Topological evolution of surface transportation networks

Feng Xie, David Levinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


This study explores the topological evolution of surface transportation networks, using empirical evidence and a simulation model validated on that data. Evolution is an iterative process of interaction, investment, and disinvestment. The temporal change of topological attributes for the network is also evaluated using measures of connectivity, density, heterogeneity, concentration, and connection patterns. The simulation model is validated using historical data from the Indiana interurban network. Statistical analyses suggest that the simulation model performs well in predicting the sequence of link abandonment in the interurban network as well as the temporal change of topological attributes. The simulation model is then applied on different idealized network structures. Typical connection patterns such as rings, webs, hub-and-spokes, and cul-de-sacs emerge in the networks; the spontaneous organization of network hierarchies, the temporal change of spacing between parallel links, and the rise-and-fall of places in terms of their relative importance are also observed, providing further evidence for the self-organization property of surface transportation networks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)211-223
Number of pages13
JournalComputers, Environment and Urban Systems
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research has been supported by the UK Economic and Social Research Council. This material is based upon work supported by the US National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0236396. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. We thank three anonymous referees for their constructive comments and suggestions.


  • Degeneration
  • Evolution
  • Simulation
  • Surface transportation network
  • Topology


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