It's 7:24 a.m. on train platform outside a major metropolitan city. A garbled announcement just notified commuters that their train is delayed, again. A shared decision faces the would-be passengers. How should they get work? Take a different line? Give the bus a whirl? Create an impromptu carpool?
If they are in Helsinki and MaaS (Mobility as a Service) is loaded on their smartphones, the choice will be an easy one.
With the fledgling MaaS, a broad range of transportation options becomes something to subscribe to, not to own. And of course, it’s all managed on a single smartphone app. Using their phones, commuters could choose from different combinations of transport, from ridesharing to the bus to the train, that would take them from point to point, depending on their preferences for speed, comfort, privacy and price. All for a single mobility subscription fee.
Would the convenience of such a mobile service lead commuters finally to unbuckle from the 20th century and get rid of their cars? Helsinki’s city planners are setting the stage today, working to pull all the city’s transportation data on platform that entrepreneurs can tap.
If MaaS takes off as planned, it will transform the movement of humans and goods in the Helsinki region by 2025, leading legions of its 1.5 million people to exchange their cars for a subscription to a networked transport ecosystem. This could change the very geography of Helsinki, opening up thousands of acres of what are now parking spaces to make way for new parks, bike lanes, affordable housing or other development. “Neighborhoods that have been starved for (transport) access could suddenly become hot,” says Greg Lindsay, senior fellow at the New Cities Foundation.