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Scaling laws in urban supply networks


  • Kühnert, Christian
  • Helbing, Dirk
  • West, Geoffrey B.


In previous work, it has been proposed that urban structures may be understood as a result of self-organization principles. In particular, researchers have identified fractal structures of public transportation networks and land use patterns. Here, we will study spatial distribution systems for energy, fuel, medical, and food supply. It is found that these systems show power-law scaling as well, when the number of “supply stations” is plotted over the population size. Surprisingly, only some supply systems display a linear scaling with population size. Others show sublinear or superlinear scaling. We suggest an interpretation regarding the kind of scaling law that is expected in dependence of the function and constraints of the respective supply system.

Suggested Citation

  • Kühnert, Christian & Helbing, Dirk & West, Geoffrey B., 2006. "Scaling laws in urban supply networks," Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, Elsevier, vol. 363(1), pages 96-103.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:phsmap:v:363:y:2006:i:1:p:96-103
    DOI: 10.1016/j.physa.2006.01.058

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    Cited by:

    1. Elliott, Robert J.R. & Sun, Puyang & Xu, Qiqin, 2015. "Energy distribution and economic growth: An empirical test for China," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 48(C), pages 24-31.
    2. Dalgaard, Carl-Johan & Strulik, Holger, 2011. "Energy distribution and economic growth," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 33(4), pages 782-797.
    3. Denise PUMAIN, 2012. "Une Théorie Géographique Pour La Loi De Zipf," Region et Developpement, Region et Developpement, LEAD, Universite du Sud - Toulon Var, vol. 36, pages 31-54.
    4. repec:spr:scient:v:112:y:2017:i:1:d:10.1007_s11192-017-2333-y is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Zhang, Jiang & Yu, Tongkui, 2010. "Allometric scaling of countries," Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, Elsevier, vol. 389(21), pages 4887-4896.
    6. repec:eee:phsmap:v:489:y:2018:i:c:p:141-148 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Chen, Yanguang, 2017. "Multi-scaling allometric analysis for urban and regional development," Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, Elsevier, vol. 465(C), pages 673-689.
    8. Samaniego, Horacio & Moses, Melanie E., 2008. "Cities as Organisms: Allometric Scaling of Urban Road Networks," The Journal of Transport and Land Use, Center for Transportation Studies, University of Minnesota, vol. 1(1), pages 21-39.
    9. Dalgaard, Carl-Johan & Strulik, Holger, 2008. "Energy Distribution, Power Laws, and Economic Growth," Hannover Economic Papers (HEP) dp-385, Leibniz Universität Hannover, Wirtschaftswissenschaftliche Fakultät.


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