In a new installment of ARC's Smart Cities Podcast, ARC's transportation analyst Eddie Fidler speaks with MaaS America founder Tim McGuckin about his vision of a Mobility-as-a-Service ecosystem for the United States. You can now subscribe to the ARC Smart Cities Podcast through Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Spotify
Eduard Fidler: Welcome everyone to another episode of the Arc Advisory Group, smart city podcast. I'm Eduard Fidler, I'm a transportation analyst here at Arc, I'm thrilled to be joined by Tim McGuckin, the founder of Mobility as a Service America. so Tim, welcome.
Tim McGuckin: Thank you, Eddie. It's a pleasure to be here. I appreciate the opportunity.
Eduard Fidler: Oh, perfect. So I'm wondering if maybe we can start by just having you give a bit of background about yourself and your career so far.
Tim McGuckin: I'd be happy to. I've been in the sector primarily transportation for about 25 years. I studied city and regional planning, and was really intrigued with how really people interact with their built environments. something since childhood, frankly. And I studied, planning and, city management at Virginia tech. my first job out of college was working in the DC trade association area. It was, very, very, employment rich, area. and it was enjoyable because I worked in a large national trade association that was struggling with how to understand how to improve really mobility for commercial vehicles in urban areas. this was after, the transportation bill gave a lot more power to metropolitan planning organizations. A lot more power over where to spend money. So my job was essentially to educate, regional planning departments about improving freight mobility as an important aspect of total mobility in a city.
Tim McGuckin: Transit's important and subsidies are important but so is freight. And I continued on the transportation association, I guess, arc of my career by going to its America's Intelligent Transportation Society and got more into technologies and also the institutional issues, that's come up as barriers to technology deployment. So back then its the use of communications and computer infrastructure to improve mobility was fairly new. The approach to most of our state deities was just build more lanes. and then, transitioning, again to the International Bridge Tunnel and Turnpike Association. I was the director of technology programs and, I was learning to learn a lot about, sustainable transportation finance. And tolling is one of options. from there, around 2000, there was a DOT initiative to develop and deploy a, a technology, a vehicle to a roadside communications, a technology called 5.9 gigahertz DSRC.
Tim McGuckin: And that was very intriguing to the tolling industry because it might've, they viewed it as a ticket out of a proprietary systems they're buying from their current vendors based on 915 megahertz. And, so we took the opportunity to participate in that. It was unusual for tolling authority to care about that, but, the technology offered a way, that was based on open standards to finally move off of proprietary solutions, which were more expensive than it needed to be. and at that point I created my own trade association to add value to, our efforts in the tolling community. Why are tolling people at the table really wasn't, that didn't resonate that well. so we created an associate. I did, I created an association called Omni air consortium which was an entity that would design a certification program to assure a future buyers of these, 5.9 systems that they would be standards compliant and conforming and interoperable.
Tim McGuckin: and unless you have those assurances, you'd have to take the vendor's word for it. And oftentimes, once you deploy in the field, even systems that are so designed against the same standard, it's very intriguing. Different companies interpret standards differently. So in the field you would have issues with interoperability. So we wanted to create a one stop shop and that was Omni Air consortium. I did that for 10 years. And then, one of my members, hers who was a recently certified entity, we had funding, we had members from, the car companies, the toll authorities and so forth. they came to me and said, Hey, we have a very interesting smartphone payment app. Would you like to be our CEO? And it's start up? And I thought, well, that's very interesting. That marked my transition to the private sector.
Tim McGuckin: Eddie, I became CEO of a startup. I did that for two and a half years. and then I'm very curious person. I like to have a very varied career within transportation. I guess ecosystem. And I then worked for Leidos, which is a large, federal contract in DC area. Working on connected vehicles. I didn't quite enjoy being part of a 15,000 person entity. It was just too bureaucratic. But fortunately, I was recruited again away to a startup, in the United States, which was based on a division of a company in, in, in Portugal called Brisa. And Brisa had for the last 10 years, built out a, a multimodal payment system in, the city of port Lisbon where you could use a toll tag parking for fuel for ferries. And soon it was using being used for transit.
Tim McGuckin: They were developing an app for ride share and they wanted to grow their footprint in North America. So they hired me to build the business. And I did that for two and a half years. I ended that role, two and a half years later I grew them. I met my objectives and when I left there last year, I was missing the public sector trade association game. I like big picture thinking. So, I created a MaaS America you introduced to says mobility as a service America. We just go by Maas America and I've been there for about a year. It really was, embodied my, my own passions and integrated mobility and my own observations about, what the next step should be for mobility. So that's my history.
Eduard Fidler: Great. Thank you. Tim. There is sort of a logic in that trajectory too, so that's pretty cool. so then, would you mind telling us a little bit more about your current organization?
What is MaaS America?
Tim McGuckin: Absolutely. It will include, why I created it, if you don't mind. Well, you and I have talked before about, going to workshops and sometimes not seeing the most informative or inspiring presentations and just the nature of attending too many meetings, fewer and further between. You actually come across a, a good presentation that, that, that jazzes you - I'm, I'm one of those, I've been in industry for 25 years now, but in 2017 I was invited by my Portuguese company to go to a meeting in the UK. and it was hosted by, I think its international is called Maas market. It was a small workshop for about 150 people that was discussing this concept that we're really, we all called integrated mobility, but they had named it mobility as a service. Essentially. The name I believe came from Europe out of, Ertico and also a MaaS global who was launching and had launched earlier, a, integrated mobility app called whim in Helsinki.
Tim McGuckin: So I went to the meeting and it was one epiphany after another. I was such an enjoyable meeting about this new effort to link all the modes together through the use of technologies we all held in our hands and also meeting they expected expectations of consumers and meeting other important goals like congestion reduction and environmental improvements and so forth. So I was very inspired, by that meeting. And after the meeting, I talked to the organizer, Andrew Berraball and I said, I really enjoyed the meeting. I've known Andrew for about 10, 10, 12. I had written for his magazine, its international and he goes, yeah to we, we'd like to do this in the United States. And I said, I'd love to help, can I help you guys? We need to learn about this concept in the US more. And it was 2017 so we planned it for 2018.
