The Relative Circuity of Walkable and Drivable Urban Street Networks

Transportation Research Board 97th Annual Meeting. January 7–11, Washington, DC

16 Pages Posted: 5 Aug 2017 Last revised: 8 Feb 2018

See all articles by Geoff Boeing

Geoff Boeing

University of Southern California - Sol Price School of Public Policy

Date Written: January 7, 2018

Abstract

Circuity, the ratio of network distances to straight-line distances, is an important measure of urban street network structure and transportation efficiency. Circuity results from a circulation network’s configuration, planning, and underlying terrain. In turn, it impacts how humans use urban space for settlement and travel. Although past research has examined overall street network circuity, researchers have not studied the relative circuity of walkable versus drivable circulation networks. To address this gap, this study uses OpenStreetMap data to explore relative network circuity. We download walkable and drivable networks for 40 US cities using the OSMnx software, which we then use to simulate two million routes and analyze circuity to characterize network structure. We find that walking networks tend to allow for more direct trips than driving networks do in most cities: average driving circuity exceeds average walking circuity in all but four of the cities that exhibit statistically significant differences between network types. We discuss various reasons for this phenomenon, illustrated with case studies. Network circuity also varies substantially between different types of places. These findings underscore the value of using network-based distances rather than straight-line distances when studying urban travel and access. They also suggest the importance of differentiating between walkable and drivable circulation networks when modeling and characterizing urban street networks: although different modes’ networks overlap in any given city, their relative structure and performance vary in most cities.

Keywords: street network, circuity, network analysis, GIS, OpenStreetMap, urban morphology, urban planning, urban design, cities, transportation, walkability, driving, pedestrian, urban studies, geospatial, python, accessibility, modeling, land use, simulation

JEL Classification: R00, R14, R20, R4, R40, R41, R42, R52, R58, C63, H70

Suggested Citation

Boeing, Geoff, The Relative Circuity of Walkable and Drivable Urban Street Networks (January 7, 2018). Transportation Research Board 97th Annual Meeting. January 7–11, Washington, DC. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3012678 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3012678

Geoff Boeing (Contact Author)

University of Southern California - Sol Price School of Public Policy ( email )

Los Angeles, CA 90089-0626
United States

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