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The Emergence of Hierarchy in Transportation Networks


  • Bhanu Yerra
  • David Levinson

    () (Nexus (Networks, Economics, and Urban Systems) Research Group, Department of Civil Engineering, University of Minnesota)


A transportation network is a complex system that exhibits the properties of self-organization and emergence. Previous research in dynamics related to transportation networks focuses on traffic assignment or traffic management. This research concentrates on the dynamics of the orientation of major roads in a network and abstractly models these dynamics to understand the basic properties of transportation networks. A model is developed to capture the dynamics that leads to a hierarchical arrangement of roads for a given network structure and land use distribution. Localized investment rules - revenue produced by traffic on a link is invested for that link's own development - are employed. Under reasonable parameters, these investment rules, coupled with traveler behavior, and underlying network topology result in the emergence of a hierarchical pattern. Hypothetical networks subject to certain conditions are tested with this model to explore the network properties. Though hierarchies seem to be designed by planners and engineers, the results show that they are intrinsic properties of networks. Also, the results show that roads, specific routes with continuous attributes, are emergent properties of transportation networks.

Suggested Citation

  • Bhanu Yerra & David Levinson, 2005. "The Emergence of Hierarchy in Transportation Networks," Working Papers 200507, University of Minnesota: Nexus Research Group.
  • Handle: RePEc:nex:wpaper:emergence

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Wachs, Martin & Kumagai, T. Gordon, 1973. "Physical accessibility as a social indicator," Socio-Economic Planning Sciences, Elsevier, vol. 7(5), pages 437-456, October.
    2. Aschauer, David Alan, 1989. "Is public expenditure productive?," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(2), pages 177-200, March.
    3. R W Vickerman, 1974. "Accessibility, attraction, and potential: a review of some concepts and their use in determining mobility," Environment and Planning A, Pion Ltd, London, vol. 6(6), pages 675-691, June.
    4. Iacono, Michael & Levinson, David, 2016. "Mutual causality in road network growth and economic development," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 45(C), pages 209-217.
    5. David Levinson, 2008. "Density and dispersion: the co-development of land use and rail in London," Journal of Economic Geography, Oxford University Press, vol. 8(1), pages 55-77, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. David Levinson & Ramachandra Karamalaputi, 2003. "Predicting the Construction of New Highway Links," Working Papers 200305, University of Minnesota: Nexus Research Group.
    2. Alexander Erath & Michael Löchl & Kay Axhausen, 2009. "Graph-Theoretical Analysis of the Swiss Road and Railway Networks Over Time," Networks and Spatial Economics, Springer, vol. 9(3), pages 379-400, September.
    3. Arthur Huang & David Levinson, 2009. "Modeling phase changes of road networks," Working Papers 000061, University of Minnesota: Nexus Research Group.
    4. Ding, Rui & Ujang, Norsidah & Hamid, Hussain bin & Manan, Mohd Shahrudin Abd & Li, Rong & Wu, Jianjun, 2017. "Heuristic urban transportation network design method, a multilayer coevolution approach," Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, Elsevier, vol. 479(C), pages 71-83.
    5. David Levinson & Feng Xie & Norah Oca, 2012. "Forecasting and Evaluating Network Growth," Networks and Spatial Economics, Springer, vol. 12(2), pages 239-262, June.
    6. Lei Zhang & David Levinson, 2004. "An Agent-Based Approach to Travel Demand Modeling: An Exploratory Analysis," Working Papers 200405, University of Minnesota: Nexus Research Group.
    7. Mengying Cui & David Levinson, 2015. "Accessibility and the Ring of Unreliability," Working Papers 000133, University of Minnesota: Nexus Research Group.
    8. Michael Iacono & David Levinson & Ahmed El-Geneidy, 2007. "Models of Transportation and Land Use Change: A Guide to the Territory," Working Papers 200805, University of Minnesota: Nexus Research Group.
    9. Feng Xie & David Levinson, 2009. "Jurisdictional Control and Network Growth," Networks and Spatial Economics, Springer, vol. 9(3), pages 459-483, September.
    10. Yonas Zewdu Ayele & A. Barabadi & J. Barabady, 2016. "Dynamic spare parts transportation model for Arctic production facility," International Journal of System Assurance Engineering and Management, Springer;The Society for Reliability, Engineering Quality and Operations Management (SREQOM),India, and Division of Operation and Maintenance, Lulea University of Technology, Sweden, vol. 7(1), pages 84-98, March.
    11. Levinson, David & Xie, Feng, 2011. "Does First Last? The Existence and Extent of First Mover Advantages on Spatial Networks," The Journal of Transport and Land Use, Center for Transportation Studies, University of Minnesota, vol. 4(2), pages 47-69.
    12. David Levinson, 2004. "The Evolution of Transport Networks," Working Papers 200510, University of Minnesota: Nexus Research Group.
    13. Wenling Chen & David Levinson, 2006. "Effectiveness of Learning Transportation Network Growth Through Simulation," Working Papers 200601, University of Minnesota: Nexus Research Group.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • R40 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Transportation Economics - - - General
    • R42 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Transportation Economics - - - Government and Private Investment Analysis; Road Maintenance; Transportation Planning
    • R48 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Transportation Economics - - - Government Pricing and Policy
    • D10 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - General
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • D85 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Network Formation
    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes


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