The Morphology and Circuity of Walkable and Drivable Street Networks

17 Pages Posted: 17 Feb 2018 Last revised: 2 Feb 2019

See all articles by Geoff Boeing

Geoff Boeing

University of Southern California - Sol Price School of Public Policy

Date Written: January 1, 2019

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. 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 four million routes and analyze circuity to characterize network structure. We find that walking networks tend to allow for more direct routes 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 and times rather than straight-line 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 Morphology and Circuity of Walkable and Drivable Street Networks (January 1, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3119939 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3119939

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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