Taxi services are a vital part of urban transportation, and a major contributor to traffic congestion and air pollution causing substantial adverse effects on human health. Sharing taxi trips is a possible way of reducing the negative impact of taxi services on cities, but this comes at the expense of passenger discomfort in terms of a longer travel time. Due to computational challenges, taxi sharing has traditionally been approached on small scales, such as within airport perimeters, or with dynamical ad-hoc heuristics. However, a mathematical framework for the systematic understanding of the tradeoff between collective benefits of sharing and individual passenger discomfort is lacking. Here we introduce the notion of shareability network which allows us to model the collective benefits of sharing as a function of passenger inconvenience, and to efficiently compute optimal sharing strategies on massive datasets. We apply this framework to a dataset of millions of taxi trips taken in New York City, showing that the cumulative trip length can be cut by 40%, leading to similar reductions in service cost, traffic, and emissions. This benefit comes with split fares and minimal passenger discomfort quantifiable as an additional travel time of up to five minutes, hinting towards a wide passenger acceptance of such a shared service. Simulation of a realistic online dispatch system demonstrates the feasibility of a shareable taxi service in New York City. Shareability as a function of trip density saturates fast, suggesting effectiveness of the taxi sharing system also in cities with much sparser taxi fleets. We anticipate our methodology to be a starting point to the development and assessment of other ride sharing scenarios and to a wide class of social sharing problems where spatio-temporal conditions for sharing, the incurred discomfort for individual participants, and the collective benefits of sharing, can be formally defined.
Taxi pooling in New York City: a network-based approach to social sharing problems
Paolo Santi, Giovanni Resta, Michael Szell, Stanislav Sobolevsky, Steven Strogatz, Carlo Ratti