Mobility as a Service (MaaS) is the integration of different forms of transport into a single mobility service accessible on demand, and is seen by many as the future of transport. If fully realised it will be possible to travel from A to B – even cross-border – using one digital ticket that exists on multiple devices. One organisation looking to unlock that system and make it accessible to all is MaaS Alliance, a public-private partnership that includes easymile, the Finnish Transport Agency and Ertico.
Now, for this week’s 5 Minutes With, SmartRail World features an individual helping lead the charge for better mobility, the senior manager at Ertico for Clean & Urban Mobility, and also a senior manager at MaaS Alliance, Piia Karjalainen. Piia has had a varied career in the transport industry and explains to Dave Songer that it’s never been so exciting to work in, now that technology plays such a vital role. She gave her time to talk more about why previous parliamentary and governmental roles have helped her at MaaS Alliance, where her favourite rail journey is in the world and what she’s looking forward to most at this year's SmartRail.
Piia Karjalainen (PK): I have been working for the transport industry for some time already (my entire career, to be precise) and now – thanks to digitalisation – suddenly the industry has become a really interesting and dynamic industry and I’m extremely happy to be part of this new wave. I’m a true believer in Mobility as a Service (MaaS) and feel privileged to be able to work with the whole MaaS Alliance community in order to improve the customer experience, as well as efficiency and sustainability of our everyday mobility.
(DS): What does your role at MaaS Alliance entail?
(PK): MaaS Alliance is still quite a small association, so I’m responsible for supporting our members and board in all daily management activities – from membership management to events and from policy recommendations to communication. In order to do so, I, of course, follow the development of the mobility sector as widely as possible.
(DS): What is the organisation’s focus for 2018 – can you provide some details?
(PK): The European Commission announced the year 2018 to be the Year of Multimodality which gives us strong support for further development of MaaS services, being multimodal by nature. As one of our priorities for 2018, MaaS companies and representatives of regulatory bodies established a working group under the MaaS Alliance to draft the ‘Bill of rights’ for MaaS users. This group is working together to set up a framework for the service promise and customer expectations in order to ensure an entirely smooth and secure travel experience for users in the multimodal travel chain. The Bill of Rights is expected to be presented and launched at the ITS World Congress in Copenhagen, in September 2018. In addition to that, our working groups are constantly supporting our members to find the most suitable business and governance models and also developing principles of data sharing. This year we’re also aiming to extend our network and partnerships beyond the European market area.
(DS): To what extent have your previous European Parliament position and governmental roles helped you at MaaS Alliance?
(PK): For an organisation based in Brussels, it’s necessary to understand how the EU and policymaking here works: what is hot and what is not in Brussels. Also, the years I spent in the Finnish Transport Ministry were really exciting and already back then I was part of our MaaS task force, supporting the early development of Mobility as a Service, the first steps of the MaaS industry and initiating the comprehensive modernisation of the Finnish transport policy to make it fit for the digital era. I’m happy I’ve been able to be part of the movement from the very beginning. It has been quite amazing how rapidly everything has developed.
(DS): You wrote this year that MaaS’s aim is to integrate public and private modes of transport that previously competed for business. How do you think this can be done most effectively?
(PK): The main driving force and core motivation of Mobility as a Service is that the end-user is the one who decides. Everyone in the transport system should then have the same ultimate goal: to fulfil the mobility needs of users. However, the transport system and services should not be planned based on an ‘either/or’ basis but instead provide the most suitable option based on the passenger’s needs.
By combining various transport services – such as car sharing, ride-hailing, bike- and scooter-sharing, carpooling and demand-responsive transport to complement the classic fixed-route and timetabled public transport – we can provide attractive and comprehensive mobility options for those whose needs haven’t been fulfilled by traditional public transit services and channel some new demand and customers to the public transportation system. That is the real beauty of MaaS.
(DS): Can you tell me more about the partnership MaaS formed with Uber in October 2017?
(PK): Uber has been one of the big game-changers in the transport industry – they have a really important role as an accelerator of digitalisation and also as an eye-opener for policymakers. Uber and its services is also a very good example of how the public and private resources in the transport system can work together. Therefore we were delighted to launch a partnership with them last year and have them as a member in MaaS Alliance.
(DS): Where would you like to see the area of connected public transport in 10 years’ time?
(PK): I wish, and believe, that MaaS or connected public transport in 10 years will go from being a local business to having a national, European-wide or even global dimension. I hope that in 10 years there will be a MaaS application or service which will enable me to travel from Brussels to our lakeside summer house in Finland (in the middle of nowhere) using a single app, organising all required tickets, including the train or plane ticket, and rental car for the last 10 miles. One cannot cut the distance but I wish one could cut the time required to plan and book and organise everything. In addition, there should be one single party (or insurance product) covering my whole journey, if something starts to go wrong, which often happens when I’m travelling!
(DS): What’s your favourite rail journey, wherever that may be in the world, and why?
(PK): This is an easy one – some years ago my dream came true when I spent my three-week summer holiday travelling from Helsinki to Beijing via the Trans-Siberian railway. For a hyperactive person like me it was a perfect retreat – during the eight days on the train all you can do is just sit and watch, chat, read, eat or sleep. What a relaxing holiday that was. Of course we had many great moments and inspiring experiences in Lake Baikal, just north of the Mongolian border, and China but still the best part of the whole adventure were the people we met during the journey. I wish that some day I can experience it again – in winter, when snow and darkness definitely make it even more mystical and fascinating!
(DS): You’re due to speak at SmartRail this year. What are you most looking forward to, and what can the attendees expect you to cover?
(PK): So far, Mobility as a Service has mainly been talked about in the context of urban short-distance travelling. Now, I’m really happy to extend this discussion to a wider context and explore together with the participants how better integration of services can support the attractiveness and competitiveness of rail transport. In other words, I’m not only looking forward to the presentations but also, and even more so, the debates.
Last week's 5 minutes with… Dirk Van Den Wouwer, director R&D and product management for Televic Rail.
Would you like to get involved in 5 minutes with…? This fun, informative feature gives our readership the chance to get to know more about the personalities behind the industry, what it is that inspires them, where they see the industry heading and of course their own favourite rail journey! Get in touch with Dave Songer: firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.