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ODIN PASS: A Mobility as Service trial at UQ

ODIN PASS
Source: Wikimedia Commons; Author: Kgbo

The Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR) and The University of Queensland (UQ) are actively exploring how Mobility as a Service (MaaS) schemes can enhance personal mobility locally, with a particular focus on increasing public and active transport patronage.

MaaS is seen as one avenue for increasing the attractiveness of public transport in the face of competition from new and future transport modes that may adversely affect the transport system, primarily through increased congestion.

Additionally, MaaS can provide consumers with greater exposure to a range of active transport/micro-mobility options. Access to/from public transport routes, as well as pricing, are identified as two major barriers to increased public transport patronage.

UQ also has a particular desire to increase the fairness of personal mobility options for its students and staff – such that those who cannot necessarily afford to live close to campus are not unfairly disadvantaged by public transport pricing, and in turn, are forced to use private transport more often.

Participants

By first surveying UQ students and staff, and then providing them with the opportunity to participate in a real-world MaaS trial, this project will explore how a shift away from pay-as-you-go transport pricing toward fixed-cost pricing (mobility plans) may affect travel behaviour, in addition to providing consumers with greater options for getting to/from public transport and using active transport modes.

The data collected through this project will be used to assess whether a sustainable business model for MaaS exists locally and enable the concept to be explored in further areas across Queensland.

The trial will be launching in mid-2021 at UQ St Lucia for staff and students over a 12-month initial deployment period. Through iOS and Android smartphone applications, participants can subscribe to monthly transport plans/bundles, and plan and book multi-modal trips.

Project background

University students and staff tend to be open to experimenting with, and be early adopters of, new technologies. UQ is a community of tens of thousands of people who travel to and from – and between – UQ campuses. UQ’s St Lucia campus is also a large regional attractor, the second largest commuter destination in Brisbane after the CBD and is home to a group of world-renowned researchers specialising in transport and sustainable engineering research.

These factors combined make UQ a natural place for a real-world project to test and research innovative approaches for improved mobility. Sustainable transport solutions are an important part of UQ’s vision, and the university is actively exploring opportunities to support mobility innovation that can improve the daily lives of UQ staff and students.

Given this, TMR and UQ, through this iMOVE project, will deploy a MaaS trial exclusively available to UQ staff and students.

The project is centred around the use of a smartphone app for MaaS users to sign-up and manage their mobility passes (or plans). This app will include an advanced MaaS journey planner, through which users will be able plan and book multi-modal trips in South East Queensland.

Trial participants will purchase different MaaS passes, which will vary in price depending on the specific inclusions. The passes will include options such as unlimited public transport, and unlimited e-bike/e-scooter share (time-limited trips), as well as provide discounts on taxi/ride-sharing trips, and car-sharing. Other additional transport modes may also be assessed and considered for inclusion as the trial progresses.

See the full list of iMOVE projects here

Project stages

Stage 1: Understanding the stated preferences of UQ students and staff towards MaaS passes/plans

Given the novelty of MaaS programs, combined with fixed cost pricing in transport, it is difficult to immediately assess consumer preferences towards this new scheme, and their willingness-to-pay for such a scheme.

The first stage of this project will involve the deployment of a stated preference survey to UQ students and staff to improve understanding of their current travel behaviour choices, as well as their views on different MaaS fixed-cost passes/plans.

Respondents will also be given the opportunity at the end of the survey to express their interest in participating in the UQ MaaS trial, called ODIN PASS. The results of this survey, together with data collected in recent years on UQ student and staff travel behaviour, as well as TMR’s own insights on MaaS preferences, will be used to inform the preliminary design of the MaaS scheme.

This will ensure that the initial MaaS passes offered are informed, and closer to student and staff expectations and requirements. Collection of stated preference data prior to launch of the trial also provides the unique opportunity to compare and contrast what consumers stated they would do, and how they actually behaved, when provided with the opportunity to participate in the scheme.

Stage 2: Establishing a MaaS trial framework for the ODIN PASS scheme

While responses are being collected through the pre-trial survey, the trial framework will also be finalised. It should be noted that some of these actions may also occur in tandem to Stage 1.

