Everyone seems to think that MaaS (Mobility-as-a-Service) is a brand-new business model, when in fact, Transit Agencies have been providing mobility as a service for years, just without the hyphens. When I ride transit I just pay for the service when I need it or purchase a monthly pass if I expect to use it regularly. This is similar to the “as-a-Service” model that has been popularized by software companies who moved away from the license model where users pay a one-time fee to purchase the software. They now offer a subscription model where users pay a recurring fee to use the software. I’ve ridden transit for many years and have never had to buy a bus or train. Sounds like Mobility-as-a-Service to me.

While some of the newer MaaS providers like Uber have had their challenges, they have certainly raised the bar on providing an excellent customer experience both in planning the trip and paying for it. Consult Hyperion has been working with several transit agencies to improve the payment experience for their riders. Below are some things riders can look forward to as they return to a more “normal” routine.

Many transit agencies are launching Open Payment projects that allow customers to tap their contactless or mobile bank card at the turnstile and pay for their ride just like they pay for everything else they do in their life. You don’t have to convert your money into Whole Foods money to buy groceries. Why do you have to do that to ride the transit systems in New York, London or Hong Kong? Another advantage is that these riders don’t have to learn the agency’s fare rules to buy the proper ticket. Do I need a Peak or Off-Peak ticket? Will $20 be enough balance on my Transit Card for the weekend? None of that matters as the Fare Collection System will calculate the proper fare for them. They simply tap and ride.

And for those riders who want to separate the charges for their transit rides from their other payment activities, account-based systems use closed loop cards to make that easy to do. You can load funds via a ticket vending machine, retail network location or agency website and tap and ride. And if you want to be high-tech about it, some agencies offer their closed loop cards in Apple Pay and Google Pay so you can just add the card to your mobile wallet, fund it via your bank card, app store account or (in some cases) the retail network, and just tap and ride. And with auto-reload enabled, you will never see the dreaded “Load Funds” error message at the turnstile as your train arrives.

Many agencies are taking other lessons from the new MaaS providers and are providing On Demand services to the general public in certain geographic areas. Transit agencies have been providing On Demand services to their Paratransit customers for a long time. Paratransit vehicles do not run on a fixed schedule or route. Instead, riders schedule a trip beforehand, and a vehicle will be dispatched for their trip. Agencies are now expanding that concept to provide On Demand trips for the general public in areas that have low ridership. It saves the agency money and it improves customer satisfaction. DART (Dallas, TX) expanded their On Demand service called GoLink from 18 areas to 31 areas in December.

So, if you are looking to plan your commute back into the office, or just need to get into town, don’t forget to check out the original Mobility-as-a-Service provider – your local transit agency. You may just find some changes that make public transit your best choice to ride.

Also, if you’re attending the US Payments Forum Payments Summit in Salt Lake City, be sure to attend the session on Payments in Transit and Transportation on 2 March. Lawrence Sutton, a Principal Consultant at Consult Hyperion will be on a panel with representatives from Cubic, Sound Transit and others.

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