There are a lot of new concepts and ideas brewing in the Transitverse, oftentimes with overlapping definitions and blurred categorizations, creating confusion. Today we look at the emerging concept of Mobility on Demand (MOD).
What is Mobility on Demand?
Mobility on Demand combines traditional public transportation with private enterprise options into a single mobility service. MOD is traveler-focused, putting more weight on personal choice, trip satisfaction and the efficient delivery of services. Combining all these mobility services fills gaps in the current transportation offerings to allow true, complete point-to-point trips for everyone.
MOD will be especially valuable in helping to address transportation challenges in urban areas (to reduce congestion caused by single-occupancy vehicles), transit deserts, and as a replacement for fixed route during off-peak hours. It can also help bridge gaps in first mile/last mile, corporate transportation, paratransit/dial-a-ride, and university shuttle services.
A Mobility on Demand digital platform helps travelers plan their journey and packages the various mode options, allowing them to choose whatever is most efficient for them – be it shortest travel time, lowest cost, fewest transfers, or limited walking.
To paint a clearer picture, let’s look at a sample trip before and after MOD.
Example: Multi-modal trip using current transit offerings
Kim wants to travel from her rural town to a large urban center for a special event.
1. She drives her car to the bus station and parks it there overnight.
2. Kim boards a commuter bus heading to Metro City. Before leaving, she looks up her departure time on her regional transit service’s website and uses her transit pass for payment.
3. After arriving in Metro City, she checks the real-time information signage at the subway station and finds one line closed for emergency repairs. After frantically checking maps and asking other riders, she finally finds an alternate route. She lines up at the ticket booth and purchases her subway pass with her credit card and heads uptown.
4. For the last mile, she walks for 5 minutes, using Google Maps to help her navigate.
Example: Same multi-modal trip using hypothetical Mobility on Demand platform
1. To plan her entire trip, Kim opens her MOD app and enters her journey start and endpoints, and desired arrival time. The app provides her with several multi-modal options, allowing her to sort them according to the length of the journey, accessibility, number of transfers and price.
2. For cost-saving reasons, she decides to carpool into Metro City with a neighbor who is also attending the same event. She pays the carpool driver for her share of the gas through the app, pre-pays for her subway pass, and reserves her dockless scooter.
3. Arriving in the city, she receives an alert warning her of a delay on her planned subway route, along with an alternate travel path. She taps her phone on the turnstile to scan her day pass and gets on the subway.
4. Exiting the subway, she grabs her dockless scooter and zips the last few blocks to the event venue, with her MOD app providing directions.
Not a MaaS-ive difference
Mobility as a Service (MaaS) and Mobility on Demand (MOD) are sometimes used interchangeably, however, they are different. While both involved the integration of different transportation modes, MaaS creates a “single mobility service”, while MOD establishes “an integrated and connected multi-modal network of options”.
What is driving Mobility on Demand?
Several factors have come together to drive forward the vision of Mobility on Demand.
1. Transportation is seen as a commodity, with cost, journey time, wait time, connections, convenience and other attributes each having an economic value to the traveler.
2. Governments at all levels are facing shrinking budgets.
3. New trends in mobility like shared-use mobility, on-demand transit and the development of new technologies.
4. Demands on current transportation infrastructure to ‘do more with less’ and to modernize.
5. Travelers’ mobility demands are evolving from private automobile ownership to more convenient, on-demand options that offer more flexible and multi-modal options.
How does Mobility on Demand work?
Mobility on Demand aggregates all modes and manages trip supply and demand by using connected data. This data can come from transportation systems location-tracked by GPS, connected travelers (the industry’s fancy name for passengers with internet-connected mobile devices), and other real-time data. MOD is not dependent on a specific technology or a single service provider, but instead relies on public and private sector partners sharing data and interfaces. (Here’s another vocab word for you, the term for this is “data interoperability”.)
There are many ways to implement MOD and to varying degrees. Agencies around the world are currently working through what exactly it means in practice. You can learn more about the challenges of adoption here.
For the first time in decades, the public transit model is being shaken up. Industry experts and agencies are keeping a close eye on this space as pilot projects begin to bear fruit and technology vendors like TripSpark adapt their software to integrate with other mobility providers.