How Many Are Too Many?
Analyzing Dockless Bikesharing Systems with a Parsimonious Model
Marco Nie, Ph.D.
April 22, 2022
12:00 PM – 1:00 PM EDT
Using a parsimonious model, this study analyzes a dockless bikesharing (DLB) system in a city, where the DLB service competes with walking and a generic motorized mode. The DLB system operator chooses a fleet size and a fare schedule that dictates the utility of its service. The access time to the service—a crucial component in the utility—is modeled as a function of the number of unique bike locations, which is estimated from the number of idle bikes through an empirical relationship. The market equilibrium is formulated as a solution to a nonlinear equation system, over which three design problems are formulated to maximize respectively (i) profit; (ii) ridership; and (iii) social welfare. We calibrate the model against empirical data collected in Chengdu, China, and test three counterfactual strategies, each for one of the three design problems. We find: (i) the current fleet limit set by Chengdu should be cut by at least 50% to avoid severe oversupply and waste; (ii) maximizing ridership keeps the fare at an affordable level to maintain revenue neutrality while raising ridership and social welfare close to system optimum; (iii) for a regulator seeking to influence the DLB operator for social good, the choice of policy instruments depends on the operator’s objective. When it focuses on profit, limiting price is a much more effective policy than limiting fleet size. If, instead, the operator aims to grow its market share, then setting a limit on fleet size becomes a dominant strategy.
Marco Nie, Ph.D. is currently a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Northwestern University. He received his B.S. in structural engineering from Tsinghua University, his M.S. from National University of Singapore, and his Ph.D. from the University of California, Davis. Dr. Nie’s research covers a variety of topics in the areas of transportation systems analysis, transportation economics, and sustainable transportation. Dr. Nie had served as a member of the TRB committees on Transportation Network Modeling and Traffic flow Theory and Characteristics. He is currently an Associate Editor for Transportation Science, an Area Editor for Networks and Spatial Economics, and a member of the Editorial Advisory Board for Transportmetrica-B and Transportation Research Part B. Dr. Nie’s research has been supported by National Science Foundation, Transportation Research Board, US Department of Transportation, US Department of Energy, and Illinois Department of Transportation.