By Victoria Nneji
The 2018 Daniel H. Wagner Prize for Excellence in Operations Research Practice was awarded by Dr. Patricia Neri of SAS, on behalf of INFORMS, to Daniel Freund, Shane Henderson, Eoin O’Mahony, and David Shmoys for their work on “Analytics and Bikes: Riding Tandem with Motivate to Improve Mobility.” This is following a five-year collaboration between Cornell and Motivate, the largest operation of bike sharing systems, that began in 2013.
Professor Shmoys of Cornell University found that his students were motivated to work on bike sharing problems with intensity and passion. Bike sharing is app-based or key-based localization of bike availability. The team worked on challenges of New York City’s bike sharing program, Citi Bike, which has more than 700 stations and roughly 150,000 subscribers. And in a single day, upwards of more than 80,000 rides.
A key challenge of bike sharing is imbalance. Historically, companies have used motorized re-balancing, trikes, and crowdsourcing to manage the problem. It has been difficult for companies to understand their limitations and plan better placement of resources. Jay Walder, the CEO of Motivate, stated that the analytical processes of running bike shares are more complicated than the analytics involved in New York City Subway operations.
Freund presented the key contributions of the team’s work, which first focused on predicting the impact of adding or taking away bike docks. Then, they worked to support decisions of where to reallocate bikes. Finally, they worked to evaluate the impact of changes on service quality. Rebalancing is a huge expenditure in making operations successful. The work of the team has supported the ability to design sustainable and efficient systems. Hundreds of docks have been moved around the nation and the work of this team led to the adoption of a new incentive program and has provided tools for quantifying the effect of new initiatives on the performance of bike share operations.