Tarification #5: Making transport greener

Our 5-part series on pricing concludes with an analysis by Michael GREGOREVIC, Smart Mobility and Future Cities Consultant at SYSTRA Australia. He discusses the link between pricing and pollution.

Mobility as a Service, referred to as Maas, cannot be developed without addressing the issue of transport pricing, or mobility in general. This is not a new issue, but it is even more pertinent in the context of the health crisis, with operators hard hit, user behaviour becoming both more demanding and unpredictable, and mobility less routine. So what fare policy should be adopted? How can profitability and efficiency, flexibility and sustainability be reconciled? Can a pricing policy be a lever for managing crowds in transport networks? Can pricing have an impact on urbanisation and the shape of the city?

We asked our experts these questions. From Australia to Brazil, via Asia, the UK and France, our international network of consultants worked together to answer them. For a month, we shed light on the subject, informed by local experiences.

One of the largest trends in transport fares and ticketing is the move towards subscription-based services that bundle access to multiple transport modes in one convenient and integrated planning, booking and payment system. We are of course talking about Mobility-as-a-Service, or MaaS, and a key driver for its existence is to make transport more environmentally sustainable. How can it do this? By providing 5 forces to transform how people move in cities.

Doing without the car?

In car-centric cities, MaaS can help people move from private vehicle ownership to shared-transit such as taxis/ride-hailing, car-sharing and on-demand shuttles.

For some people, MaaS will be appealing enough to cease owning a vehicle permanently. For others, MaaS is considered a viable alternative to owning a second and less frequently used vehicle.

In cities already more public transport centric, MaaS can encourage a mode shift from low-occupancy shared transit (eg. taxis/ride-hailing) to high-occupancy shared transit (eg. bus, tram, train), thereby reducing their carbon footprint even further (Hensher et al, 2021).

2- Governance, a central issue for MaaS

With so many actors involved in a MaaS eco-system, it is no surprise that Governance is a major topic. However, for MaaS to be deployed efficiently and in a manner complementary to the public transport network, this requires Government to have a central role.

As such, MaaS therefore provides an opportunity to incentivise the use of only zero emissions vehicles and renewable energy-based charging infrastructure. Once these technologies and the infrastructure are sufficiently widespread, MaaS deployment policies could also migrate to mandating, rather than incentivising, sustainable transport options.

3- Decarbonising the transport network

One of the most interesting aspects of MaaS is how it should be designed to modify people’s behaviour and travel preferences. In addition to changing people’s perspectives on private vehicle usage, MaaS can also help to ‘green’ the transport network by enabling and encouraging greater use of active transport modes such as walking or cycling.

For example, a trial in Gothenburg awarded ‘points’ to customers for every ton of CO2 emissions avoided through using sustainable travel modes (UbiGo, 2014), with the points being redeemable for various goods and services.

4- Smooth out the use of public transport

Public transport needs to be sized to manage daily peak loads, creating an inherent inefficiency. The pricing of MaaS therefore creates a unique opportunity as a demand-response tool to encourage a shift to off-peak travel, thereby reducing the peak demands on the network.

The greater flexibility in work practices brought about by Covid-19 means this becomes a more practical opportunity, and indeed pre-Covid the city of San Francisco had already implemented a similar scheme through demand-response pricing of parking meters (SFMTA, 2017).

5- More sustainable transport

Finally, and combining several of the themes above, we suggest that a transport network gets greener by reducing the number of assets needed to move people to where they need to be, meaning more space in cities for parks, trees and active travel modes.

MaaS therefore supports this objective through the actions discussed – reducing private vehicle ownership, increasing the mix of higher occupancy shared transit, encouraging active travel modes and reducing the peak loading requirements of public transport.

There is no doubt that MaaS is a sustainable future answer to the problems of public transport.

And don’t hesitate to contact our experts for any topic related to pricing and MaaS:

SYTRA UK & Ireland: Fitsum TEKLU, Director Rail Advisory, fteklu@systra.com


Chris AYLES, head of Systra MVA’s activities in South East Asia and Australasia, cayles@systra.com

Nicolas SIAUD, urban transport planner specialising in public transport planning, nsiaud@systra.com

SYSTRA Brazil: Sabina KAUARK, Civil Engineer, skauark@systra.com

SYSTRA France:

Aurélie JEHANNO, Mobility Director, ajehanno@systra.com

Timothée COLLARD, Mobility Consultant, tcollard@systra.com

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