Geometric partitioning algorithms for fair division of geographic resources

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Geometric partitioning algorithms for fair division of geographic resources

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This dissertation focuses on a fundamental but under-researched problem: how does one divide a piece of territory into smaller pieces in an efficient way? In particular, we are interested in \emph{map segmentation problem} of partitioning a geographic region into smaller subregions for allocating resources or distributing a workload among multiple agents. This work would result in useful solutions for a variety of fundamental problems, ranging from congressional districting, facility location, and supply chain management to air traffic control and vehicle routing. In a typical map segmentation problem, we are given a geographic region $R$, a probability density function defined on $R$ (representing, say population density, distribution of a natural resource, or locations of clients) and a set of points in $R$ (representing, say service facilities or vehicle depots). We seek a \emph{partition} of $R$ that is a collection of disjoint sub-regions $\{R_1, . . . , R_n\}$ such that $\bigcup_i R_i = R$, that optimizes some objective function while satisfying a shape condition. As examples of shape conditions, we may require that all sub-regions be compact, convex, star convex, simply connected (not having holes), connected, or merely measurable.Such problems are difficult because the search space is infinite-dimensional (since we are designing boundaries between sub-regions) and because the shape conditions are generally difficult to enforce using standard optimization methods. There are also many interesting variants and extensions to this problem. It is often the case that the optimal partition for a problem changes over time as new information about the region is collected. In that case, we have an \emph{online} problem and we must re-draw the sub-region boundaries as time progresses. In addition, we often prefer to construct these sub-regions in a \emph{decentralized} fashion: that is, the sub-region assigned to agent $i$ should be computable using only local information to agent $i$ (such as nearby neighbors or information about its surroundings), and the optimal boundary between two sub-regions should be computable using only knowledge available to those two agents.This dissertation is an attempt to design geometric algorithms aiming to solve the above mentioned problems keeping in view the various design constraints. We describe the drawbacks of the current approach to solving map segmentation problems, its ineffectiveness to impose geometric shape conditions and its limited utility in solving the online version of the problem. Using an intrinsically interdisciplinary approach, combining elements from variational calculus, computational geometry, geometric probability theory, and vector space optimization, we present an approach where we formulate the problems geometrically and then use a fast geometric algorithm to solve them. We demonstrate our success by solving problems having a particular choice of objective function and enforcing certain shape conditions. In fact, it turns out that such methods actually give useful insights and algorithms into classical location problems such as the continuous $k$-medians problem, where the aim is to find optimal locations for facilities. We use a map segmentation technique to present a constant factor approximation algorithm to solve the continuous $k$-medians problem in a convex polygon. We conclude this thesis by describing how we intend to build on this success and develop algorithms to solve larger classes of these problems.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. July 2014. Major: Industrial and Systems Engineering. Advisor: John Gunnar Carlsson. 1 computer file (PDF): vi, 140 pages, appendices p. 129-140.

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Devulapalli, Raghuveer. (2014). Geometric partitioning algorithms for fair division of geographic resources. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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