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What’s Really the Most Important Path to Decrease Car Ownership – New Apps or New Policies?

The idea of “Mobility as a Service” (MaaS) is at a flourishing state, where new initiatives, large investments, and partnerships are formed at rapid pace (e.g. the recently announced $33 million funding raised by MaaS Global). David Zipper, frequent writer about the future of urban mobility and technology, is questioning whether the technology itself will actually solve our issues. [1]

“If you can make MaaS platforms painless to use, the story goes, people will happily ditch private cars, leaving our cities cleaner and safer.”

Zipper wants to add perspective to this statement by creating a thought experiment. He asks the reader to think of a friend who is driving back and forth to work every day, and which of the following four options that would, most likely, compel that friend to stop driving to work;

  1. Doubling the frequency of public transit,
  2. Creating new protected bike lanes for the length of the commute in question,
  3. Doubling the cost of parking permits at home and work, or,
  4. Launching a new app where trips can be planned and paid for across all available transportation services.

According to Zipper, he has so far not met anybody who picks the fourth option. He emphasizes that MaaS apps still are a helpful tool to get people out of their cars, just that they’re probably not the most important right now. Rather, we should prioritize policy measures to repurpose the infrastructure that new mobility services (like transit, bike-share, ride-hail, and e-scooters) rests upon, and MaaS is a way to, later on, make those services work more seamlessly and attract new customers, both from an economical and convenience perspective.


Personal comments

I’m questioning the idea of thinking about the alternative technology and policy measures as separate and prioritize which one goes first. Moreover, this seems like a description of a system where things like public transport and biking infrastructure are poorly developed, which may reflect the situation in many cities in the U.S., but is not necessarily the case e.g. in Europe. Anyhow, I think we need to look at this as a joint effort, where new policy measures and technological tools, like MaaS, feed each other with information, to decide what we can do and how we should do it in order to create efficient mobility systems based on site-specific prerequisites.


Written by Hampus Alfredsson, RISE Viktoria.



1. 2019-11-13. There’s No App for Getting People Out of Their Cars.