Abstract: In today’s urban mobility marketplaces, both operational policies (e.g., matching, routing) and economic mechanisms (e.g., pricing, incentives) affect perceptions of Quality of Service (QoS) and users’ mobility choices. These, in turn, affect both operational objectives (e.g., utilization, vehicle-miles travelled) and economic objectives (e.g., profit, welfare). We study these complex interactions between behavior, economics, and operations in two settings. First, in commercial ridesharing, we study the problem of pricing exclusive vs. shared service to maximize profit, while incorporating QoS guarantees (motivated by recent field experiments that highlight the importance of proactively compensating users when they experience frustrations during service). We introduce a dynamic notion of QoS, called sequential individual rationality, that captures users’ behavior-driven responses to the sequence of utilities experienced during the successive stages of a shared ride, as subsequent users join the ride. The analysis of QoS-sensitive profit not only yields the optimal QoS-aware pricing policy, but also reveals key operational insights, such as an elegant spatial characterization of optimal “shareable regions”. Our framework is general and can be, for example, adapted to the peer-to-peer carpooling context, where the problem involves finding QoS-aware, fair cost sharing schemes. (This part of the talk is based on joint work with Theja Tulabandhula and Koyel Mukherjee.)
Next, we shift our focus from a commercial to a societal perspective, where we study the problem of designing a centralized market for urban mobility that increases social welfare, while ensuring participation from multiple stakeholders (such as the commuters, non-profit public transit agencies, and profit-sensitive on-demand service providers). We show that introducing multi-modal trips, as an operational lever, can soften the dependence of such mechanisms on external subsidies (mandated by fundamental impossibility results in mechanism design), by favorably exploiting structural properties of a city’s transportation network. (This part of the talk is based on ongoing work with Chamsi Hssaine, Siddhartha Banerjee, and Samitha Samaranayake.) Our results in both settings emphasize the importance of an integrated approach for tackling the next generation of challenges facing urban mobility.
Bio: Raga Gopalakrishnan is a postdoc in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, jointly with the School of Operations Research and Information Engineering, at Cornell University. His research concerns the design of service systems with strategic entities, especially the interplay between operational policies and economic mechanisms, emphasizing a practice-aware approach to Operations Research. Raga obtained his Ph.D. from the Department of Computing and Mathematical Sciences at California Institute of Technology in 2013, following which he was a postdoc at the University of Colorado Boulder, and a research scientist and manager at Xerox Research.