“How sustainable is MaaS, Felix?”

March 3, 2022
5 min
Die Corona-Pandemie hat sich auf fast alle Bereiche des öffentlichen und privaten Lebens ausgewirkt. Auch mit Blick auf die Mobilität hat die Krise für noch nie da gewesene Verhältnisse gesorgt und Entwicklungen beschleunigt, die sich sonst wahrscheinlich erst in einigen Jahren realisiert hätten. Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) kann eine Lösung für Mobilitätsanbieter sein, um mit den Folgen der Pandemie umzugehen.
Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) is a catchword that comes in different flavours - depending on who uses it. Offering a MaaS platform, MaaS is part of our DNA at Mobimeo. That’s why we would like to sequence it to show what it means to us. In the course of several interviews, we ask in-house experts about their specific perspective on MaaS. One topic that has been mentioned in several of our interviews up to now is the relationship between MaaS and sustainability. To what extent can mobility help to protect the environment, and what role can MaaS play? We discuss these questions with our Head of Product, Felix Salfner.

What impact can mobility in general have on sustainability?

In 2019, the transport sector accounted for 20 percent of CO2 emissions in Germany, which is a substantial share. Looking at the trend in the years before, we unfortunately have to conclude that, unlike in other sectors, no significant reduction has been achieved in transport emissions so far (cf. Federal Environment Agency, 2021).

These figures show the great importance of changing mobility behaviour in the fight against climate change. This is exactly what we are working on at Mobimeo: apps that dramatically simplify access to sustainable mobility in cities, so that everyone can protect the climate without having to make compromises to their own mobility.


Does MaaS contribute to sustainable mobility?

Yes, I’m convinced of that, and I can explain why: an essential aspect of Mobility-as-a-Service is service. Mobility becomes a service that is available “just like that” and can be used as needed. This is crucial: people’s behaviour will only change in the long term when switching from their own car to public transport is made as easy as possible. 

To draw a big comparison: the more the internet has become a service that is available everywhere and at all times, the more profoundly it has changed our lives. And I’m sure that our mobility behaviour will change in a similar manner when mobility becomes available as an ever-present service. However, I don’t want to leave it solely to private companies to influence people’s behaviour. I firmly believe that we can only bring about a shift to sustainable mobility by intelligently linking local public transport, cycling and other modes of transport. Of course, MaaS is just one of many levers in the quest for sustainable mobility - political support and urban planning are equally vital in advancing the transport transition in Germany.


How can MaaS help drive Germany’s transport transition? 

From my perspective, there are three aspects to how MaaS can move the transport transition forward: 

  1. MaaS can influence the decision on which means of transport people choose to get from A to B
  2. MaaS can show people a tangibly better experience using green mobility than they have with their own car
  3. MaaS can bring smart, connected mobility into the mainstream

While the first two points aim to change the behaviour of individuals, the third aspect is equally important: the transport transition will only come to fruition if the broad majority of people get on board with this new behaviour, not just a few early adopters. 

When it comes to mobility, the moment when someone decides which route and which means of transport to take is absolutely crucial. This is the moment when user behaviour can be significantly influenced. However, the decision depends on a number of contextual factors and personal preferences. Am I weighed down with bags or do I have a child in a buggy? Do I tend to avoid the bus because it makes me feel sick when I read? Or do I prefer to be out in the fresh air on a sunny spring day? MaaS has the potential to provide a wide range of options. By combining them intelligently, it can present individually tailored and sustainable offers to each user.

The decision can also be influenced by financial incentives. For example, many people in Germany take the car to get to work. Company cars accounted for almost 11 percent of all cars registered in 2021. Experience shows that if companies provide their employees with a monthly mobility budget via a MaaS platform instead of a company car - a budget they can flexibly use for public transport or sharing services - they will shift a large proportion of journeys to more sustainable forms of mobility.   

Besides the better climate footprint, sustainable mobility has other advantages over cars. For example, you can read a book or watch videos while using public transport, you have more freedom to move around, and it is usually easier to calculate when you will arrive. MaaS can help users to tangibly experience these benefits. For example, our Live Navigation feature, which is already part of the Mobility Stuttgart app, reminds users when they need to change or get off the bus by sending them notifications - so they can get absorbed in another activity during the journey. Even if something goes wrong, MaaS can help to mitigate the negative impact. For example, if an underground train is cancelled and you run the risk of missing an appointment, alternatives can be presented to you in the app. Often you can still get to your destination on time by taking another means of transport such as an electric scooter.

To get a broad majority to change their behaviour, we need to make it possible for everyone to use MaaS - regardless of age, income, language, education level or disabilities. That means making the user experience (UX) as simple as possible. At the same time, it must deliver precisely the information the user requires in that specific situation. To achieve this, we focus on the app users from the very first stages of product development: Who are they? What are their needs and priorities? However, a great user experience is never fully accomplished on the drawing board. It has to be developed iteratively, with constant refinement by feeding new user behaviour insights and feedback into the product’s ongoing development.

The exciting thing about developing a MaaS platform is the interplay between all the stakeholders. Alongside the users, these are public and private mobility service providers (MSPs) and the administrations of cities, municipalities and districts. By opening up new, digital channels to customers and citizens, MaaS offers fresh opportunities to improve services and drive forward the transport transition. 


Is there empirical evidence on the impact that MaaS has on how people move around the city?

There are several studies that examine the need for more sustainable transport and the effect MaaS can have on transport choices: 

Juniper Research’s 2021 study concludes that MaaS could replace up to 2.2 billion private car journeys by 2025. In addition to such projections, many surveys focus on the switch from cars to more sustainable modes of transport. One example is the Energy Transition Barometer 2021 by the development bank KfW: in a survey, members of 4,000 households in Germany were asked about their thoughts on switching to more sustainable means of transport. The survey revealed that around 75 percent of respondents who currently use their car several times a week could imagine switching to public transport. In addition, 66 percent said that a switch to cycling would be an option for them. However, many respondents also mentioned conditions that would need to be in place for them to make the change: better connections, lower costs, greater convenience. These are precisely the points that MaaS addresses. 

The fact that environmental impacts are an important motive for using public transport is shown by a study that we conducted in 2020 and 2021 in cooperation with the Association of German Transport Companies (VDV). The surveys show that the topic of “environmental friendliness” is a key decision-making factor for public transport passengers (source: VDV Nahverkehrstracker, 2021). So it’s clear that people want to get around in a more sustainable manner. With MaaS, we lay all the necessary groundwork to make this choice as easy as possible.


The interviewee

Dr. Felix Salfner is Head of Product at Mobimeo. In this role, he and his teams ensure that Mobimeo’s MaaS platform and the apps based on it are finely attuned to the needs of users and customers.