MaaS in Europe vs. MaaS in the United States
Tim McGuckin: things take a while. Of course we get all, get back to our jobs. And I was part of the meeting planning committee and what I noticed as we were starting to fill out the agenda was it was a very Eurocentric view of mobility as a service. And what I mean by that is it was very, reflective of how, European society is, in terms of its, a very urban, society, very top down, very, government centric, sort of approach to mobility. transit was really front and center and it was almost, anti car in a way, and it was about getting people out of their vehicles. And I thought, well, that might not resonate in America and I really think this concept is so important. We need to get it done right. We need to start right.
Tim McGuckin: And by pitching it out as get people out of your cars, I felt that at least two thirds of America would reject it immediately. So we decided to create an organization I had talked to almost over the course of 2018 about the idea of a new association and talked about a hundred people, 120 people. And I said, this is my thought. This is my idea. And it was universal support for something different that reflected America's history. And, we created a MaaS, America. It was actually called MaaS association at first, but then we thought we really want to differentiate ourself, from the Europeans, which have their own version of MaaS, which is fine, but in order to make sure that it works here, we created MaaS America pretty, pretty blatantly American.
Tim McGuckin: but MaaS American is an association that is advancing MaaS to reflect the American form of mobility. And, based on Marika's history, it's a sociology, it's geography, it's built environment, it's governance, even the American spirit, so to speak. And the freedom of choice, the, dependence on the automobile is much higher here. it was the feeling that the car will have a role in mobility for many years in the United States. And the second thing was not necessarily the celebration, but at least, equating, the value of the private sector with that of the public sector. we need, people that want to invent and innovate. And that means they want to do something to make money. And there's nothing wrong with that. So we looked at what is the new paradigm for, for transportation, under this umbrella called MaaS.
Tim McGuckin: And it really was, used to be public good. And I can go into details about that later. But the public good was really what drove most of our mobility system is in the last 60 years. But now you saw so many private sector folks making, a friend of mine, Larry Yourmac from Cubic said, you know, all the cool stuff that's happening in transportation. It's coming from the private sector. And he was right. ride share or connected vehicles, all those smart phone apps. And what's the motive? Well, it's profit. So we needed to have an organization that balanced out the profit motives and the public sector public good motives, but also recognize that in America we still see something like 95% or no more like 90% of people are moving about in private vehicles solo, transits, maybe 5% of the share of rides.
Tim McGuckin: And much of that is just from a few cities in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, DC. So we needed to have a mobility as a service which reflected the American form of mobility. So that's why we created this organization. And, we formalized it in February of 2019 only. We built an advisory committee that would guide, I'm also a volunteer advisor, that would guide the organization, create the mission and start developing products. ultimate purpose of the organization is to get together and talk about how to make MaaS successful. And that has to include principles like balance, inclusivity, financial sustainability, and again, a preservation of the motive of - it's not something wrong with trying to make money at this. In fact, to get other, to achieve other goals or environmental, goals. For instance, the system should be financially sustainable or you can't achieve those other goals. Or there is other most social good goals and there's a great potential in MaaS, do a lot of, to do everything we want. If we can organize it properly and in a balanced way. So that's MaaS America.
Eduard Fidler: Wow. Okay. So, you came to the view that, in Europe MaaS was a great concept. It was advancing, but things were sort of skewed towards central control, the public sphere, with a very, very much a skepticism towards the private sector or even the profit motive. And so then you viewed that as well as the differences in built environment and history between the US and Europe as, Hey, maybe there's a variant of this or, or a sort of sister idea to this that was more suitable for the U S
Tim McGuckin: correct. Well, well said.
Eduard Fidler: So, so then I'm curious about some of those distinctions, because one of the central pieces of MaaS, at least from what I understand, I mean, you touched on this as well, getting people out of their cars. and what you kind of hinted that was that, you know, if you're in Berlin and if you're in London, the public transit system is robust and very trusted. but that's not so much the case in say, Austin for example. I mean, there's a bus network, there's not even a subway system in Texas is car country. So your question is how do we bring, shared mobility to the U S so your goal isn't so much that take cars off the road, but maybe to facilitate, higher utilization essentially. I think the Uber pool equivalent, ride hailing, ride sharing situations, wherever transit isn't really available or isn't really up to the task.
Tim McGuckin: Yeah, that's accurate. You're very perceptive. You did nail it, I think we wanted to advance MaaS in a way that again, reflects the built environments that we've invested in for the last a hundred years and not try to create a solution where the public didn't view there to be a problem. They want to be in their cars. we have, differently, again, as I said, there's, there's a handful of urban areas in the United States, that probably will deploy MaaS in a way that MaaS Alliance and Ertico view it. New York city is one, and there's a good example. They're trying to remove vehicles through pricing mechanisms or make at least people get into more than one person get into a car through their congestion pricing, policy, which is now approved.
Tim McGuckin: Chicago is thinking about it. if here you've heard it spoken about in other Metro areas such as, San Francisco, other areas like at URI, Texas. Interesting. You mentioned Austin. I read once that farebox recovery ratios, something like 7% in Austin. So like the lowest in the United States. There's nothing wrong with that, but it just shows that, people are voting with their wallet, we need to recognize that, in order to improve aggregate mobility, you need to recognize people's choices today - you don't want a revolution. You want to evolve. I feel that exposing people to multi-modal options, many of which might be based on rubber tire vehicles we'll get them to think that, Hey, I don't need my third car. Right. Or my fourth car in.
Tim McGuckin: Some families don't need a second car. So it's just a matter of, goosing the amount of vehicles through natural, choice not through, being compelled, which I think societies in Europe and other maybe larger urban Asian societies are used to government can telling them. In America, again, MaaS America is too advanced - Americans advancing MaaS to reflect the American form of mobility. And I mentioned our society, our spirit and all of these technologies can do tremendous good for, for urban areas, but theyre shouldn't be a dictate in terms of mode. And
Tim McGuckin: just like America in the aggregate is different from Europe and the aggregate or suburbs in Europe and their cities in the United States. But even across the U S there's very different types of cities. As you know, you'd mentioned Austin very different from Boston. Oklahoma City's very different from Philly. Denver might be different from, San Francisco and so forth. So Maas will manifest itself differently in each region. So we're not really looking for, dictating a solution. We're looking for defining sort of the principles that inform your framework, that then informs the business model for you. Boston, for you, New York, for you, Denver.
