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Academic Lecture: Anti-Trust in the Digital Age: Open-Data and the MaaS (Mobility as a Service) Industry

Speaker: Prof.Hendrik Wolff, Simon Fraser University

Moderator: Prof. Xiaoguang CHEN, Research Institute of Economics and Management, SWUFE

TimeSeptember 30, 2021 (Thursday) 10:00-11:30 AM

Virtual Platform: ZOOM Link

OrganizersResearch Institute of Economics and Management, Office of International Exchange and Cooperation, Research Office  

Speaker's Profile

Hendrik Wolff is Professor of Economics at Simon Fraser University, Burnaby (close to Vancouver), Canada. He is co-editor of the Journal of Environmental Economics and Management and on the editorial council of the new journal, Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists (JAERE). He received a PhD in agricultural and resource economics from the University of California, Berkeley. Hendrik's main research is in environmental economics, working at the intersection of transportation, air pollution, energy and health.

Lecture Preview

Recent years have seen an unprecedent growth of new Mobility as a Service (MaaS) options: ride-hailing, shared bicycles, electric scooters and more. This new industry presents potentially transforming opportunities to our cities, but also new challenges. In this paper, we first characterize the MaaS industry and demonstrate that there exist strong platform economic network effects within firms which tend to produce monopolistic market outcomes. As a consequence, cities are often dominated by one or two large mobility players. So far, policy makers have reacted with traditional anti-trust tools: i) implementing a cap system that does not build on the natural benefits of the platform effects (and that led to inflated medallion values, for example in the taxi industry) and ii) exclusive contracts between the city and operators, which lends itself to inefficient rent seeking. In this paper we propose a new anti-trust policy that leverages the dynamics of the platform economy to enable a more competitive market. Our new policy requires real time data sharing between operators and an aggregator market. We show that this open data policy provides at minimum the same welfare gains to the consumer, while also providing access to small firms to enter an otherwise highly restrictive market via intermediary firms (aggregators), hence expecting lower marginal cost of mobility provision, reduced waiting times as well increases in niche products. Indeed, some jurisdictions (Finland, British Columbia, Seattle, and Los Angeles) 2 have already begun deploying “open data” initiatives. Our paper provides the conceptual basis for such new data driven approaches. We provide details on the data architecture design and tradeoffs, including lessons from failed initiatives, and describe the potential welfare effects on consumers, suppliers, the government and the environment, compared to traditional anti-trust regulation.