Purdue University Graduate School
Hao Luo Thesis revision_clean version.pdf (2.55 MB)


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posted on 2019-06-10, 20:36 authored by Hao LuoHao Luo
Bike sharing system (BSS) is growing worldwide. Although bike sharing is viewed as a sustainable transportation mode, it still has environmental footprints from its operation (e.g., bike rebalancing using automobiles) and upstream impacts (e.g., bike and docking station manufacturing). Thus, evaluating the environmental impacts of a BSS from the life cycle perspective is vital to inform decision making for the system design and operation. In this study, we conducted a comparative life cycle assessment (LCA) of station-based and dock-less BSS in the U.S. The results show that dock-less BSS has a greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions factor of 118 g CO2-eq/bike-km in the base scenario, which is 82% higher than the station-based system. Bike rebalancing is the main source of GHG emissions, accounting for 36% and 73% of the station-based and dock-less systems, respectively. However, station-based BSS has 54% higher total normalized environmental impacts (TNEI), compared to dock-less BSS. The dock manufacturing dominants the TNEI (61%) of station-based BSS and the bike manufacturing contributes 52% of TNEI in dock-less BSS. BSS can also bring environmental benefits through substituting different transportation modes. Car trip replacement rate is the most important factor. The results suggest four key approaches to improve BSS environmental performance: 1) optimizing the bike distribution and rebalancing route or repositioning bikes using more sustainable approaches, 2) incentivizing more private car users to switch to using BSSs, 3) prolonging lifespans of docking infrastructure to significantly reduce the TNEI of station-based systems, and 4) increasing the bike utilization efficiency to improve the environmental performance of dock-less systems.
To improve the design of current BSS from the life cycle perspective, we first proposed a simulation framework to find the minimal fleet size and their layout of the system. Then we did a tradeoff analysis between bike fleet size and the rebalancing frequency to investigate the GHG emission if we rebalance once, twice and three times a day. The optimal BSS design and operation strategies that can minimize system GHG emission are identified for a dock-less system in Xiamen, China. The results show that at most 15% and 13% of the existing fleet size is required to serve all the trip demand on weekday and weekend, if we have a well-designed bike layout. The tradeoff analysis shows that the GHG emission may increase if we continue to reduce the fleet size through more frequent rebalancing work. Rebalancing once a day during the night is the optimal strategy in the base scenario. We also tested the impacts of other key factors (e.g., rebalancing vehicle fleet size, vehicle capacity and multiple depots) on results. The analysis results showed that using fewer vehicles with larger capacity could help to further reduce the GHG emission of rebalancing work. Besides, setting 3 depots in the system can help to reduce 30% of the GHG emission compared with 1-depot case, which benefits from the decrease of the commuting trip distance between depot and the serve region.


Degree Type

  • Master of Science


  • Environmental and Ecological Engineering

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Hua Cai

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee co-chair

Fu Zhao

Additional Committee Member 2

Shimon Y. Nof