Netflix-of-transportation app guiding users toward sustainable mode choices

By Saumya Jain

The Whim app , which some call the “Netflix of transportation,” is now a year old. The app works on the principle of mobility as a service (MaaS) and partners with local public and private transportation providers, bundling transit and taxi fares, bikeshare trips, and other mobility services into a monthly subscription with tickets based on the regional mode choice and travel behavior. An international engineering and design consultancy recently analyzed the app data from the first year of user data in its home city of Helsinki and released a report shedding light on the impacts of the app on users’ travel mode choices. The overall takeaway from the analysis is, “MaaS does not change the transport system itself; rather, it facilitates a more dynamic and inclusive use of the existing one.”

The results from the analysis show that the public transit modal share of Whim users is 1.5 times that of the average Helsinki resident. Based on the user data, the last/first mile accessibility analysis shows an increased bicycle trips before and  after public transportation trips. It also shows that Whim users combine taxis with public transport three times more often compared to the typical Helsinki resident. Both of these findings indicate an improved first/last mile connectivity with the use of the app. When user participation and activity was mapped out for the city, most early adopters were from areas with high public transport access, and the usage of the app grew along existing public transport corridors. These results highlight a strong interdependence between MaaS and public transportation network.

Figure 1: Average Sustainable Transportation Modal share of Whim users compared to the Helsinki city sub-set of the National Travel Survey (Source: Whimpact, Ramboll)

After doing an accessibility analysis, the researchers concluded that there would be excellent opportunities for increased multimodal and bicycle use with the app. The study also concludes that new multimodal transportation solutions would be able to replace many daily car trips for MaaS users.

The results from the study show that though the success of MaaS strongly depends on the strength of the underlying public transportation network, MaaS also significantly helps in increasing the public transit mode share and adoption of sustainable first/last mile connections. The Whim app will soon launch in select cities in Asia and North America, and the results from the study may provide useful insights for policy makers in predicting early adoption and impacts.

Saumya Jain is a Senior Associate at SSTI.