A Ride-Sharing System with High Capacity Vehicles and Flexible Meeting Points
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In many major cities, fixed route transit systems such as bus and rail serve millions of trips per day. These systems have people collect at common locations (the station or stop), and board at common times (for example according to a predetermined schedule or headway). By using common service locations and times, these modes can consolidate many trips that have similar origins and destinations or overlapping routes. However, the routes are not sensitive to changing travel patterns, and have no way of identifying which trips are going unserved, or are poorly served, by the existing routes. On the opposite end of the spectrum, personal modes of transportation, such as a private vehicle or taxi, offer service to and from the exact origin and destination of a rider, at close to exactly the time they desire to travel. Despite the apparent increased convenience to users, the presence of a large number of small vehicles results in a disorganized, and potentially congested road network during high demand periods. The focus of the research presented in this paper is to develop a system that possesses both the on-demand nature of a personal mode, with the efficiency of shared modes. In this system, users submit their request for travel, but are asked to make small compromises in their origin and destination location by walking to a nearby meeting point, as well as slightly modifying their time of travel, in order to accommodate other passengers. Because the origin and destination location of the request can be adjusted, this is a more general case of the Dial-a-Ride problem with time windows. The solution methodology uses a graph clustering algorithm coupled with a greedy insertion technique. A case study is presented using actual requests for taxi trips in Washington DC, and shows a significant decrease in the number of vehicles required to serve the demand.