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articles - 2 Nov 2016

‘Gaining access to what we need without travel is re-shaping services’ writes Alistair Kirkbride in Mobility Matters for Local Transport Today

“Mobility” is everywhere. “Mobility as a Service” (MaaS) is increasingly filling column inches and conference halls, and many car manufacturers and rail companies are re-branding as “mobility service providers”.
  But do we really have a clear understanding – or any agreement – of what mobility means? And shouldn’t we really be looking at “Accessibility as a Service” – the argument being that people’s primary need is to access things (jobs, shops, friends etc) rather than to travel?   We should start by looking backwards at people’s lifestyles now compared to, say, a generation ago through a transport lens. In addition to the well-rehearsed changes in public transport use, walking, cycling and car use, the big change is the ability to access stuff via smart phones and the internet without needing to travel. We can have contact with friends, family and colleagues without having to physically move. We increasingly access services and information without needing to travel, and goods come to us rather than us having to go to fetch them.   Stark examples of this are from a current smartphone marketing campaign[1] “…the young generation are pioneering new ways [with smartphones] to do business, create social movements and reach out to millions” and an app that gives me an online video appointment with a GP in a few hours rather than a few days (so long as I am prepared to pay).   Furthermore, someone delivering anything from my groceries, a book or packet of paper clips to my door in no time is now the norm rather than the exception for many.   Only a few years ago, we would have travelled to buy these. For the purposes of the train of argument, let’s not question the comparative impacts, ethics or politics of these developments, but focus on what they mean for modern lifestyles and the need for mobility.   It all suggests that somewhere between “mobility” and “accessibility” might sit “connectedness”. In this context, connectedness means the ability to access what we need – either by making journeys (mobility) or our smartphones, tablets or computers. It is not the same as “connectivity” – which implies lubricated travel.   “Connectedness as a service” (CaaS) then looks interesting in that not travelling (because we can access stuff via the web) effectively becomes a mode alongside the other components of mobility when we are planning compelling lifestyle packages.  
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