Acronyms that Will Change our Communities: MaaS and LML

Source: Navigant Research

You know something is destined to become the Next Big Thing when a business research firm like Navigant Research starts charging $1,800 for special reports on the subject. I can’t afford to pay that kind of money, but I do subscribe to Navigant’s alerts to keep tabs on the hottest, most hyped trends in the business world.

Let me introduce two acronyms: MaaS (Mobility as a Service) and LML (Last Mile Logistics). I have discussed mobility as a service several times on this blog — the idea of subscribing to mobility services, such as access to cars, taxi rides, buses, mass transit and even bicycles — rather than owning the transportation assets outright. LML, a new acronym to me, refers to the local delivery of food, small packages and even consumer appliances directly to the home.

The Navigant report, “The Future of Last-Mile Logistics,” explores the intersection of the two. States the executive summary (which is all I have access to):

The biggest challenge today for LML is congestion and parking in large cities. The development of MaaS applications offers a potential solution. In the near future, a MaaS service for a city or local region is likely to deploy a fleet of automated vehicles (ranging from single-person vehicles to minibuses) designed to move large numbers of people to work during rush hour and deliver on-demand transport during off peak hours. This type of fleet would have excess capacity available outside peak hours to perform functions like small parcel and takeout food delivery and would be able to take waste away in bags for recycling or disposal. If the fleet resource is shared effectively, operating single-purpose vehicles for delivery will no longer be necessary for many businesses.

Integrated, shared fleets for MaaS offer the potential for new LML options and delivery cost savings for businesses. Automated driving vehicles are critical for the success of these service models in the long term, while drones have the potential to become a cost-effective solution for deliveries to remote locations.

Got that? Mobility-service companies, be they tech companies like Google and Uber or traditional automobile companies like Ford, General Motors and Mercedes Benz, are preparing for the day when companies operate fleets of driverless cars, vans and buses that operate 24/7. Peak demand for these vehicles will occur during traditional rush hours when people travel between home and work. As demand drops off during the mid-day, cars can be kept busy — and assets continually utilized — by converting them into delivery vehicles.

The potential ramifications are mind-boggling:

  • Car ownership. Many people will find it cheaper and preferable to buy the ride rather than own the car. Demand for garages will plummet. (Expect millions of garages to be converted to man caves.)
  • Parking. Demand for parking will crater, freeing up tremendous urban and suburban space for conversion to different uses. Walkability will improve in areas with urban density, and low-value parking lots and parking decks will be converted to high-value offices, apartments and condos. urban uses. That’s good for the urban tax base. Suburban localities, with their vast tracts of acreage dedicated to parking, will be most severely impacted, especially if they maintain mandated parking ratios and prevent the land from being recycled.
  • Fewer errands. As retailers become more proficient at delivering packages, people will conduct more business online and rely upon home delivery. Insofar as improved home delivery improves the competitive advantage of online retailers, expect further decline of traditional stores and an eventual crisis in retail-oriented real estate development. Dwellings may have to be reconfigured to accept delivery of these items, especially groceries that require refrigeration. Great for renovations contractors and Home Depot!
  • Longer commutes. Driverless cars may make long commutes less onerous by allowing “drivers” to surf the web, read email and do work while commuting. Longer commutes could encourage more leapfrog development — to some degree offsetting the competitive advantage to urban areas of less parking.
  • Demise of mass transit. Driverless vans and buses will gain market share from mass transit companies with high costs and rigid schedules. Poor people will benefit from the wider range of choices. Mass transit companies will fight for their existence. Urban jurisdictions will face the question: to subsidize or let fail.

These bullet points are all speculative. For all practical purposes, it is impossible to anticipate how the MaaS and LML revolution will pan out. The interactions are too complex for mere mortals to anticipate all possible outcomes.

What we can say for sure is that the transportation future will be very different in 10 to 15 years than it is now. Transportation is a major driving force behind land use, and we can say with equal certainty that land use patterns will be very different as well — although change will come much more slowly.

Here in Virginia, cities and counties that put a premium on flexibility and adaptability will thrive. Those that rigidly adhere to outdated zoning and comprehensive plans will lose.

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7 responses to “Acronyms that Will Change our Communities: MaaS and LML

  1. These concepts expressed as MaaS and LML are yet more potential innovations that might be incorporated into ever more effective tax incentivized traffic eating development zones discussed towards the end of my long comment found in the preceding article Hey, I-66 Whiners, Join a friggin Carpool!

    At this point, I suspect major obstacles to gridlock solutions in Virginia is the state’s lack of a political and legal infrastructure that can carry out reforms. And while this poses particular obstacles to finding solutions in Northern Virginia, it applies to most everywhere in the state to lesser and greater degrees. It is very hard to get big comprehensive development ideas executed in the state, and many places in the state suffer greatly from it. The eastern shore of Va. is a classic example. Compare it to Md. Eastern shore.

  2. This will be viewed as the “elites” trying to take away people’s cars. Offering a service to people is one thing. Look at Uber and Lyft. But the anti-car types will push for mandatory.

    And this requires 5G radio technology in every vehicle. 5G technology generally will use millimeter wave band frequencies that have tremendous capacity, but require line of site between transmitters and antennae. Also, many small cells. I think initial rollout will be in dense areas and along freeways, just like cellular was.

    And with people keeping cars much longer, even reaching a tipping point will take a long time. This may well be further in the future than we think.

