Purdue University Graduate School

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How emerging technologies reshape urban mobility? Integrating system interactions into sustainability assessment

posted on 2023-07-31, 18:25 authored by Hao LuoHao Luo


The transportation sector has emerged as one of the largest contributors to energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions within the U.S. economy. As a consequence, transportation sustainability faces great challenges in automobile traffic congestion alleviation, air pollution reduction, and climate change adaptation. Emerging technologies bring new chances to resolve these issues. However, existing literature focusing on the sustainability assessment of emerging technologies often relies on the analysis of isolated systems using historical data. These studies neglected the complex interactions across different systems and failed to consider the potential impacts of future technology adoption. The sustainability performance of emerging transportation technologies is heavily dependent on competing and complementary relationships with existing transportation systems. Furthermore, the dynamics of system interactions can change with the diffusion of future technologies, as user behavior becomes more heterogeneous. Consequently, the future adoption of emerging technologies may lead to an uncertain urban sustainability outlook. Therefore, sustainability assessment and prospective system planning for emerging technologies necessitate a comprehensive examination of their interactions with urban transportation systems and the evolving landscape. 

The primary objective of this dissertation is to demonstrate the necessity and benefits of incorporating system interactions into sustainability assessments. To achieve this goal, this dissertation conducts four case studies, using various models inspired by machine learning, statistics, econometrics, and agent-based approaches, and applies them to two emerging technologies: shared mobility (including bike-sharing, shared e-scooters, and ride-hailing) and e-commerce. First, the interaction classification analysis shows that the current shared mobility primarily competes with public transit rather than complementing it, resulting in a significant bus ridership decline. Second, to enhance sustainability, it is crucial for shared mobility to substitute private car trips and integrate effectively with public transit. Understanding why current users do not sustainably use the system is the key. Results from the traveler mode choice behavior show that the travel cost and out-of-vehicle travel time (e.g., time spent on walking connection, waiting) of shared mobility are the major barriers for travelers to substitute car trips and use multimodal systems. Third, future system planning should improve the pricing mechanisms and fleet management to encourage travelers to use shared mobility in a sustainable way. Optimal pricing and fleet management strategies are sought through an agent-based simulation. Transit-oriented-development is proven to be the best fleet siting strategy and an optimal combination of fleet size and pricing for each shared mobility system is also solved for minimizing vehicle miles traveled (VMT) from urban transportation. Fourth, the penetration of e-commerce also reshapes urban mobility from personal travel demand changes, mode choice shifts, and goods delivery inclusion. We integrated the market segmentation and penetration of e-commerce into transportation simulation to comprehensively estimate its impact on urban mobility and transportation sustainability. 

Case studies from this dissertation demonstrate that the existing adoption of emerging technologies requires further actions in system design, user guidance, and operation management to obtain sustainability benefits. Knowledge from this dissertation supports decision-makers in their efforts to design and plan future emerging technologies toward a sustainable pathway. The findings and insights presented in the dissertation offer valuable guidance for policymakers, urban planners, and stakeholders involved in shaping the trajectory of these technologies.


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Environmental and Ecological Engineering

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Hua Cai

Additional Committee Member 2

Jie Shan

Additional Committee Member 3

Fu Zhao

Additional Committee Member 4

Konstantina Gkritza

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