We gained some invaluable experience in running this short experiment. We also observed a refreshingly positive attitude toward public transport once people experienced it anew.
The key takeaway is that, despite it's popularity with participants, bus on demand isn't appealing commercially. This is for two main reasons:
- Cost of driver. In the end autonomous vehicles will solve this, in the meantime car sharing looks like it could work if you could sort out the routing/pickups in a slick way.
- Density of riders/common destinations. You really need a tight geographical zone to make it work.
However, we did prove that it was possible to get people to switch from commuting in their own car to our service; that a majority of participants would consider ZUME as a replacement for a second car; and that some participants would have happily paid to continue.
What did participants in our trial think of our service?
Based on surveys completed by our participants, ZUME offered a desirable alternative to second car ownership to the majority of our participants
Satisfaction rated highly with an average 'in-trial' rating of 4 out of 5 and an NPS of 8.
2 of our 10 participants would have paid to continue with ZUME, as an alternative to their existing commute.
What did we learn about the ‘bus on demand’ element of the model?
The major cost to ZUME was the driver and this would be challenging, but necessary, to negate to make ZUME viable. Also, without a critical mass of passengers and cars, it is hard to achieve efficient ride occupancy.
Flexibility is an important factor – too much makes it hard to run a viable service, too little makes it undesirable to passengers.
What did we learn about customers and the MaaS concept?
Participants demonstrated a refreshingly positive attitude toward public transport as they experienced it anew.
It was always going to be difficult to compete with the convenience of personal transport. To be successful MaaS will need to provide a frictionless experience, and ways will need to be found to shake people out of deep seated habits. Pricing models will have to work hard to compete with the 'sunken' costs of motoring.
Is there a CONSENSUS on congestion?
Attitudes towards current congestion busting ideas are mixed – a clear consensus is not emerging in Cambridge about how to tackle congestion. MaaS is not currently featuring in discussions about how to tackle congestion, which presents an opportunity for us to inform the debate and present alternatives to 'banning cars' and 'building roads'.
Other local players
Contrary to our initial assumptions, other local transport operators do not perceive the concept of ZUME as a threat – quite the opposite. Unexpectedly, the trial help to attract the positive attention of Stagecoach (who we have met with and who are keen to have further conversations) and Zipcar who are already considering development of multi-modal additions to their existing proposition. We have also built an excellent relationship with Cambridge's largest taxi firm, Panther, through the trial.
Running a shuttle service was hard for us, but we learned alot about the focus that would be required to help with automating/standardising procedures for other MaaS pilots.
Though there was definite interest in what we had to offer – over 60 people contacted us with an interest in taking part (at the risk of screwing up their commute) - It was hard for us to find a critical mass of interested participants within any one area so we would need to think carefully about future trial recruitmen
Any MaaS service needs excellent people and vehicle tracking. Simply put, the GPS tracking technologically available to us was not accurate enough for us to reliably manage customers without direct communications. This was a major limitation and barrier to scale.
Operation of a ZUME type service is heavily dependent on factors we cannot control I.e. Reliability of the bus service, school run congestion.