI: enabling the vision

BAI can bring the MaaS vision to life with our open platform that easily connects passengers and vehicles to a transit authority’s underlying operational systems. With connectivity being foundational to digital transformation, transit authorities need a partner who can help facilitate data exchanges with third parties and other transit providers. Learn more about how BAI can help transit authorities stay ahead of the curve and be successful in this new age of digital disruption.