Dynamic rebalancing optimization for bike-sharing systems: A modeling framework and empirical comparison

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Station-based Bike-sharing systems have been implemented in multiple major cities, offering a low-cost and environmentally friendly transportation alternative. As a remedy to unbalanced stations, operators typically rebalance bikes by trucks. The resulting dynamic planning has received significant attention from the Operations Research community. Due to its modeling flexibility, mixed-integer programming remains a popular choice. However, the complex planning problem requires significant simplifications to obtain a computationally tractable model. As a result, existing models have used a large variety of modeling assumptions and techniques regarding decision variables and constraints. Unfortunately, the impact of such assumptions on the solutions’ performance in practice remains generally unexplored.

In this paper, we first systematically survey the literature on rebalancing problems and their modeling assumptions. We then propose a general mixed-integer programming model for multi-period rebalancing problems that can be easily adapted to different assumptions, including trip modeling, time discretization, trip distribution, and event sequences. We develop an instance generator to synthesize realistic station networks and customer trips, as well as a realistic fine-grained simulator to evaluate the operational performance of rebalancing strategies. Finally, extensive numerical experiments are carried out, both on the synthetic and on real-world data, to analyze the effectiveness of various modeling assumptions and techniques. Based on our results, we identify the assumptions that empirically provide the most effective rebalancing strategies in practice. Specifically, a set of specific trip distribution constraints and event sequences ignored in the previous literature seem to provide particularly good results.

, 41 pages

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