Mobility as a Service: Managing an Urban Revolution

August 7, 2019

By: Samuel Kling, ACLS/Mellon Public Fellow, Global Cities

The new paradigm of "mobility as a service" (MaaS)-offering myriad, integrated transportation options at urban residents' fingertips-promises to change how people move, with local and global ramifications. E-scooters, bike-sharing, ride-hailing apps, and other shared mobility services are gaining popularity with users worldwide, reshaping cities and travel patterns.

In cities across the world, populations are growing and traffic congestion is rising. Transportation makes up one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions globally and contributes to poor air quality in cities. Proponents argue Maas can address these problems. It could reduce the role of private cars in city transportation networks, replacing big, expensive, and inefficient vehicles with sustainable modes that make better use of existing capacity. Managed properly, new, integrated mobility services could lower the cost of transportation, expand service areas beyond fixed routes, generate fewer emissions, and improve the ability of urbanites to get where they need to go. A recent study by McKinsey & Company argues that "seamless mobility," allowing urban residents to choose the most appropriate modes for a trip with ease, could reduce traffic congestion even as urban populations continue to grow.

For all the promise, however, new mobility services have also created new headaches. Ride-hailing, for example, has increased pollution, traffic congestion, and vehicle miles traveled-intensifying the presence of cars on city streets. Some companies have defied city governments, regulators, and laws. On their own, cities have found these services difficult to manage; as a seamlessly integrated system, they could be pandemonium. Mobility as a service raises questions for cities about equitable access, safety, environmental impact, and regulation of the public way. 

Big questions remain if the promises of Maas are to be realized. How can cities work with the private sector to ensure Maas improves the lives of residents? What kinds of innovative partnership and regulatory models can meet residents' needs and keep up with evolving technology? What do public and private-sector actors need to consider for Maas to have positive effects on mobility, equity, and quality of life in cities?

This piece was informed by a private workshop on “Mobility as a Service” held on June 6 at the 2019 Pritzker Forum on Global Cities, hosted in partnership with the Financial Times. The forum was made possible with the support of lead sponsors—AbbVie, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, the Pritzker Foundation, and UL; supporting sponsors—Grant Thornton, Kirkland & Ellis, and United; and patron sponsors—Brinks, Hyatt Hotels Foundation, and Uber. The workshop was conducted under Chatham House rules. Special thanks to Heidi Alexander, Deputy Mayor of London; Rebekah Scheinfeld, former Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Transportation; Alex Keros, Smart Cities Chief of GM Urban Mobility; and Klaus Entenmann, Chairman of Daimler Financial Services, for contributing their expertise in leading the discussion. Thanks also to McKinsey & Company for providing the meeting space for the session, and to Stefan Knupfer, Senior Partner and Leader of Global City Mobility, McKinsey & Company for moderating and collaborating on the workshop.

Mobility as a Service: Managing an Urban Revolution

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