Top Down vs. Bottom Up MaaS
Tim McGuckin: So we just don't see a federal top down approach to MaaS being successful. It's unlike the connected vehicle initiatives that the U S D O T funds through say smart Columbus, that's really not talking about how necessarily there'll be deployed. It's testing the technology in different contexts. First it's getting the radio system to work. Second, it's getting it to work to a certain set of performance measures. Then it's getting it to work at an intersection or between vehicles. MaaS, and it's all of that is you don't, there's no Verizon's involved necessarily. There's no, necessarily value added services to get people to leap onto the platform. There's no platform really or it's a safety platform and it's incredibly important for us, but it's been driven by NHTSA. MaaS is commercial. it's that the essence of it is commercial.
Tim McGuckin: a lot of folks are interested in it because it gives people touch points with the customer. I read articles on a concept called the passenger economy. I think Deloitte or somebody had a paper that predicted that will be worth trillions of dollars. Sometime it's the value of all potential goods and services that can be sold to you as a passenger in a vehicle as opposed to a driver. So we need to recognize that in America at least it's a combination of public and private sector motives that ultimately will yield the best for all parties, the city agencies, the public and business that can't be ignored.
Eduard Fidler: I see. So I think you are someone hinting at this as well that just because the U S is so diverse, I mean you have a very, very compact, few cities like Boston, New York, but then you have sprawling metropolis like Dallas and Austin as well as suburban areas and then rural areas of course. So, so there, there really is no reason for a federally mandated or federally, scaffolded approach. Do you see a possibility for maybe almost a complete, completely European model for a place like Boston where, where it really is, you know, let's get people out of their cars by giving them attractive, affordable options because personally, I do live in the city of Boston and, myself and a lot of people I know here, we are literally dreaming of the day when we can say goodbye to our cars or only use them once every two weeks to go, you know, into the mountains soft of thing.
Eduard Fidler: Personally, for this sort of demographic, I would love it if UberPOOL, Lyft pool were better optimized. They were electrics, they were clean on a clean grid. if the transit system worked better and if bike lanes were more conducive to biking, that's a safe biking and things like that. But Boston is a very old city and it's one of only a few that are like that here. So in your vision it would be totally compatible with your vision that there'd be one set, one sort of approach for these old European subsidies in the U S and then a whole plethora of other approaches for every different job environment that exists here. It wouldn't have to be a one stop shop. It wouldn't have to be a cookie cutter.
MaaS Drivers - Public Good and The Profit Motive
Tim McGuckin: No, it wouldn't. I think that's the key to successful deployment is the ability to recognize that each region is different. There's idiosyncrasies between even Baltimore and DC. They are only 45 miles apart, but they're very different cities. But, our approach is, is that you probably can't, we look at it sort of as a continuum. I talked earlier about paradigms, the paradigm for transportation. And the history of America has, every innovation that you think of, whether it's, let's see, turnpikes canals, railroads, and then toll roads have all been driven by the profit motive. It was, the turnpike was, you know, there's something like 52 or 50 turnpikes at one time in Virginia, there were more like three or 400 now that were authorized in New York city, primarily put together by farmers who pulled their money, with builders to move products to market.
Tim McGuckin: And for those that didn't have products, they paid a toll, by turning a pike they can get on access to the, to the road profit motive. railroads were really profit motive. and then we had toll roads like the largest, the first toll road in the United States preceded interstate quality road, but it was preceeded the interstate highway system was the Pennsylvania turnpike, I think it was started in 1937 and opened in 1937, which I think coincidentally is the same year that IBTTA international came into existence. It's funny thing about America. As soon as there's an interest, there's an association, you know, it's, it's, it's interesting. Yeah.
Eduard Fidler: About America, huh?
Tim McGuckin: We do. We love organizing, having our voices heard. but anyway, all those are private motives, but then the interstate highway system came and it was, you know, the defense network, it was to move military gear and prepare in case we were invaded. In fact, tolling and the gas tax were debated for a long time as to the, funding mechanism for the interstates. But I think that tolling technologies were too expensive. You had to build booths everywhere, right? So they chose the gas tax. So for 60 years, we were really the public motive. so what I'm getting at is the paradigm is the public motive is being intruded upon by the, for profit motive. The public good motive is there. it's certainly true that the private motive is there.
Tim McGuckin: So the paradigm, I talked about a continuum informs the framework which is on which you build your business model and frameworks are really shaped and bounded by goals and principles. And if you're the owner of that or if you're an actor in that, in that say that regional MaaS ecosystem, that framework, what do you want to encourage your chief through the deployment of your, of your, of your system? So I think where MaaS America's trying to, if there's any set of standards that could be that a paradigm informs the framework which informs the business model, which will, identify the system actors in that business model and the services that they provide. And finally, the customers that they serve. Where can you actually have an imprint? Where can you actually have a, an impact? Where can you, be creative?
Tim McGuckin: And I think paradigms are pretty much, it's, you don't really don't have much say in that United States at least. I'd argue that in Europe their paradigm is always a public good. But in America it's almost been private profit. But anyway, business models again will form from the frameworks. And so what are the principles that you want to achieve? what the principles that a framework should have that will create a business model that gets us what we want out of MaaS systems, wherever they're deployed. And we have summarized five at MaaS America. these principles of a MaaS ecosystem, one is inclusive and it's very public good mind that it's, we all need mobility. Everyone needs, do we have a right to mobility? It's a personal viewpoint of mind, but not all of people believe that. But if you look at it from a pragmatic standpoint, if we can't get from A to B, it certainly hampers, society and hampers the economy.
