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MaaS blueprint design for regional towns and rural hinterlands

MaaS blueprint design

Mobility as a Service (MaaS) is a centrepiece of the Future Transport Technology Roadmap of Transport for NSW, released in March 2021. Although we are accumulating a great deal of knowledge and experience in progressively introducing elements of MaaS into a metropolitan setting, there are further insights to be gained in the context of regional towns and rural hinterlands (RTRH). We know that NSW rural and regional towns and metropolitan context is quite different to RTRH.

MaaS in RTRH is unlikely to be built on a strong regular route-based public transport basis, and therefore car-based solutions are likely to be important in the mix with potentially more flexible forms of public transport services and possibly different client customer base.

In a RTRH setting, reducing social exclusion and improving well-being will come to the forefront as very important objectives that can be enhanced through a MaaS framework.

This project’s objective is to design a blueprint for future MaaS initiatives in a RTRH setting, drawing on experience in the Sydney MaaS trial, international evidence, and new data specifically collected with all stakeholders in the RTRH environment.

Participants

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Project background

The recently completed Sydney MaaS Trial project gives us rich experience to deal with all the complexities of integrating different transport services while incorporating societal goals into the MaaS offer.

It is far from clear what the prospects for MaaS might be in a regional and rural setting. Rural and regional is quite distinctive from urban, and thus any MaaS is unlikely to be built on a strong regular route-based public transport offer, and therefore car-based solutions are important in the mix with potentially more flexible forms of public transport services. Some of the challenges are well summarised by the following:

Rural MaaS doesn’t look exactly the same as MaaS implemented in or planned for urban areas around the world. The objective of MaaS in rural areas is to increase efficiency and utilization rates of shared transportation options, as well as maintaining sufficient service levels and improving accessibility. Using Mobility Equity Indicators, it is clear that certain services should be given higher priority in a rural setting than others. For example, on-demand rideshare programs are much more effective in rural communities than bike-sharing programs, and thus should be given higher priority.

Source: n-catt MaaS fact sheet

For a RTRH setting, appealing mobility support services could include conventional and demand-responsive transport, taxis, buses and connections to long-haul transport, and carpooling. Additional services might include parcel deliveries, library services, and food and medicine distribution. In reviewing rural mobility, it is suggested that because flexible, high-occupancy modes best suit the needs of a rural community, rideshare receives high priority; and where practical, active transportation ranks as high priority due to need for safe biking and walking infrastructure.

The role of the car should still be considered, particularly personal electric vehicles, due to dispersed housing and destinations. Utilising low occupancy electric cars within an eco-system that promotes sustainable outcomes (to some extent) might be another option. In particular, we will consider the appeal of including electric cars as part of the sharing service, which we call Electric Car Sharing as a Service (ECSaaS).

With a focus on the regional town and the rural hinterland location, which desire access to other key locations such as regional centres and state capitals, RTRH MaaS should be seen as spatially diverse in order to recognise and deliver, as appropriate, mobility services beyond the boundary of a regional town. Indeed, one of the arguments for MaaS includes delivering services that are borderless.

In a regional town setting (including the rural hinterland), reducing social exclusion and improving well-being come to the forefront as very important objectives that can be enhanced through a MaaS framework. The Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies has recently investigated this matter within a rural setting in Victoria. Stanley et al.1 state that:

Understanding the value of improving well-being highlights the opportunities to assist those at most risk of mobility-related social exclusion by taking more integrated approaches to transport planning and policy making.

This has a very good strategic fit with the role that RTRH MaaS can play provided its success is measured by the behavioural benefits induced by integrated mobility services.

Project objectives

This project aims to meet the following objectives:

  1. Design a blueprint for future MaaS initiatives in a RTRH setting
  2. Confirm, via in-depth interviews and structured online surveys, the integrated mobility services that should form part of the RTRH MaaS ecosystem
  3. Develop proposals for a prototype digital app for RTRH MaaS
  4. Provide recommendations to inform prospective participants in a RTRH MaaS trial of the inputs necessary to make MaaS workable and successful in achieving societal and other goals

Footnote

Stanley, J., Hensher, D.A., Vella-Brodrick, D. and Stanley, J. (2021) Valuing changes in wellbeing and its relevance for transport policy. Transport Policy, 110, 16-27

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