Realising Equitable Urban Mobility-as-a-Service

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference Abstract


The promise of seamless, personalised urban mobility-on-demand has led to a growing interest in the concept of Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS). With the rise of smarter cities with digital platforms and sensor-enabled infrastructure, realising MaaS increasingly appears as a socio-cultural, commercial and governance challenge, rather than primarily a technological one. However, existing MaaS pilots and scale-up cases appear fragmented, such that a key question for advancing MaaS development remains: How can we think about localising MaaS? Thus far, there is still a limited empirical insight into possible reinforcing ecological relationships between the established transport operators’ business models (Bocken, Boons and Baldassarre, 2019). Indeed, the lack of collaboration between incumbent transport operators (Jittrapirom et al., 2018), as well as the current low percentage of active and public transport modal share of journeys in cities, coupled with inertia in travel behaviour (Rye, 2017), constitute significant risks to the realisation of MaaS. The challenge remains to develop a joint value proposition that would lead to more sustainable business for all operators, more convenient and affordable mobility for users and positive environmental effects for city dwellers. The multi-level perspective (Geels, 2011) and strategic niche management theory (Raven, Van den Bosch, & Weterings, 2010; Schot & Geels, 2008) are established perspectives to understand how innovations take hold at a systems level, and this has been complemented more recently by the business model concept as a firm-level perspective (Bidmon & Knab, 2018). However, further theoretical and methodological development is needed to understand how conflicts and contradictions among stakeholding organisations can be overcome. To address this challenge, this paper considers the potential contribution of cultural-historical activity theory (Engeström, 1987; Karanasios, Riisla, & Simeonova, 2017) for identifying and working through contradicting logics in the pursuit of a seamlessly integrated urban mobility system. Based on a case study, activity theory is applied to highlight the tensions, discuss ensuing contradictions and consider potential approaches for place-based expansive learning processes between activity systems. Specifically, we reflect on activity theories’ capability for engaging actors in working through contradictions. In this way, the paper offers a theoretical and methodological contribution to advance our understanding of sustainable transitions towards equitable MaaS.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 24 Feb 2019
Event International Sustainability Transitions Conference - Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada
Duration: 23 Jun 201926 Jun 2019
Conference number: 10


Conference International Sustainability Transitions Conference
Abbreviated titleIST 2019
Internet address


  • transitions; mobility-as-a-service; urban; city

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