Tim McGuckin: So, mobility should be inclusive. We all need access to mobility and we mentioned it before. You want options that are affordable, sustainable. I mentioned that financial sustainability. That services should somehow be financially sustainable because if you can't have a system that's financially sustainable, it won't be able to meet other very important public goals such as environmental goals, congestion emissions. And so forth. A low friction is another principle. Services should be easy to understand and use. Meaning that if I want to download the app, it should be easy to do. If I want to see,my options should be fairly easy to do. Low barriers to entry is another principal. This is sort of like a friction, which is, but on the, the provider standpoint, meaning I, I shouldn't be prevented from getting on the platform of a MaaS ecosystem or a mass network operator.
A Framework Approach to MaaS
Tim McGuckin: we should have exchange of data. Application Programming interfaces should be cheap or free. Uber shouldn't have it all. For instance, it should be openly accessible. And then, balanced from an economics standpoint. And this is where we talk a band again about public good. An ideal MaaS ecosystem would, would also permit a subsidy, by, taking revenue from one, mode to subsidize an underserviced part of the ecosystem that cannot pay for itself. So there's a mix of public and private, aspects to this, these principles, it that we push at at America, inclusivity, sustainability, low friction, low barriers to entry and balance. And if you have those principles, how they manifest in the business model be different between Boston and Austin. So that's what we're looking at. You know, MaaS America doesn't believe that we can really or should say what is the business model from us.
Tim McGuckin: We really aren't going to be an organization that changes the paradigm, but we do have an opportunity to inform what the framework is at this point and who the actors could be in that framework. We recommend that mobility network operation operators such as Uber or Lyft today should, there could be many in a city,a anybody that has access to, to users or knows how to manage an account, knows how to process payments, should be potential mobility network operator. That includes entities like Verizon, they have 150 million subscribers in the United States or maybe locally it could be, here in Fairfax County, the Fairfax County water authority has over a million customers. Maybe they could become a MaaS network operator. Who knows, because they connect with the client, they understand payments. They could run a credit check. That's important too. so the should be a multiple MNOs mobility, mobility network operators in a city. And I liken this to, we talked about this before, Eddie, but before I go on, I can stop unless if you have any comments.
Eduard Fidler: Yeah, yeah. So I really like the higher level system view that you're describing. So you start with the paradigm, which is beyond anyone groups control of course. Yeah. Again, that ties into the fabric of the history and the society like you were getting at, the business models and individual, you know, vendors and service providers are kind of at a different level from what one group can really do. but the framework is something that people can come together, talk about and hopefully set in a direction that'll facilitate beneficial business models and vendors. So it's actually a very cool approach, I think. But I did want to question you a little bit. there, there were a few pillars to your framework and, and you mentioned potentially, for the sake of underserved pieces of an ecosystem having a almost cross modal subsidy or some kind of flexibility in, in that regard.
Tim McGuckin: Yes.
Governance in a MaaS Ecosystem
Eduard Fidler: The other hand, you mentioned the importance of competition and not having one of these network operators run the whole thing, having many ride share providers, many scooter providers or what have you. so then how would you possibly facilitate that sort of cross subsidy if, if each organ is completely independent? If you have one large transport monopoly and this does happen. Say it like an Amtrak, right? They have a profitable route and many that are not, and they siphoned money from the profitable corridor to, to the others. But if each one of those is run by its own entity, the unprofitable ones simply wouldn't exist.
Tim McGuckin: Great point. We have a model for that. it's called the interstate highway system. We collect taxes from all, 50, States. some of them provide more tax back to the government and they get back a California or they call them donor and donee States, States like New York, Texas, California send more back in their federal gas tax and they get back in the form of highway aid, and they use that money to subsidize the interstate systems at the same level of service, the same design standards in Wyoming and Idaho and Montana who don't have nearly the population, thus the tax base to build their own and maintain their own interstate quality systems. So the vision was really, it's a, call it military mobility, national military mobility needs to be complete. It needs to be the same across this entire geographic area called the United States.
Tim McGuckin: So we would create a system that would build the, the network and, and pay taxes everyone would chip in. And again, we would create an even quality of the interstate, - the ability for Wyoming's interstates to move a bunch of tanks and trucks. It's the same as California. So that's your system where, so the U S citizenry, the government is used to the concept of cross subsidy already. they probably forget though, that it happens. Most people if you talk to on the street, don't know that, right? Yeah. That Californians don't know that they, they're helping to pave Wyoming's roads. And that's unfortunate in society, people are getting more concerned about things like that, which is kind of sad that is they all want theirs. Right. But in the context of a city, you would have a similar concept and we named it, we mentioned actors.
Tim McGuckin: you mentioned a bunch of scooter and e-bike entities, you know, commuter buses, transit, public, private, what have you. They're all service providers. just like someone who owns a hotel is a service provider. They operate lodging or a theme park. All those are part of the services that you can buy through booking.com. Right. Who is an online travel agency, like an, an OTA. They don't own any of these things. They just create the options and you can pay for them in one app. It's very similar to, our vision for a MaaS where the mobility network operator, might not even be Uber, but they might be, they would be the entity that coordinates all the options onto an app and, and charges you for them. And if there's multiple mobility network operators, a one, how do you adjudicate issues? Maybe they're not, one of them is not treating a service provider correctly or getting back to the subsidy.
Tim McGuckin: How do we get entities to, how do we get, an underserved, a transit desert served - by taking profitable revenue from profitable, routes and services to subsidize unprofitable routes and services. And that would happen conceptually through the USDOT equivalent would be a public mobility commission, a PMC. It would be at the place, the entity that's probably populated by city agencies, representatives from private sector citizens groups, hopefully not too large, not too bureaucratic, that would adjudicate set policies and principles. We believe, that the city ultimately and the citizens themselves own the streets that they use every day. And they have some say in dictating how private entities extract rent from them. Right? So you can see a time where someone, it happens with port authorities and mobility authorities. Now the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has the George Washington bridge, hanging underneath that bridge is a path train the path trains, fee, ticket fees are priced and subsidized by the folks who take the toll road above it.
