Much Talk of New Mobility; Little Talk of New Transit


Two new approaches to mobility can be combined to attract private automobile users onto public transit: Mobility as a Service coupled with targeted microsubsidies as shaped by public policy

There are three key participants within passenger transportation systems. Public transportation authorities, commercial services providers, and users — i.e., employers and retailers. Each of these have independent goals. Employers want to get employees to work locations, while retailers want to get consumers to their trade locations. Commercial transportation providers are concerned to maximize profit and brand while minimizing costs. Government transit agencies want to maximize mobility while minimizing costs and maximize ridership and coverage while minimizing congestion and emissions. Some of these goals conflict with each other but it is possible to arrange a shared outcome among these various purposes.

Note that passengers, here, are seen only as what is being moved, like nudgeable pieces on a behavioral economics playing board. They are not participants in the same way as are the other three. Passengers choose travel time depending on work schedule or consumption preferences, and they choose travel mode depending on convenience, comfort and style as well as time, expense and any other preference factors. Government policy determines the workability of this system, and that policy now has two new, extraordinarily powerful digital allies: MaaS and HMS.

Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) integrates the flow of a trip through an available selection of transportation services according to a passenger’s preferences. MaaS integrates the service schedules and payments from both public and commercial service providers by combining seamless, efficient connections from an origin through to a destination using a single digital platform for coordination and payment. It incorporates fixed route, on-demand ride-hailing and ride-sharing, taxis, bicycles and scooters, and any other mode whose vehicles and schedule may be connected digitally.

HMS (Harmonized Microsubsidy System) integrates the intention of all three players, by distributing microsubsidies from within a MaaS system targeted at specific times, locations, transit facilities, occupancy goals, and fuel types.

HMS serves governments’ need to bridge transit gaps where and when bus and rail are not suitable. It serves employers and retailers by smoothing access to transit for those in transit desserts or to those that cannot drive and for locations where parking is expensive or in short supply. And HMS provides new opportunities to transportation service providers in exchange for feeding passengers into public transit wherever feasible.

It is in their combination that MaaS and HMS are most powerful. Maas maximizes the attractiveness for commuters and shoppers to switch non-loadbearing trips from private vehicles to transit use, with a goal to a gradual reduction in average household vehicle ownership. HMS minimizes the cost of making this decision, while nudging car-owners toward more reliance on transit.

Deployed in this way, MaaS and HMS are designed as a governance platform to power government transportation and climate polices to reduce first-last mile parking congestion, shrink transit deserts, flatten peaks, provide guaranteed ride home, nudge vehicle occupancy and alternate fuel use, and address many forms of mobility poverty.

21 Bern Grush

The author
Bern Grush is Chief Innovation Officer at Harmonize Mobility. An inventor and entrepreneur, Bern co-authored “The End of Driving: Transportation Systems and Public Policy Planning for Autonomous Vehicles” (Elsevier, 2018). He was named Toronto Star Wheels’ Newsmaker of the Year for his research on vehicle automation. A Maclean’s magazine editorial called his work “fascinating and carefully argued”. In 2016, Gridlock Sam Schwartz, past NYC traffic commissioner, described Bern as the top, current independent thinker on autonomous vehicle deployment. Bern’s latest innovation — software-defined transit (HMS) — manages the social, spatial, and environmental policy performance of massive, competing fleets of TNCs and robotaxis. Bern holds degrees in Human Factors Psychology and Systems Design Engineering from the Universities of Toronto and Waterloo. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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