To pool or not to pool: Equilibrium, pricing and regulation

Kenan Zhang, Yu (Marco) Nie*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


We study a transportation network company (TNC) that offers on-demand solo and pooling e-hail services in an aggregate mobility service market, while competing with transit for passengers. The market equilibrium is established based on a spatial driver–passenger matching model that determines the passenger wait time for both solo and pooling rides. We prove, under mild conditions, this system always has an equilibrium solution. Built on the market equilibrium, three variants of pricing problems are analyzed and compared, namely, (i) profit maximization, (ii) profit maximization subject to regulatory constraints, and (iii) social welfare maximization subject to a revenue-neutral constraint. A comprehensive case study is constructed using TNC data collected in the city of Chicago. We found pooling is desirable when demand is high but supply is scarce. However, its benefit diminishes quickly as the average en-route detour time (i.e., the difference between the average duration of solo and pooling trips) increases. Without regulations, a mixed strategy—providing both solo and pooling rides—not only achieves the highest profit and trip production in most scenarios, but also gains higher social welfare. The minimum wage policy can improve social welfare in the short term. However, in the long run, the TNC could react by limiting the size of the driver pool, and consequently, render the policy counterproductive, even pushing social welfare below the unregulated level. Moreover, by maintaining the supply and demand of ride-hail at an artificially high level, the minimum wage policy tends to exacerbate traffic congestion by depressing the use of collective modes (transit and pooling). A congestion tax policy that penalizes solo rides promotes pooling, but may harm social welfare. However, it promises to increase both social welfare and pooling ratio when jointly implemented with the minimum wage policy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)59-90
Number of pages32
JournalTransportation Research Part B: Methodological
StatePublished - Sep 2021


  • Congestion tax
  • Equilibrium
  • Minimum wage
  • Pooling
  • Pricing
  • Regulation
  • e-hail

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Transportation


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