MaaS: bringing the workforce on the journey

Sabine Trier, Deputy General Secretary, Railways and Urban Public Transport, European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF), gives her take on MaaS, describing how it is crucial that all stakeholders in any MaaS platform ensure fair working and regulatory conditions.  

MaaS: bringing the workforce on the journey

Is MaaS replacing the notion of “public services”?

The concept of Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) is closely linked with digitalisation, the platform economy and the spread of smart phones. Digitalisation generated new business models in urban mobility, such as Uber for ride hailing and new micromobility services like shared e-scooters.

Big tech firms discovered urban mobility, with the likes of Google largely investing in Uber and collecting data. The debate on climate change, air pollution and congested cities challenges the use of private cars in cities and motivated big car manufacturers to get involved in new businesses like car-sharing and on-demand services, often in cooperation with IT start-ups. A good example is the ride sharing service MOIA from Volkswagen AG that claims it will become one of the world’s leading mobility service providers by 2025.

Fair working conditions of staff must be ensured by all providers of mobility services participating in MaaS

In a second step, the idea of a one-stop-shop platform was promoted, which integrates all mobility service options into one app, with one information, planning, booking and payment system. It is no surprise that this concept was generally supported by the new actors in the urban mobility arena.

This became the concept of MaaS, which is strongly promoted by the European Commission. MaaS seems to be the solution for sustainable urban mobility, solving problems in air polluted, congested cities, promising to make mobility so easy that people replace their private cars by a bundle of easy, tailor-made mobility solutions.

But MaaS is more than an app or an online platform. It can be disruptive and severely influence urban mobility patterns, thus having an important impact on public policy goals. It depends on the governance and the access conditions that are influencing the so-called policy-mix, thus preventing, for example, that ride sharing or ride hailing services just replace collective public transport services.

More importantly, providing sustainable urban mobility to citizens is more than organising a platform called MaaS. Providing sustainable urban mobility is first of all a public service for citizens.

Mobility is a citizens’ right and this is even more relevant for urban and regional mobility, where people need mobility to travel to work, visit families and friends and participate in social life.

Urban mobility must be environmentally and socially sustainable, reduce air pollution and congestion, be safe and secure for women and the disabled, and be accessible, affordable and inclusive, all while offering quality services for all citizens.

To participate in the MaaS platform, policymakers and public authorities must regulate the access conditions

And finally, urban mobility must be relevant for jobs. The urban public transport operator is often the biggest single employer in a city and often – unfortunately not always – offers secure jobs and quality employment. New mobility providers, to the contrary, whose business models are based on platforms, apps and smart phones, are often part of the gig economy, refusing to recognise their role as an employer and exploiting people with precarious working conditions.

The concept of MaaS, as such, does not include public policy goals for socially and environmentally sustainable urban mobility. MaaS without definition of public policy goals, public control over the platforms and a clear regulatory framework that defines the standards and conditions for operators and service providers alike, is just a platform that replaces the notion of mobility as a public service. Politicians and authorities, when not acting, are giving away their capacity to shape urban mobility and allowing private business interests to determine the mobility in their cities. It is indeed a big challenge to get it right.

MaaS has to be governed by policy goals and needs a clear regulatory framework

It is a political decision how mobility is organised and which strategy to pursue to ensure sustainable urban mobility. Policy makers and public (transport) authorities have to decide and manage urban mobility. In a democratic process they have to define policy goals and the mobility mix they want to achieve. Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans (SUMP) are a good instrument to use.

[MaaS] can be disruptive and severely influence urban mobility patterns, thus having an important impact on public policy goals

The design of MaaS should avoid the risk of shifting from collective public transport to individual modes (car or ride sharing, ride hailing, individual on-demand services) and a disruption of collective urban mobility services. Mass transport modes like bus, tram or metro must remain the backbone of urban mobility. There are many good arguments why collective public transport should remain in public hands. 

The MaaS platform manager must be under public control, in public hands and the public transport authority should be the MaaS platform provider. It might allocate the task to its own public transport operator. Leaving MaaS to the private sector risks covering the most profitable part of the market, leading to a two-tiered approach to urban mobility, disrupting public transport.

Europcar Mobility Group completes financing scheme to ensure restart post-pandemicLocal, regional and national regulation is necessary to define the conditions for mobility services providers to offer their services under socially fair conditions in order to ensure fair competition. To participate in the MaaS platform, policymakers and public authorities must regulate the access conditions. They must ensure public policy goals, all services must be accessible, affordable, inclusive, safe and secure and of good quality. Good quality services include good quality working conditions.

Fair working conditions of staff must be ensured by all providers of mobility services participating in MaaS. Authorities should link the requirement to respect minimum social conditions based on collective bargaining agreements with trade unions when issuing licenses to mobility service providers. This will help bring the workforce on the journey.

MaaS can be a good instrument to provide quality mobility services to citizens as a public service with collective public transport, walking and cycling as the backbone. However, that needs political decisions, governance, and the right regulatory framework.


Sabine Trier, Economist, started her professional career as policy advisor in the Chamber for Handicraft Professions in Hannover, Germany, before moving to Brussels in 1991, working as parliamentary assistant for two Members of European Parliament. Since 1997, Sabine works for the European Transport Workers’ Federation and became its Deputy General Secretary in 2005.