Each journey begins with the objective of arriving at a specific destination at a set time. Stemming from this, the traveller then selects the mode of transportation that best suits the purpose. To make an informed choice, it is crucial to have information that enables the comparison of every available option. Considering the capabilities of modern digital platforms, the most efficient and logical way to aggregate route planning information is via mobile apps on a smartphone.
At first glance, most of the transportation services in Baltic countries already seem to be digital: electronic tickets are used for public transport, trains, and ferries; ride-sharing services are available through mobile apps. Everything is smooth and works conveniently, just as long as only one mode of transportation is used.
Travelling from the countryside to the suburban area of the capital city of any of the Baltic states requires the use of at least three different transportation services; in some cases, even up to four or five. The journey may start with a long-distance bus or train. Upon reaching the capital, there's public transport, taxis, ride-hailing services, or perhaps a rental bike or scooter. Each leg of the journey requires a separate payment in at least three different environments; matching the transportation schedules is an additional challenge on top of that. How to make the use of different mobility services more convenient? The answer combines two concepts: Mobility as a Service (MaaS) and a super-app .
A mobility super-app should provide access to most, if not all, mobility services available in the area. The app needs to offer seamless journey planning, allowing users to effortlessly select the fastest or most economical transport option from multiple choices, and provide a convenient, unified payment solution for the entire trip. The use of such a mobility app would certainly make life easier for passengers and encourage them to consider alternatives to private vehicles. Additionally, a comprehensive mobility solution offers advantages to stakeholders in both the public and private sectors. The extensive implementation of MaaS will reduce reliance on privately owned cars in more than one way.
Shifting from a single service-centric model to a comprehensive route-based trip planning approach not only lessens the reliance on personal vehicles but also evenly distributes passengers across the transportation network, thereby reducing overall traffic congestion.
User data is important for any digital environment, including the digital mobility ecosystem. Detailed information about people's travel patterns is essential for keeping the transport network up-to-date, both at the national and local levels. The more precise the data, the easier it becomes to reorganise public transport to cover areas with the highest demand. Using big data, it is also possible to assess a country's strategic needs for expanding the transport network and directing investments even more accurately.
There are already several emerging MaaS super-apps globally, such as Moovit (USA, South America, Israel), Whim (Finland, Switzerland, Japan), and Floya (Belgium), to name a few. In the Baltic states, the only app with MaaS-like functionality is the Lithuanian-based Trafi .
Trafi has successfully facilitated deep integrations with mobility services in various countries. This includes Floya, which is built on Trafi's white-label platform. At this point, however, the Trafi app only connects travellers to the public transport network in some Lithuanian towns.
There is currently no app available in Latvia or Estonia that would correspond to the criteria of MaaS. However, there is cause for optimism. The development of the MAAS XT application is one such reason. Additionally, there's a collaborative project between Tallinn and Tartu municipalities to develop a MaaS platform, which is supported by the European Regional Development Fund.
However, there are several important issues to consider for a project of this scope, such as its scale (be it cross-border, national, or regional), funding sources, and how it will integrate with the digital platforms of mobility service providers. The issue of big data management is also crucial, both from a data protection and business confidentiality perspective. Individual users and service providers alike need assurance that data flowing through the MaaS super-app remains secure.
Super-apps and MaaS are part of the future. A well-designed, user-friendly, and secure super app would benefit all stakeholders. The question of such a service reaching the Baltics doesn't start with 'if,' but with 'when.' In the long run, the application would contribute to reducing dependence on private cars and establishing a service-based approach to mobility. However, transitioning from the current fragmented approach to a unified ecosystem requires thorough preparation, which should begin today.