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The needs of users must be at the heart of MaaS

A Mobility as a Service (MaaS) trial in Cambridge revealed a growing willingness among commuters to change how they travel to work, but modal shift will only happen if consumers are listened to, writes Nafeezah Padamsey

Nafeezah Padamsey
15 September 2017
The Zume travel to work trial in Cambridge revealed that the commuting public are keen to rethink their journeys
The Zume travel to work trial in Cambridge revealed that the commuting public are keen to rethink their journeys
Nafeezah Padamsey
Nafeezah Padamsey


While there has been plenty of debate over what Mobility as a Service (MaaS) could look like in the future, there are relatively few case studies on projects that have so far been delivered. 

At Smarter Travel LIVE! I’ll be sharing my insights on a trial that Atkins ran in Cambridge.

For many, MaaS is associated with mobile phone apps including integrated payment and journey planning. But providing the technology will not, on its own, ensure modal shift or an uptake of a MaaS service. While various trials and projects are evolving globally, it’s surprising how few of them focus on in-depth user research. 

There will always be a balance to be struck between what the end user wants on pricing and convenience versus public goals designed to combat issues like pollution and congestion. Adding to the complexity, new commercial models are required to sustain multi-modal schemes. Many trials to date have not addressed these multi-faceted objectives. Instead, they have focussed on a single mode of transport. This limits how much we can advance our understanding of MaaS as only one element is being tested.  

Cambridge tries out Zume

Zume, a trial led by Atkins, set out to learn what it would take for people to give up driving to work and to use public transport. While recruiting participants for a two-week trial in Cambridge, it was surprising how many people expressed an interest in taking part and were willing to put something as important as their journey to work in the hands of our newly-created Zume brand – representing a completely unknown company and service.  

Interest in the trial demonstrated that the commuting public are willing and ready to rethink their journeys. Part of this is due to the frustration commuters experience on their way to and from work every day.   

Zume started with extensive commuter research to understand common pain points; this involved the team spending time in Cambridge carrying out face-to-face interviews, ‘ride-alongs’ and surveys, in order to collect customer insights. 

We found Cambridge travellers were clear on the frustration they experience on their journeys. Yet they don’t see alternatives so most continue driving. MaaS has the potential to be the alternative they are looking for.  

Zume trial participants began their daily commute with on-demand car-sharing – using branded vehicles provided by a local taxi firm – from their home to a park & ride, completing their journey via public transport and by walking to their workplace. They were effectively provided with an on-demand, multi-modal service for their commute using a smartphone app to help them complete a seamless journey as well as sharing location information.

During the trial, we regularly communicated with the participants and drivers to ensure it ran smoothly and to gather feedback about the service. Through this hands-on approach, the Zume team built relationships with the trial participants, local transport operations and council.   

Participants had a positive experience and gave the service an average net promoter score of 8 out of 10. Among the feedback, we received the following: “I think it’s just easy and hassle free. There is no waiting around,” and “I've quite enjoyed not having to drive in first thing in the morning.” 

Barriers to MaaS

As well as providing us with insight on running a service, we discovered many associated practical obstacles. The huge challenge to provide a service to match the convenience and flexibility of a car was voiced by several participants. Until demand responsive transport becomes more widely adopted and larger numbers of non-conventional transport operators emerge, most users are still reliant on timetables. This acts as a barrier to services being truly user-focused and currently represents a limiting factor for the uptake of any multi-modal offering.   

As one Zume participant told us: “I drive mostly because I enjoy it and it affords me some freedom and flexibility. Public transport to the villages is quite poor at the best of times and work is not always a 9-5 job.”   

There is a need to make a service accessible to all sectors of the population. This is something Atkins is investigating as part of a consortium working to develop TOC Ability, a digital platform designed to improve rail travel experience for disabled passengers in the UK.

It is undeniable that smartphone apps are integral to MaaS solutions, both in terms of providing the ability to communicate in real-time and to help nudge behaviours, and are widely used, with 81% of adults in the UK owning a smartphone (Global Mobile Consumer Survey 2016 Deloitte). However, we should not overlook the need to take a human-centred design approach around MaaS and make full use of the valuable insights offered by in-depth user research. 

This combined approach is essential to deliver our ultimate goal - a MaaS service with the functionality and consumer appeal that trumps the flexibility and convenience of private car whilst providing a service that is equitable to all.  

Nafeezah Padamsey is Senior Consultant, Intelligent Mobility, Atkins. She will be running a Zume workshop at Smarter Travel LIVE!

To find our more contact her at: [email protected]


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