Tim McGuckin: If they priced the toll at the price, the path train according to the cost of the ride, it would be so expensive, would push a bunch of people up onto the highway deck causing gridlock. So you can orchestrate. We already know how to orchestrate different modes and subsidize for, for the best aggregate mobility. But now that we have these new actors, Eddie, the private sector, the Uber is the Lyfts. who else has, did I jot down a best mile? Moovit and even companies like Ford who knows they need to be part of this public mobility commission, at least be subject to the, the regulations. And this is another conversation of how it was some other people, maybe, maybe even a you in, in, in a prior conversation is the evolution of ability as a service.
Tim McGuckin: This I kind of liked liken it to Airbnb and Uber. They didn't ask permission, they asked forgiveness. But ultimately, even though people were in love with their services, they're very popular, they start to become regulated. They started to have caps placed on this wild West. I see the same thing happening. It has to happen where we go from mobility as a service to mobility as utility, where a organization that has an aggregate view of public view but also mixed in with the understanding that private sector needs to be there, if not encouraged, can create a system that again replicates the vision of the interstate highway system in cities. But with all these other technologies, all these other modes. Again, the goal being to improve aggregate mobility and make it inclusive for everybody. And back to the OTA. You know, if you own a hotel, you join up with an OTA booking hotels.com and you get access to the entire world, you're on their platform, you might be able to reduce your marketing budget.
MaaS Platforms - Mobility-as-a-Service to Mobility-as-a-Utility
Tim McGuckin: : Now you're on their platform. Everyone can say, I want to stay in Boston. 50 hotels pop up. You sell that hotel for $150 a night. Actually, it's cheap and Boston, so, so let's say 400 tonight. Okay. Especially in springtime or more, but a booking takes 20% of that. And could you replicate that in a city where the PMC takes a percentage of the revenue and gets to decide how to subsidize and where it wants to subsidize transit and mobility deser - it might not be 20%, because that's actually quite, quite high. It could be five, it could be 7%. So the concepts are out there, the models are out there. you know, cities, they totally want to retain control of their streets. And then by extension, whatever, however they define what a MaaS ecosystem is, they need the data that's being collected by the bucket, by Uber's and Lyfts.
Tim McGuckin: they might have, they should have a say and maybe what types of vehicles are allowed in the city? Do they need :50,000 scooters? No, probably not. they might have a say and understanding where their scooter should be placed. but still at the same time they don't really know what MaaS is yet is, you know, what the role is. We're trying to inform that what their role could be is probably a big player in the PMC. But while they're having all these discussions about whether they will move forward with MaaS or not, companies are already integrating public transit apps into their platform and they're going to be the GoTo MaaS providers. Is that what we want? So maybe, but I think that just like I can buy the same airline in the same hotel, in the same Disney, you know, experience from booking, I can buy it from TripAdvisor.
Tim McGuckin: I can buy from hotels.com so everyone has, every MNO should have every provider of a service on its network if that provider wants. Getting back to the OTA model. If I'm a hotel owner, I might find that booking sells most of my rooms, I'm not going to sign up or give as many of as my rooms to TripAdvisor until TripAdvisor does a better job. So there's a bit of a incentive for the MNOs to do a better job or they'll lose service providers, they won't subscribe to them, they won't have a service level agreement with them. So it's a fun, it's an interesting, again, we've seen this before, it's happening before, but we've also learned some lessons - can the Loudon County connector, which is a bus which runs from the hinterlands of, of Northern Virginia into DC three times in the morning, three times at night.
Tim McGuckin: afford a 20 to 25% hit on it's revenue from the MNO. No, it can't. So that's why we need a public mobility commission. Again, it creates a role for the cities to maintain some level of control in their infrastructure and now MaaS ecosystem, but also recognizes the needs of the service providers providing the service and the folks that are integrating this as meta operators and presenting it to the public in very user-friendly apps. That is a critical part. If you don't understand it, if it doesn't look attractive, you're not going to try it. So,
Eduard Fidler: Wow. Yeah. There's, there's a lot to talk about there. Yeah. So let's, let's just pick and choose mobility as a utility.
Tim McGuckin: Yeah. Just look up the concept of that as a utility,
Eduard Fidler: : Yeah, we heard that. though I will say a similar concept as has been arising in terms of social media, Twitter, Facebook, that they're becoming a utility or maybe should be treated as such - utility to transfer and facilitate information. Transport is almost more fundamental or at least as fundamental. But of course the, it just leads to all these questions of given the track record of, of the public sector and a lot of different, aspects. Can they be trusted to, facilitate this in an efficient, less than bureaucratic manner. it's a bit of an open question.
Tim McGuckin: exactly. Yeah.
Eduard Fidler: There will of course be potential efficiency improvements and almost mobility arbitrage opportunities within a region or within a city. And so having an entity that can see it all and have some authority to, you know, to sort of siphon a little bit of that value from one to the other for the sake of an overarching goal like access or ecological goals.
Tim McGuckin: Yes.
Eduard Fidler: that can be really something
Tim McGuckin: well to, to continue to thinking about, going back to MaaS Americas principals, we don't have to save the environment as a principle of a MaaS ecosystem because we think that if these other principles are present and that we have sort of a blueprint for it, which includes the public mobility commission. We have multiple MNOs. What will come out of that is hopefully that an MNO, a mobility network operator that might just focus on decarbonization if you will. Like if you use this MNO eco MNO of Boston, all your trips are environmentally sustainable. That as long as they have access to the platform, as long as they can be part of the ecosystem and are held to certain standards by the public utility commission, can't you see that a distinct types of MNOs will come about serving particular needs of large minorities, of people who care about specific things that could be a MNO, that's like Uber Black.
Tim McGuckin: And also you want to pay, you want to get there fast. It's going to be expensive, but we know you value your time. So use this MNO or this option within the MNO so you can meet society's needs in a more, I think, natural, organic way rather than through dictates maybe. That's why, you know, we have faith in other actors that will clean the air. Should MaaS be defined by its or measured by successful MaaS measured by how much particulates you removed from the air. And due to this platform, I hope not because, there are a lot of other actors out there that are already trying to clear the air. There's, there's, environmental, organizations and they're already looking at the role of the automobile in that 14 or 15% of our greenhouse gas emissions come from this sector, if not more. And we have the electric vehicle that's really just happening regardless of whether MaaS exists or not. So when we see MaaS saying, well, our MaaS is cleaner, is it good for you? But I want it to work. And if I happened to get into a vehicle with two other people, Hey, I am, I am contributing to, cleaning the environment. If the city wants to, you know, hopefully incentivize this, let them do that. It's their business model. Not, not, not the government's, not the federal government's. So that's it.
