By Rebecca Sands, Content & Project Manager at Autonomy & the Urban Mobility Company

Click here to watch a recording of “La dynamique du MaaS en France” (in French)

While Mobility as a Service (MaaS) has established itself as a growing reality in many cities across Europe, what is its current status in France? Due to a variety of elements, chiefly among them the new French mobility orientation law, or the Loi d’orientation des mobilités (LOM), this sweeping reform has secured a place for the continued development and expansion of MaaS across the country. Joining forces with SYSTRA to discuss some of the main challenges and opportunities for MaaS in France today, the Urban Mobility Company held the virtual workshop “La Dynamique du Maas en France.” Welcoming experts Laura Papet, Associate Director of the Energy and Mobility Division at PMP Conseil, David Lainé, Commercial Director of France, Italy, and Belgium at Trafi, Christophe Wolf, Director of Transport and Mobility for the city of Mulhouse, Caroline Cerfontaine, Director of Velo-city at the European Cyclists’​ Federation, Jerôme Kravetz, Director of Nouvelle-Aquitaine Mobilités, and Eduoard Naye, Project Head for New Mobility at Systra, here are the discussion’s key takeaways.

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Three pillars to success

For David Lainé, the success of MaaS in any location, France or elsewhere, is dependent on three crucial factors: investment, policy, and technology. In investing in the services and infrastructure needed to make MaaS a reality, this assures the accessibility and inclusivity of the offering. Without the right political support and instruments in place to encourage citizens to use MaaS, we are unlikely to see any real willful choice away from personal vehicles in the short to medium-term. Third, the technology – in this case, usually referring to the actual app that allows the offer to work – must be mature and flexible enough for users to access the information they need, the services they want, and ultimately ‘consume’ mobility with the utmost ease. The challenge, technologically, is to have an app capable of incorporating the many different moving parts – trip calculators, prices, tickets, modalities, etc. – while at the same time evolving with new digital advancements, new operators, and new business models. These three factors combined will also in the end create the most sustainable MaaS possible. As Caroline Cerfontaine has seen, with the right infrastructure, legislation, and integration of cycling routes and shared bikes into an itinerary planner, users are more likely to continue to choose active mobility modalities after they have tried it out for the first time and feel safe. Finally, the strong foundation holding up these 3 pillars must be good governance coming from public authorities.

Bridging the Urban-SubUrban Divide

In typical discussions surrounding MaaS, it is often portrayed as a very urban concept – “hyper urban, hyper connected” as Jerôme Kravetz describes. But in order for MaaS to truly work in France, where the challenges from region to region, city center to rural community are often very different, mobility must be facilitated between these two key areas. “We cannot have MaaS without the urban center, but we also cannot have it without the suburban communities” says Kravetz. Solidarity, in access and inclusion, must be reached across an entire territory for MaaS to be considered successful. Indeed, the most polluting forms of mobility are often found outside of the city center, in suburban environments, because of a lack of alternatives to personal car use. For Laura Papet, this highlights the need to get creative with effectuating the transition – France’s first car sharing lane near Grenoble is a great example.

Leave the data to the public sector

It certainly wouldn’t have been a conversation about MaaS if data wasn’t discussed, and for the panelists concerned, the responsibility for data collection and qualification lies in the hands of public entities. For Laura Papet, the very first step in developing MaaS is to thoroughly understand the needs of the area concerned. In doing this, naturally data needs to be collected and analysed. This then allows MaaS to do what it needs to do to be successful – evolve. Yet as private operators don’t always have the same objectives nor the same range of priorities that the public sphere must consider, data acquisition and management in the hands of private operators risks a lack of holistic understanding of a region or city’s mobility needs. There must be some body managing an objective, global view, and given the diverse array of needs that the public sector must respond to, it only makes sense that the best way of assessing needs – through data – remains a public task. “This doesn’t mean throwing out partnerships. There are always operators that are able to access a population better than we can,” said Kravetz. “But it must be win-win, and the partnership must harmonize the priorities of the public sector first and foremost.”

The economic viability of MaaS perhaps depends on our confidence in it

Relatedly, the strength of public private partnerships in developing MaaS will go a long way in determining its economic viability. Although 58% of workshop participants believe that paying for the cost of MaaS should come from public financing – in order to best contribute to common objectives like the reduction of carbon emissions – For Christophe Wolf, these partnerships are essential for an offer to survive. “It is essential for other partners and operators to be on-board to construct something feasible” he explained. Even though the large majority of MaaS projects across Europe are financed and orchestrated by public authorities, the existence of these partnerships, ultimately, is our proof of confidence in MaaS – both in theory and in practice. Governing MaaS means that all the different channels of the ecosystem work in harmony, from the digital, to the physical, to pricing and ticketing. In order to balance the entirety of these elements to create an attractive offer for users that is also economically feasible, partnerships must be here to stay.

The current state of MaaS in France has shown that, so far, starting at a more localised level has allowed for a higher level of accessibility and sustainability overall. Indeed, 72% percent of workshop respondents believe that MaaS should be implemented at either the Metropolitan or Regional level to best solve the mobility challenges of a particular area. As different areas face different challenges, the governance of any MaaS offering must be able to understand the local context in order to integrate the needs of all those concerned. In the future, there may be a bigger role for national and EU stakeholders in developing regulations and standards to help make the MaaS concept of “roaming” – being able to move between territories and regions, using different modalities while remaining on the same application – a reality. But as the daily mobility habits and everyday movement in one’s own backyard (rather than long-distance or international travel) take up the large majority of MaaS needs at present, better to leave the job in the hands of the region or metropolis – for now.

Click here to watch a recording of “La dynamique du MaaS en France” (in French)