Design and Analysis of Vehicle Sharing Programs: A Systems Approach
Miller-Hooks, Elise D
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Transit, touted as a solution to urban mobility problems, cannot match the addictive flexibility of the automobile. 86% of all trips in the U.S. are in personal vehicles. A more recent approach to reduce automobile dependence is through the use of Vehicle Sharing Programs (VSPs). A VSP involves a fleet of vehicles located strategically at stations across the transportation network. In its most flexible form, users are free to check out vehicles at any station and return the vehicle at a station close to their destination. Vehicle fleets are comprised of bicycles, cars or electric vehicles. Such systems offer innovative solutions to the larger mobility problem and can have positive impacts on the transportation system as a whole by reducing urban congestion. This dissertation employs a network modeling framework to quantitatively design and operate VSPs. At the strategic level, the problem of determining the optimal VSP configuration is studied. A bilevel optimization model and associated solution methods are developed and implemented for a large-scale case study in Washington D.C. The model explicitly considers the intermodalism, and views the VSP as a `last-mile' connection of an existing transit network. At the operational level, by transferring control of vehicles to the user for improved system flexibility, exceptional logistical challenges are placed on operators who must ensure adequate vehicle stock (and parking slots) at each station to service all demand. Since demand in the short-term can be asymmetric (flow from one station to another is seldom equal to flow in the opposing direction), service providers need to redistribute vehicles to correct this imbalance. A chance-constrained program is developed that generates least-cost redistribution plans such that most demand in the near future is met. Since the program has a non-convex feasible region, two methods for its solution are developed. The model is applied to a real-world car-sharing system in Singapore where the value of accounting for inherent stochasticities is demonstrated. The framework is used to characterize the efficiency of Velib, a large-scale bicycle sharing system in Paris, France.