    • I tend to agree. Tremendous conflicts of cultures and rights at play in all of this. And as promising as these technologies are, they are also frightening in their potential for a few to gain control of the many. That is happening right now, although its not a obvious often times as it may seem.

  3. Changes like these are never in si·tu, They have to come online in parallel with the existing framework,paradigms.

    Like cell phones did not replace land lines… or myriad other changes and technological transformations.

    I’m not in disagreement with TMT comment about “elites” although it’s also a little akin to the reaction against dynamic tolling….

    The “poor” are not going to be taking Uber when Uber is charging surge pricing!!! So how will Uber or Uber-like services “replace” fixed-route transit for the same low price no matter the time?

    and call me a skeptic – but you can right now ride a bus on a long commute and do “stuff” so is the idea that self-driving vehicles – solo vehicles with one or two occupants going to “replace” current bus/van/carpooling? I seriously doubt it unless those vehicles are going to be using the HOT lanes…paying a toll.. or carry the requisite amount of passengers to qualify for the “free ride”?

    Will people in the exurbs no longer drive to carpool lots to transfer to vans, buses, carpools and the “autonomous” vehicles pick them up at their homes and take them directly to their 50-mile-away jobs?

    There are lots and lots of unresolved issues that I assert – will not be resolved by major changes in the existing infrastructure and framework. The new guys will have to somehow adapt to the current environment and work that way – until the day when the older things made obsolete slowly drop away.

    So.. take transit – we’re not going to “replace” transit with whatever concept is currently being ballyhooed… nope… whatever those concepts are – they will have to come online along-side of transit – prove their superiority – side-by-side , over time and basically win by people choosing them and no longer choosing transit.

    Sort of like someone getting a cell phone first -then … over time.. deciding they no longer need their land line… but if you check around there are STILL lots and lots of folks who have cell phones and landlines and do not intend to give up their land lines. To wit – when new subdivisions are built – the buried phone lines still go in. At what point in time will we build new development and the landlines will not be supplied because everything will be done on cell? I think … a long time… and not in our lifetime will we see development built – without landlines..

    similarly when it comes to these new “acronyms” MaaS and LML – they’re not in situ replacements.. they are going to be coming online in parallel to existing services – and more important, infrastructure.

    Autonomous cars will not get their own lanes.. they’ll have to work in the existing infrastructure world.. and intermingle with human-driven vehicles.

    And no.. I do not think autonomous vehicles with one occupant will get a free ride on the HOT lanes.. The rules will remain the same. If you drive solo -you pay a toll.. if you carpool – you get the free ride. Under those conditions – how is that any different in terms of things riders can do while en route or any time savings? I just don’t see a huge gain – with the exception that for paid services – a driverless vehicle might save money.. “might”… computers… software.. more accidents… etc.. might take a while before the actual savings are real… especially if insurance companies don’t see autonomous vehicles as “safer” if they’re still traveling on roads with other vehicles with drivers…

    Finally – in terms of “on call” services. No matter how good they get – the decision to go get in your car and go somewhere – at the exact minute you wish to do so – is not the same as having to figure out a specific time when you want to go AND – reliably have that vehicle there – at that exact specified time.

    simple example.. you need to get to the grocery store to get an item for dinner that you thought you had… The grocery store is less than a mile away and you can get there and get back in less then 10 minutes. Convince me that you’re going to call up an autonomous vehicle to get you there or have one deliver your forgotten item in ten minutes – for a reasonable price?
    Call me a skeptic… these are things you’ll give up when you give up your car and rely on “on-call services”.

    • Years ago, when Fairfax County supervisor John Foust was first running for that office, he had a poll conducted on construction of the Silver Line. He later shared the results with me. Two points stuck with me.

      One is a majority of those polled preferred that there be no Silver Line unless the tracks were buried under Tysons.

      Two and relevant to this discussion, a plurality of supporters of the Silver Line wanted it built so that other people would take it and open the roads for the supporters. These are not the people who want to ban cars or, at least, gasoline engine cars. But rather, they are people who want the unwashed masses to get out of their cars. While this might just be human nature and I might be too hard on the plurality, there is a strong element of desiring to control other people’s behavior among both the ban all cars-make everyone live in a small apartment crowd and “do as I say, not as I do” crowd.

  4. There are a lot of very complex interactions among enormous investments being forecast here: among IT technology, government, housing, our entire road infrastructure, vehicle design, ownership and maintenance, safety, commuting, parking, privacy, societal way-of-life.

    I’ve got a terrific old edition of Popular Mechanics with pages of comic-book-style graphics of the “city of the future.” Lots of moving walkways and personal helicopters.

    Not that change won’t happen. But it probably won’t look very much like what we imagine today. And I’m with TMT and Reed, the politicians today are incapable of easing us into such a new world, and the Luddite backlash along the way will be massive. This will take generations to sort out.

    I’m not holding my breath. I have to run pick up the package the drone just dropped in my front yard before the neighbor’s dog tears it up . . . .

  5. yes… this could right be called “The Popular Mechanics Effect”:

    from the Smithsonian Magazine: ” The Jetsons didn’t invent the flying car, but it sure did a lot to cement the idea of the airborne automobile into the American imagination. The third episode of “The Jetsons” is the show’s first in-depth look at the cars of the future. Titled “The Space Car,” the episode originally aired on Sunday October 7, 1962.”

    Now for some of us 1962 was just a few years ago..but in the harsh light of reality – it was half a century ago… yes….. sad news to some… 😉

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