Return to Urban Mobility: Open MaaS and Active Transportation
As our cities emerge from lockdown stage post-COVID, physical urban design interventions have been implemented on a broad scale. From wider sidewalks, to pop up bike lanes, to car free central business districts, many of the ideas and schemes that were only dreamt of by urbanists post-World War II to counteract the primacy of the automobile have been quickly put into action.
Flattening the Curve
While this has been a promising infrastructure opportunity, the motivations for this transformation are rooted in the requirements for encouraging social distancing to “flatten the curve” from a public health perspective. A key concern amongst professionals is how permanent will these interventions last. It is certainly hoped that a societal shift towards more active modes of mobility will occur and eventually become commonplace and widespread.
The question then becomes raised, “how can active transportation become part of the regular activities of urban inhabitants”? Given the extent and widespread external affects of the COVID 19 crisis on urban and global goods movement and urban mobility, we are starting to see opportunities to address 1.) near term public health challenges and 2.) ensure a more environmentally sustainable future. In specific settings where countries, regions, and even cities have “flattened the curve” and are now passing the peak, digital platforms such as Open MaaS can prevent a return to widespread single car usage, lure passengers back to public transport, and encourage forms of active transportation (walking, bicycling).
Iomob has developed an open technology platform for mobility that enables seamless, multimodal travel over an open network with a large number of mobility service providers (MSPs) and active transportation modes. This open architecture empowers public transport authorities (PTAs) and 3rd party MaaS providers to deliver B2C consumer-facing mobility apps to their users. Iomob’s project aims to develop a scalable MaaS solution for the Skåne Region in Southern Sweden (MaaS in Skane). This will be accomplished by increased accessibility, reduced environmental impact and congestion, through seamlessly connecting buses, trains, taxi, bicycles, scooters, car sharing etc. in one platform.
The project partners and suppliers in the Skane region will leverage Iomob’s “Open MaaS” platform to create an open mobility marketplace which can be scaled across territories, and create a convenient and flexible service for consumers. The solution will create changed travel behaviors that will reduce travel by own car, promote CO2-efficient modes of transport, be commercially viable, facilitate easy introduction of new mobility services, support Agenda 2030, reward travel on foot and bicycle and include public transport, rental bicycles, carsharing etc.
In another first of its kind innovation, Iomob’s core solution will not only be offered to the Skane regional PTA Skanetrafiken for use within their own mobility app, but also the transit authority also intends to allow Iomob to offer this same solution that includes Iomob’s intermodal algorithms, integrations with private mobility services and Skanetrafiken’s own transit services to private MaaS companies and developers who wish to leverage Iomob’s award-winning technology to offer their own experience to consumers.
The shared urban mobility landscape was already in a rapid period of disruption and change in 2019–2020 before the COVID 19 crisis. As the world begins to return to normalcy and starts reopening economies, this acceleration of change will only continue. In crisis comes opportunity, and by first ensuring public health to prevent 2nd or 3rd waves of the pandemic, we can encourage passengers back into public transport, prevent a spike in single car usage, and plan ahead for a more environmentally sustainable future.
Scott Shepard is Chief Business Officer with Iomob