Eduard Fidler: Interesting. Yeah. And that does tie into more of a U S approach, more of a public good agnostic or semi agnostic vision.
Tim McGuckin: It is
Eduard Fidler: though, of course, as, as, as we all know, you know, climate change and air pollution, are important considerations here. Yeah. Maybe it shouldn't necessarily be the role of Uber or any, or a scooter company to be accountable just for that. There's other groups, the public agencies that are charged with that as their charter.
Tim McGuckin: So there already are, you know, I would see the, the, the eco MNO being something popular in California before Texas. Right,
Eduard Fidler: And in places like California where there are market-based, no pollution reduction methods, they of course have that for the power sector. I think they're, they're starting for transport. and in the Northeast and mid Atlantic, there is a, a commission working on, a cap and trade program for transport fuels as well. so that, that's the kind of thing where these operators, the agnostic to that is if the prices of fuel change, whatever happens, happens in the market. so that's
MaaS is Seamless Movement
Tim McGuckin: At the end of the day, what we think MaaS is more about seamless movement, not always are automatically about reducing pollution or even reducing congestion or travel times. It's about seamless movement. And let me give you an example. If it takes me $60 to get downtown from Reston, Virginia, where I live to DC for a meeting and it takes me 31 minutes to do that, well maybe there's an option to take an hour to do that, but it costs me $25, but the entity takes backroads. but in that vehicle, then I'm riding it has 5G connectivity, which we might have in three to four years. I could be as productive in the back of that vehicle with his little fold down desk on my laptop as I am in my office. So it still MaaS, it's seamless movement. It's options that meet my particular desires, meaning I want to get down there cheaper.
Tim McGuckin: and I don't mind spending an extra 30 minutes in the vehicle. So congestion is interesting. I was talking to somebody the other day and you look at the size of the U S economy. It's $20 trillion a year. And I think, Iteris or INRIX put out a huge study about a really comprehensive study in the cost of congestion of $300 billion a year. And that's, I don't know how they come up with, it's based on the value of people's time, maybe the additional fuel burned and maybe some valuation or value placed on the pollution. That needs to be, I don't know. But you have a $20 trillion economy and if $300 billion congestion tax, what's the, what's that equate to? It's a 1.5% tax. I know people that are more in the for profit paradigm, you know, a camp saying, well that's not a big tax to pay 1.5% is nothing. So what are we getting so upset about right? Not talk to a DC commuter, it's gonna have a different point of view, but in the aggregate, you know, it's not a big tax to pay for a $20 trillion economy. Metro areas of course pay higher tax. I looked it up. New York city Metro, they have a $1.4 trillion economy and $37 billion in congestion costs, same study, 2.6% tax. So it does vary. but anyway, that's just, that's just an observation,
Eduard Fidler: right? That's, that's what I was gonna jump on actually. That again, going back to Boston, not to keep shoving that down your throat, but the same interim study, ranked this as number one is that honor for congestion. Wow. so, so that tax, the 1%, the one and half percent is probably an aggregate across the US. In some places it's absolutely a lot more devastating than that. And maybe I get too upset while driving, but I have a feeling that they may have underestimated the human costs of the stress, for example, things like that. you'll probably right. You can quantify it. That's a very good point. You could see it as a tax when the economy somewhat
MaaS and Congestion Pricing
Tim McGuckin: A planner, a colleague of mine in Philadelphia is a long time ago, said, well, congestion means a vibrant economy. Not to a degree once if it's gridlock, it's not. But I can get her point as a chief transportation person in Philadelphia if it's, and that was certainly a, a fear when they instituted the congestion charge in London did that it would hurt the economy. I don't think those fears have come, that really nothing was realized bad. I mean, it was just people are paying to come into the city. But, so it's, it's not really economic doom if you, if you restrict people through pricing, I guess the next great test of that will be New York city. Speaking of the U S approach, you can't get bigger than New York
Tim McGuckin: You can't. And, I read the transit statistics that something, whatever the transit growth was in the last, I was a certain set of years, more than 50% of it was attributable attributable to New York alone. Just one city. So you look at cities like regions in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, there's a lot of cross County traffic. There's a ton of that, probably almost as not quite almost as much as going in and out of the city. But in the DC area, there is a tremendous amount of traffic skirting around, DC to go from Virginia to Maryland. How do we improve their experience? How do we prove, how do we create options and choices for them? So MaaS is not just about suburb to CBD. we're not talking about cannabis oil here. We're talking about central business district. so it can, it should reflect consumer wants, consumers geography, how we built our R and D, but at the same time, should enhance our aspirations and ability to achieve what we want, what we aspire to. So, the other thing I wanted to comment about and, was I said MaaS is about seamless movement, not always about reducing congestion or travel times. what was the second one? The other one I thought was interesting we should talk about, and it relates to is the MaaS is the disintermediation of transportation.
MaaS and the Disintermediation of Transportation
Tim McGuckin: It's an insertion of another entity in between people and buyers of transportation services, just like booking.com is the disintermediation of business or pleasure travel. I no longer have to call Wyndham, United airlines and Disney. I can book it all in one app. And, what does that mean for transportation? is it a good thing? Well in the hotel sector, and I've been, I've been reading a lot about this lately because I think it's a very apt to the situation with MaaS is that 20 to 25% is a massive cut just for the right to have your hotel on some platform app. It's often outside of finance costs. The biggest cost that a hotel will pay is the commission to the meta operator.
Eduard Fidler: Wow.
Tim McGuckin: : The biggest, that's 25%. 20 to 25%.
Eduard Fidler: So of course that makes me, I mean a large number like that, it makes me think,
Tim McGuckin: well Uber charges 20 to 25.
