Mobility as a service, or a sacrifice? Governance and competition between public transport and micromobility


  • Olivier Roy-Baillargeon Polytechnique Montréal
  • Fanny Tremblay-Racicot École nationale d'administration publique (ÉNAP)
  • Antoine Legrain Polytechnique Montréal


Mobility as a service (MaaS), governance, public transport, micromobility




The governance schemes that govern interactions between public transport and micromobility stakeholders are critical variables in the successful implementation of mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) systems. Like the dynamics of regional governance, planning, and development, MaaS is the theater of the superposition of a multitude of often divergent, even contradictory interests (Alyavina, Nikitas and Njoya 2022; Polydoropoulou, Pagoni and Tsirimpa 2020; Pritchard 2022) of:

  • local and regional governments (e.g., reducing congestion, mitigating greenhouse gas emissions);
  • transit agencies (e.g., increasing ridership, transferring trips from the private car or active mobility to public transport); and
  • private stakeholders in carsharing and micromobility (e.g., increasing market shares, attracting and retaining new customers, offering reliable and easy-to-access options for the first and last “mile” of trips).

Since their goals are often incompatible, these stakeholders from the public, private or nonprofit sectors often perceive one another more as competitors than as partners (Butler, Yigitcanlar and Paz 2021; Lyons, Hammond and McKay 2019). In this respect, the institutional design of governing bodies constitutes a determining factor in achieving regional socio-ecological transition targets.

Which institutional designs and governance mechanisms allow MaaS initiatives to be successfully implemented, overcoming these obstacles?

To answer this question, we have reviewed the literature on the challenges and conditions for success in the implementation of MaaS systems, analyzed case studies of MaaS initiatives in North America and Western Europe, and conducted semi-structured interviews with informants who have or who are still participating in the implementation of such systems.

This research reveals two preliminary findings regarding the trade-offs to be negotiated to form strong alliances and offer MaaS systems which concretely alter the carbon footprint and the travel patterns of communities.

Firstly, the three types of governance models (private, like Whim in Helsinki, Finland; hybrid, like Moovizy 2, in Saint-Étienne, France; and public, like Move PGH, in Pittsburgh (PA), USA) face the same challenges, such as the inability to attract varied clienteles in terms of their age, level of education, family structure and mobility habits. MaaS systems are used much less than expected by the stakeholders they bring together. They mainly manage to retain the loyalty of young, urban, highly educated professionals from the service sector without children, and already regular users of transit systems and micromobility services.

Secondly, the quality and extensiveness of public transit service seems to be a double-edged sword that entails a delicate balancing act (Qiao, Huang and Yeh 2022). Indeed, although spatial and temporal coverage and connectivity in public transport is an essential prerequisite for the deployment of a true MaaS system, other mobility services will be difficult to establish where public transport is almost hegemonic, as well as in cities and regions where its services are embryonic.

These preliminary findings allow us to identify some keys to success in terms of governance, so that MaaS systems can concretely contribute to reducing automobile dependence, greenhouse gas emissions and socio-spatial inequities in accessibility. Thus, a robust and extensive multimodal service seems to be a necessary but not sufficient condition. Likewise, a public governance system supported by proactive regional authorities seems to facilitate consultation, under three conditions:

  1. alleviating the reluctance of transit agencies, often fearful of sacrificing their ridership and, consequently, their revenue;
  2. tightly regulating private carsharing and micromobility actors, so that their services contribute to improving multimodal accessibility without cannibalizing public transport; and
  3. implementing financial and regulatory measures to incentivize MaaS system usage and disincentivize driving alone.

How can we make such systems real tools for socio-ecological transition? What roles are emerging for national governments in achieving such objectives? This communication will open the discussion on these ever more pressing issues.