Can Pittsburgh succeed with its new integrated mobility system where Finland, the birthplace of the so-called Mobility as a Service (MaaS) concept, has failed?

The experts David Zipper spoke to for Bloomberg CityLab think there are challenges.

In 2015, Sampo Hietanen founded MaaS Global, the Helsinki-based startup behind Whim, a platform that offers à la carte tickets or packaged mobility subscriptions. But Whim has clashed with HSL, the transit authority of the Helsinki region that has its own ticketing app. Add in the pandemic, and the MaaS concept has faltered.

Aside from Whim’s particular issues, Zipper writes that the industry just may not be viable:

“As I’ve argued before in Bloomberg CityLab, it’s tough to build a viable business aggregating tiny commissions from individual trips costing only a few euros or dollars each. Other MaaS models are possible, like selling services to employers rather than individuals, or licensing a MaaS platform to transit agencies. But it isn’t clear that those models have been any more effective at inducing mode shift away from driving.”

Philippe Crist, an adviser for innovation at the OECD’s International Transport Forum, tells Zipper that MaaS needs a “transparent governance structure that prevents transit authorities and private companies from falling into a spiral of dysfunction.”

That could be an advantage for Pittsburgh since the city itself will manage the program and has leverage through its exclusive permits with private sector participants. It also helps that Port Authority is not in competition with the program.

Move PGH also offers ticketing across a broader range of mobility services than any prior U.S. MaaS deployment: Only ride-hailing service is currently lacking,” Zipper writes.

The Transit app connects Pittsburgh’s traditional public transportation, such as buses, with emerging modes, such as electric scooters and mopeds, in a single, easy-to-use system.

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