Eduard Fidler: Yeah. Maybe that, that reflects the value that those operators bring.
Tim McGuckin: No, it reflects.
Eduard Fidler: So that's a market failure.
Tim McGuckin: Yeah, I'd say it's a bit of both. From my studies it's like booking, let me give you some stats, kind of fun ones. I'm looking at three companies in the travel space, Marriott, booking holdings, which owns companies like booking and Trivago and a couple others. So you think you're using different OTAs but you're really not. There's been a consolidation and it's becoming anti competitive. You need, that's why we need entities like the public mobility commission in my opinion. And then Uber. So Marriott, it's a hotel chain, perhaps the largest in the world and 6,000 hotels under management with 1.1 million rooms. That's more than a trillion in dollars worth of infrastructure that they are responsible for operating. From commissions, their revenue was $22 billion, so they own or they operate 6,000 hotels. That's a lot of real estate. Their revenues, 22 billion. their market cap is 42 billion and their share price is $135.
Tim McGuckin: Now enter the OTA booking to provide a lot of value. It's easy, it's seamless. They don't own anything. They don't have any infrastructure. They're software data and apps. The 2018 revenue, well I'll equate it to 2017 revenue of Marriott was 22 billion is OTA, just one of them, 12.5 billion in revenue. Their market cap is twice as high as Marriott and their share price is $1,900 a share. This is a meta operator. This is an intermediator. Uber. Now the 2018 revenues, losses, the share prices 33 billion, but their market cap is still around $54 billion as of the other day. So we're looking at where the value is in MaaS and wherever the value is, wherever is, wherever the money is. So goes the power, the ability to prevent access to, to allow access. That's why I think it's incredibly important to really develop this framework that we're talking about, to give it out to everybody - to have it more balanced.
Tim McGuckin: So the disintermediation, it's not a model we want to go down.EUber drivers, 25% commission. here's another interesting one that if I may, Uber Eats and, and, and apps like them, there's a great story about, an entity in India that it was a delivery app. You know, they're huge now, right? Right. Well, they, they got into the business. They created an app that was much like a hotel OTA saying, Hey, get on our platform. We were going to advertise your little business to everybody in the neighborhood and sign the service level agreement, which gives us certain rights and the small restaurant operators in India said, sure, that sounds great. What can go wrong? Well, what went wrong was, their commissions are 15 to 30%. They were allowed through the SLA to do things such as after five, your second guest eats for free or all you can eat.
Tim McGuckin: It was putting restaurants out of business because they didn't really didn't know what they're signing. This is the worst case of the MNO. We don't want to go there. You want to have an opportunity for that balance through that framework to exist with it. Users have a point of view that people who, you know, use your services, service providers like the restaurant tour or the or the, County bus connector has a point of view. City certainly have a point of view. So if we leave it to one sector, you said something about the public sector. Yeah. They're not very responsive in a way. they don't really get that rewarded for reducing or improving efficiencies or reducing labor pools and like, so that's the wholly different incentives between, public sector, transit agency and Lime, that scooter company. You have to have a mix of that. That's why we start talking about aspects that the concept of ability as a utility. So the disintermediation is happening and it can happen in a way that benefits the people that are providing the service and the people that use the service and the city. And actually the meta operators Yeah.
Eduard Fidler: I think you've really hit on one of the most important aspects of what this is going to look like going forward. if we're talking about about fees and commissions around 25%, that could really, I mean that, that can put a, a service provider out of business completely. So, so I see what you mean. The public commission could potentially act as a, as a smoother of this, as an antitrust guarantor, for that sort of middle. So that for the intermediary. It seems like your group as a thought about this quite a bit and is looking to get this done the right way. so, so I want to ask, how are you getting this message out there? who are you working with? What are your marketing avenues? how are you guys trying to make this happen? as,
Tim McGuckin: Thank you Eddie. I would admit that sort of biggest challenge as a small organization, independent and let me, explain that. There are other associations that address this, but from a different angle. MaaS Alliance is the European association for MaaS. The mobility on demand Alliance is the one from the US, that's probably, they're both, this is, this is, I'll be very blunt. The business model from mobility to trade associations is not a good one. Okay. we are essentially a volunteer group, and in order to make it, MaaS Alliance for instance, is a spin off from Ertico and it's subsidized by Ertico, which in turn is subsidized by the European commission. So we, we joke amongst our advisors here at MaaS America that they were sort of born on third base, right?
Tim McGuckin: They already had a lot of that. They had funding Mobility on demand Alliance, which is very much like the MaaS Alliance in terms of a federal top-down prescriptive approach, very transit oriented. they work very closely with, FTA its a spin off from ITSAmerica, which is supported by ITS America. So MaaS Alliance, MaaS America here. we're at a bit of a disadvantage so we don't have, a lot of outreach. We're still building up and we'll be having our first meeting. We speak at certain places. This podcast is one way, so thank you very much for the opportunity. Again. I'll be speaking at TRB in January. These are small but thought leader type groups, right. And then we have our MaaS association meeting in March. it's being held in conjunction or with, in partnership with the Contra Costa transportation authority who's on our advisory board.
Tim McGuckin: So that's what we're doing. not as much as I, as I think is needed. And not as much as, I want to personally, it takes, it's a lot of work to build an association, especially without a subsidy or stipend. So, we just say yes to all the opportunities that have better given to us. Do you want to speak? Yes. About what again? Right. Oh, just yes. We want to come and want to come. and if it works into our travel schedule for our regular day jobs and things like, again, we're all volunteers. we have 18 advisors, and they speak to their colleagues and peers about MaaS America. And so primarily it's meetings. It's opportunities like this and not as much as we think is needed and not as much as certainly we want to do.
