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Mobility As A Service: The Possible Answer For The High Cost Gas, Commute Or Road Trip
The all-time record for average inflation-adjusted gasoline prices in the United States dates back to June, 2008, at $5.38 per gallon, but the current prices are nudging ever closer to that dubious honor at an average of $5.19 last week (per GlobalPetrolPrices.com). All around the world, prices are soaring (e.g., $10.97 in Hong Kong, $9.64 in Norway $9.32 in Singapore), and according to CNN Business there's no end in sight due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, typical summer travel and a few other issues including the ongoing hiring issues during The Great Resignation. Basically, finding "cheap gas" will experience a redefinition in the coming weeks and months and leaders are scrambling for solutions, e.g., President Biden's spoiler alert yesterday that the U.S. might take a "gas tax holiday."
Yet, many households are experiencing post-Covid "get me outta here" symptoms and an urgent desire for an extended road trip in the midst of escalating inflation (a.k.a. "revenge travel"). According to an April survey by The Vacationer, 81% of American adults (i.e., 208 million) plan to travel this summer – which is up 19% from 2021's survey – with 80% of them planning on it being a road trip. Of those travelers, 42% said they planned to travel more this summer than last summer due to "… Covid-19 cases and restrictions subsiding." Adding this to an expected 64% increase in workers commuting, and suddenly there are a lot of people trying to be inexpensively-and-yet-conveniently transporting themselves from A-to-B-to-possibly-C. "We wanted to take a road trip as a family from Salt Lake to Telluride," laments Kristen Smolen of Grosse Pointe Farms, "but between renting a car that would fit our family and the gas it would've cost $6,000."
And so a reformed idea of Mobility as a Service (MaaS) has become part of the international discussion once again, this time driven even-more clearly by operational costs. Therein, it's worth revisiting what MaaS is, why it's been previously considered and how it might be a good option (where available) in the coming months.
What (and Why) Is 'Mobility As A Service'?
In its very simplest terms, Mobility as a Service is a multimodal, asset-light scheduling and selling of various transportation options from public and private operators as a combined quasi-ticket along a route. Yes, planes, trains and automobiles, except Steve Martin and John Candy theoretically wouldn't be hampered within some comedic genius, and they would be provided additional options such as electric scooters, reserved parking, electric bikeshare and even commuter helicopters.
The basic concept of MaaS has been around since 1996, but was first launched in Sweden in 2014 as part of a monthly service called "W" in Gothenburg before the government stopped the private selling of public transport tickets. Since then, there have been many instantiations which have either included 'Smart City' integration (e.g., Mobilleo in the U.K. in 2018) or have been entirely private. "Mobility as a Service is a huge umbrella," states Paulo dos Santos, CEO of Ubirider, a European provider of MaaS. "We like to think of ourselves as the second generation of MaaS since we have started from the side of public transportation serving riders and agencies; not just transit and cities, but what we call 'door-to-door transportation.' So maybe they start by getting a coach from one city to another, and afterwards they need a last-mile option."
Will MaaS someday include autonomous vehicles? Probably. But in the short-term, autonomous providers have been launching robotaxis in piecemeal fashion, focused on the "somewhere" rather than the "everywhere". If GM's Cruise launches in 1/3rd of San Francisco per the recent announcement, catching a ride across the city via stitched integration would become much tougher, e.g., another waypoint and transfer.
Regardless of the transportation components, Helsinki plans on their app named "Whim" making private car ownership, "… unnecessary for any city resident by 2025." And market reports estimate the MaaS market size to reach anywhere from $210B to 518B by 2030 (with a CAGR north of 30%). Additionally, MaaS proponents talk of potential pluses ranging from reduced emissions (anywhere from 3% to 54%) to better accessibility, which will likely bolster the market even further as society inches closer to the [ecological] Doomsday Clock's midnight and aging Boomers' ambulatory issues.
Why Consider MaaS Now?
We pay for convenience. Automobiles are amongst the most expensive ground transportation options, but they get us where we need to go as we need it. Stitching together a bunch of options requires time and patience. So instead, we pay a lifetime cost for a small car of $689,000 per Forbes's interview of Gössling, the author of Ecological Economics. "Motorists underestimate the total private costs of car ownership while policymakers and planners underestimate social costs," states Gössling.
But even beyond our individual wallets, reducing commutes might reduce the expected climate effects this summer. "We believe MaaS will reduce the number of trips that people do by cars," stated dos Santos. "In the past three years, 83% have been by individual cars. We hope to reduce that to at most 70% and possibly lower, primarily by offering convenience and simplicity ..." In the U.S. alone, such a reduction would equate to 175 billion fewer kilograms of carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted from tailpipes.
And, yes, over a trillion dollars of gas.
This article was originally published by Steve Tengler (firstname.lastname@example.org) on Forbes.com on June 21, 2022
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