Since 2016, residents of Helsinki (a third the size of Auckland) have been using what's called the Netflix of transport to get around their city. Travelers use an app, called Whim, to plan and pay for their journey on public transport, taxis, bikes, share operators and rental cars.

Vienna, a little bigger than Auckland, began testing its version of the same integrated transport mobility app, which they called Smile, in late 2014. Two years ago a private company transformed it into the WienMobil Lab app and today Vienna citizens also have one place to go for their complete journey.

There's a name for these transport developments: Mobility as a Service, or MaaS, a digital platform that brings together trip planning, ticketing and payment for all transport modes, public and private, into one application.

It's a dominant international trend as new technology creates much greater integration possibilities. But you will find no reference to it in the recently released $28 billion, 48-page Auckland Transport Alignment Project (Atap) update. There is also little mention of the transformational benefits of technology.


MaaS is referred to in the Draft Regional Land Transport Plan for Auckland released a few days after the Atap update, but is considered just an "opportunity". Remarkably, in the proposed 10-year plan for transport in Auckland, MaaS and new technology scarcely get a page.

Mobility as a Service is such a significant development the MaaS Alliance, a public-private partnership, has been created within the European Union to fully deploy new technology approaches throughout Europe.

Auckland's land transport plan does, however, clearly describe the problem. Despite record growth in public transport, up 31 per from 2014 to 2017, kilometers travelled have also increased by 13 per cent over a similar period. This may be why neither the Transport minister nor the mayor gave any detail about the expected congestion reduction after Atap's $28b is spent.

Happily, the land transport plan obliged. Its analysis shows even with major investment, by 2046 morning and afternoon peak congestion will deteriorate by 29 per cent and inter-peak by 38 per cent. It is even worse news for freight congestion, which will increase by 50 per cent.

Technology is underweighted in Auckland's transport plans partly because of the ironically titled technology report prepared under the previous Government for Atap version 1 in mid-2016. It concluded despite the growing international consensus transport will be disrupted by new technologies (Uber launched in Auckland two years earlier), there was a high degree of uncertainty about them. This lack of confidence seems to persist under this Government.

This attitude is in marked contrast to cities like Vienna and Calgary in Canada, both above Auckland on the Economists' most liveable cities list and that have technology at the heart of their transport plans.

Next door in Australia, the Future Transport New South Wales plan released in March has Mobility as a Service and new technology at its foundation because, as the plan states, the next 40 years will see more technology-led transformation than the past two centuries.

Yet, in a parallel universe, Kiwi technology innovation in other areas is taking off. In last year's Harvard Business Review's digital evolution index, New Zealand was one of only five countries in the Stand Out category - a little below Singapore.

Stand Out countries are highly digitally advanced and are leaders in driving innovation. This may be true of Fisher & Paykel, Rocket Lab and Xero, but it's not true of transport planning.

The Government and Auckland Transport need to invest more confidently and more quickly in the new transport technology approaches our competitor cities have adopted. AT should produce a final land transport plan that contains Auckland's version of Transport NSW's vision that the future of mobility is customer-focused, data-enabled and dynamic.

Auckland (and New Zealand's) transport strategy should be reframed around Mobility as a Service. Auckland Transport should allow a provider to implement an integrated transport app (if it can't do it itself).

Transport data should be openly shared with all transport providers to improve planning and boost collaboration. Government agencies should fast track freight companies' move to block chain (a public transaction system) to help reduce freight congestion.

Netflix will not be the end of online entertainment viewing and Auckland's first MaaS application won't end its transport troubles. But by being much more open to the changes technology is bringing us, we can be better prepared to transport ourselves to a less congested future.

• Mark Thomas leads a smart cities enterprise based in Singapore and is a member of the Australia New Zealand Urban Mobility Taskforce. He was an elected member of the Auckland Council from 2010-16.