Eduard Fidler: I see, I see a bit of a guerrilla approach. You're almost forced to, you're almost forced into it. but in your, in your early, you know, avenues to get this message out there. What has been the response
Tim McGuckin: by early avenues to get this out here has been personal conversations with thought leaders, primarily of companies who might ultimately want to sponsor a meeting or support or tolling agencies or other agencies has been universally nearly, I can't say universally that's total 99% supportive of the need for a different approach to MaaS as what they've all heard about coming from Masa Alliance or mobility on demand. As a association we need to, we need the balance, we need inclusivity. We need to recognize the value in the role of the, of the private sector. it's been, but at the same time, MaaS is not an imminent threat or necessarily an imminent opportunity. People don't know what to make of it. I think one of the biggest challenges, Eddie, when you're starting an association is either join me because I can give you opportunities or join me because I can prevent something bad from happening to you. When I created the Omnicare consortium it was different.
Tim McGuckin: I had a subsidy from IBTTA. I had a membership from IBTTA that credential me . When we went to USDOT, we got a grant to develop a certification program because I saw that we had a very well rounded group of entities and wow, you guys already have a great well-rounded team. We'll give you money. But it was you're tired of buying proprietary toll systems, right? Well, if you support Omni Air consortium we see a way to get out of that. We're going to create a certification program that will give you choice and reduce prices. So very clear. Pros and cons. If you don't do it, you'll be trapped forever. Right. So it was a clear financial incentive and we don't have that necessarily in MaaS. It's really a high level concept of people kind of get when you spend time with them. It's hard to explain MaaS in an elevator pitch.
Eduard Fidler: Yes I try
Tim McGuckin: I do too. I mean tolling is easier. I remember telling this on the 10th floor of a building and a guy, very smart guy from DC and D C attorney. You think they're smart people? Oh, you work for FTA? How come you always pay for roads? We just keep paying tolls and keep paying tolls. When is it gonna end? And by the time I got down to the first floor, I explained to him that, well, sir, do you own a home? Yeah. well are you close to paying it off? Well, you know, 15 years. Well, what's going to happen when you pay it off? Well, I won't have, I said, well, you really don't want, you have to maintain it when you have to invest in it to maintain its livability. And you just saw the light bulb go off in the guy's head.
Tim McGuckin: Ah, yeah. Maintenance. what's MaaS? Well, it's like, it's, it's integrated mobile. What's that? What do you mean mobility? I mean, honestly, Eddie, I have a friend who has a, has a little group called mobility plus it's a consulting group. He's starting, he gets advertisements from China selling him wheelchairs. Right. so yeah, mobility is different for people. It's depending on who you're talking to, mobility in Florida or at sunrise assisted living is very different from going to TRB and talking about mobility. So it suffers from that. It's still a concept. And where do you sit on the spectrum or the continuum of MaaS maturity. Mass America has a levels of MaaS table from zero to six, so that can help you understand it. But again, it's getting the word out. Right. Which, you know, we talked about the challenges before
What's the Future for MaaS?
Eduard Fidler: Let's end on a particularly positive note, I guess my last question would be, in your view, what companies and ideas around transport, that are up in the U S right now? Which ones are you most interested in? Which ones are most promising? which particular initiatives or companies?
Tim McGuckin: that's a good question. I go across different private sector companies and perhaps, public sector entities that I've been paying attention to. I think we're all paying attention to, the Columbus smart city, initiative. One of the most interesting advances has been the partnership with Siemens mobility and ByteMark on a common payment platform. That's that's huge. being able to pay for all your services, mobility on one platform. I think it should be more than that. Like we talked about the concept of multiple MNOs, but essentially one platform of payments. So Columbus is something to keep an eye on as far as, other entities. I'm going to say Contra coast to transportation authority - they have a pretty decent size grant, from federal transit administration to, deploy seamless mobility services and what is essentially more of a suburban type of County think that's, it's not all about cities, it's all, it's about, you know, congested areas, period, which could be all of three stories tall.
Tim McGuckin: You know, it's just a congested suburb like Virginia Beach. One of the worst areas for traffic. And I think their highest point is actually like a trash dump. but no, nothing against Virginia Beach. It's a great town. I lived there for a little while, but it's flat, but it's congested as hell because all the roads feed into these few arterials and everything's congested. But I, I think Best Mile is a class leading entity and the group of entities that have apps that allow other providers to use to connect different modes of service onto one app. They're not necessarily an MNO, but I think they could aspire to be, Via as another one in that area. Lyft is, is very intriguing to me, because they are focused on, options, you know, linking in scooters and other sorts of public, public vehicle options on their platform, which is fairly recent.
Tim McGuckin: So, I think Lyft has it right as far as car companies. I'm intrigued by what Ford is looking at. They, since they're one of the few vehicles that are companies or auto OEMs that's calling itself a mobility provider. What does that really mean? I think they understand that they might be selling rather than individual cars, fleets of vehicles. so those are the, the entities that have been, I'm looking at, but again, that's that. I'll stop talking. But that's how I feel. That's, that's what I'm looking at in, in the terms of the MaaS space, I don't see much of interest from the federal government. They're focused on mobility on demand and it's out of the FTA and it's really focused on first mile, last mile.
Tim McGuckin: My concern in that area, Eddie is, I asked a question the other day, is our cities or city transit authority subsidizing their own demise, - that's kind of dramatic. But what I mean is they're working in partnership with Uber and Lyft to subsidize first mile, last mile rides because people can't walk a mile or whatever. They don't want to get whatever. So it's a very interesting thing. And it was, I think it was a great initially, a good effort to improve the perception of transit as being hip and cool and, and, and responsive. Right. but I tell you, companies like Uber, the last $5 billion last quarter don't want just first and last mile. They went all mile so that they let them into the tent or they going to take over. Well, that's why I think we'll ultimately need mobility as utility. So
Eduard Fidler: And that's when conversations like these and the ones that you were having, with all the other kinds of stakeholders are our key. We want ours done right? If we're gonna, you know, bring this back to how this conversation started. We want this done right in the U S and Europe everywhere. But, we want this done in a way that it takes off and makes mobility a little bit more accessible, efficient, easier, less of a hassle, and everything else we're looking for. So, Tim, it's been it's been an awesome conversation. I really enjoyed it. Thank you. And Hey, best of luck with MaaS America and we'll be talking soon.
Tim McGuckin: Okay. Eddie, thanks again for the opportunity and I, I appreciate it. And, again, thank you. Have a good one. Thanks so much. Okay, you too. Bye. .