The trial framework will consist of five primary components:

  1. Establishment of accounts with transport service providers.
  2. Development of ODIN PASS journey planner smartphone app for users to plan and book trips and pay for MaaS passes.
  3. Setup financial/business framework to facilitate collection of subscription revenue, payment of transport fees, financial reporting, etc. This will involve the establishment of a separate financial entity, ODIN Pass Pty Ltd.
  4. Setup agreements with other service providers to offer incentives through the MaaS platform e.g. telecom network operators, coffee shops, gyms, food outlets, etc.
  5. Establishment of protocols and systems for data collection, hosting, and reporting, including user participation terms and conditions, and the privacy policy.

The establishment of this framework will be overseen by both the research team at UQ, as well as the broader project management team.

Stage 3: Deployment of ODIN PASS (UQ MaaS trial)

This will see the deployment of the ODIN PASS scheme. First, a representative sample of participants will be selected from the pool of survey respondents that expressed interest in joining the scheme during the pre-trial survey.

The number of participants will initially be limited to approximately 200; with this number increasing over time, up to a maximum of approximately 10,000 participants – dependent on the extent of the potential shortfall that may emerge between MaaS plan revenue collected and transport usage fees charged by service providers.

Participants will be directly invited to participate in the MaaS trial (based on an expression of interest) and asked to complete a short questionnaire collecting information about them and their current travel preferences/behaviours. Participants will then be directed to the ODIN PASS app (Android and iOS) to choose between, and purchase, different MaaS passes/plans. The pricing of these passes will vary throughout the trial in order to determine participants willingness-to-pay for different MaaS offerings.

Participants will then be directed to the MaaS journey planner in the app to plan and book trips. This will be the primary tool users access when planning and booking trips included in their MaaS subscription.

Individual trips will be recorded for data analysis. Usage will either be billed directly to the user or to a corporate account with the respective mobility service provider (depending on the specific arrangements with different mobility providers). User costs will be subsidised using mobility pass revenue, to incentivise particular modes and behaviours.

Any shortfall that emerges between the user subsidy and pass revenue will be covered using an operational contingency fund, with the intention to minimise, and ultimately eliminate, this shortfall over the duration of the trial by adjusting ODIN PASS prices in response to demand.

The individual trip data collected through the app, and by individual mobility providers, will be linked against each user profile in a database developed in cooperation with TMR. This data will be analysed by UQ to gain greater insight into how different participants use the ODIN PASS scheme, and how MaaS may have influenced their behaviour, compared to previous behaviour exhibited pre-MaaS.

Stage 4: Analysis of MaaS Trial results

The results of the ODIN PASS scheme will be assessed on an ongoing basis from the initial deployment. The initial analysis will focus on determining the price equilibrium between MaaS pass payments and usage fees/subsidies by modifying ODIN PASS pricing to manage demand.

As more data continues to be collected, and the pricing model stabilises, the UQ research team will shift its attention to analysing the impact of the program on consumer behaviour, how this varies across different cohorts and socio-economic factors, as well as how it compares to the stated preferences collected in the pre-trial survey.

Short surveys and focus groups will also be conducted in Stage 4 (in parallel to Stage 3), to receive feedback from participants on their experiences during the trial, and how it could be enhanced or improved. This engagement, paired with the analysis of travel behaviour impacts of the scheme, will be used to improve the program during the 12-month trial, and to assess:

  • whether a viable and sustainable business model for MaaS exists locally
  • to what extent (if at all) will a subsidy be required to support this model
  • whether a MaaS program should be introduced at UQ St Lucia permanently
  • whether MaaS should be expanded more broadly beyond UQ.

Project objectives

The four project objectives are:

  1. Understand consumer preferences towards different transport modes in a MaaS subscription scheme.
  2. Deploy a real-world subscription MaaS trial focused on enhancing personal mobility and, in particular, increasing public and active transport patronage.
  3. Investigate whether a sustainable business model for MaaS exists locally.
  4. Understand the relative importance and attractiveness of a smartphone-based MaaS application, while considering the data privacy/protection concerns of such a platform.

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