Theses Doctoral

Infrastructure Scaling and Pricing

Gocmen, Fikret Caner

Infrastructure systems play a crucial role in our daily lives. They include, but are not limited to, the highways we take while we commute to work, the stadiums we go to watch games, and the power plants that provide the electricity we consume in our homes. In this thesis we study infrastructure systems from several different perspectives with a focus on pricing and scalability. The pricing aspect of our research focuses on two industries: toll roads and sports events. Afterwards, we analyze the potential impact of small modular infrastructure on a wide variety of industries. We start by analyzing the problem of determining the tolls that maximize revenue for a managed lane operator -- that is, an operator who can charge a toll for the use of some lanes on a highway while a number of parallel lanes remain free to use. Managing toll lanes for profit is becoming increasingly common as private contractors agree to build additional lane capacity in return for the opportunity to retain toll revenue. We start by modeling the lanes as queues and show that the dynamic revenue-maximizing toll is always greater than or equal to the myopic toll that maximizes expected revenue from each arriving vehicle. Numerical examples show that a dynamic revenue-maximizing toll scheme can generate significantly more expected revenue than either a myopic or a static toll scheme. An important implication is that the revenue-maximizing fee does not only depend on the current state, but also on anticipated future arrivals. We discuss the managerial implications and present several numerical examples. Next, we relax the queueing assumption and model traffic propagation on a highway realistically by using simulation. We devise a framework that can be used to obtain revenue maximizing tolls in such a context. We calibrate our framework by using data from the SR-91 Highway in Orange County, CA and explore different tolling schemes. Our numerical experiments suggest that simple dynamic tolling mechanisms can lead to substantial revenue improvements over myopic and time-of-use tolling policies. In the third part, we analyze the revenue management of consumer options for tournaments. Sporting event managers typically only offer advance tickets which guarantee a seat at a future sporting event in return for an upfront payment. Some event managers and ticket resellers have started to offer call options under which a customer can pay a small amount now for the guaranteed option to attend a future sporting event by paying an additional amount later. We consider the case of tournament options where the event manager sells team-specific options for a tournament final, such as the Super Bowl, before the finalists are determined. These options guarantee a final game ticket to the bearer if his team advances to the finals. We develop an approach by which an event manager can determine the revenue maximizing prices and amounts of advance tickets and options to sell for a tournament final. Afterwards, for a specific tournament structure we show that offering options is guaranteed to increase expected revenue for the event. We also establish bounds for the revenue improvement and show that introducing options can increase social welfare. We conclude by presenting a numerical application of our approach. Finally, we argue that advances made in automation, communication and manufacturing portend a dramatic reversal of the ``bigger is better'' approach to cost reductions prevalent in many basic infrastructure industries, e.g. transportation, electric power generation and raw material processing. We show that the traditional reductions in capital costs achieved by scaling up in size are generally matched by learning effects in the mass-production process when scaling up in numbers instead. In addition, using the U.S. electricity generation sector as a case study, we argue that the primary operating cost advantage of large unit scale is reduced labor, which can be eliminated by employing low-cost automation technologies. Finally, we argue that locational, operational and financial flexibilities that accompany smaller unit scale can reduce investment and operating costs even further. All these factors combined argue that with current technology, economies of numbers may well dominate economies of unit scale.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
van Ryzin, Garrett
Phillips, Robert
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
February 18, 2014