One of the most intriguing trends in transport today is Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS). Part business model, part digital marketplace, MaaS is about customer centric, personalised transport. In MaaS, travellers don’t buy the means of transport – they buy the journey.

We need to achieve a huge amount to make this happen – build digital planners and payment platforms, sort out licensing and regulations, and foster collaboration between public and private providers. However, the true foundation of MaaS will be in developing a truly multimodal transportation network.

‘Multimodal’ means completing a journey by more than one mode. Freight by sea and rail, commuters by park and ride. More often that not, multimodal journeys are done out of necessity rather than desire – they aren’t easy, they aren’t quick, and they aren’t cheap. Bike parking isn’t adequate at stations, and timetables between trains and buses don’t line up. The transport network is rarely planned or operated with multimodal transport in mind – and until we change this, we will never achieve the vision of MaaS.

Planning multimodal systems means simulating multimodal systems. We can’t treat travellers as a single, aggregate block – we need to be able to understand the impact on mode choice of a 10-minute wait for the next bus instead of a 2-minute wait. We need to recognise the enormous range of decisions available to people, and how these play out over the course of a day. Activity-based models are key to this, reflecting people’s daily activity patterns rather than individual journeys. We could even go so far as to say every trip you make in a day is just contributing to one big multimodal journey – travelling away from home and then back again.

Dave Williams ( writes on the importance of multimodal transport systems for achieving Mobility as a Service, to read more please see here

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Photo by Pawel Nolbert on Unsplash