IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

The Topological Evolution of Surface Transportation Networks


  • Feng Xie
  • David Levinson

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


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, 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-sac 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 evidence for the claim that network topology is an emergent property of network dynamics.

Suggested Citation

  • Feng Xie & David Levinson, 2005. "The Topological Evolution of Surface Transportation Networks," Working Papers 200901, University of Minnesota: Nexus Research Group.
  • Handle: RePEc:nex:wpaper:topologicalevolution

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    File Function: First version, 2007
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. repec:ucp:bkecon:9780226199993 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Bogart, Dan, 2005. "Turnpike Trusts, Infrastructure Investment, and the Road Transportation Revolution in Eighteenth-Century England," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 65(02), pages 540-543, June.
    3. David M. Levinson, 2002. "Financing Transportation Networks," Books, Edward Elgar Publishing, number 2308.
    4. Anna Matas, 2003. "Demand and revenue implications of an integrated public transport policy. The case of," Working Papers wpdea0304, Department of Applied Economics at Universitat Autonoma of Barcelona.
    5. David Levinson, 2001. "Why States Toll: An Empirical Model of Finance Choice," Journal of Transport Economics and Policy, University of Bath, vol. 35(2), pages 223-237, May.
    6. Coase, R H, 1974. "The Lighthouse in Economics," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 17(2), pages 357-376, October.
    7. Armelius, Hanna & Hultkrantz, Lars, 2006. "The politico-economic link between public transport and road pricing: An ex-ante study of the Stockholm road-pricing trial," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 13(2), pages 162-172, March.
    8. McCarthy Patrick & Tay Richard, 1993. "Economic Efficiency vs Traffic Restraint: A Note on Singapore's Area License Scheme," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 34(1), pages 96-100, July.
    9. Prud'homme, Rémy & Bocarejo, Juan Pablo, 2005. "The London congestion charge: a tentative economic appraisal," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 12(3), pages 279-287, May.
    10. Mackie, Peter, 2005. "The London congestion charge: A tentative economic appraisal. A comment on the paper by Prud'homme and Bocajero," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 12(3), pages 288-290, May.
    11. Odlyzko, Andrew, 2000. "The Internet and other networks: utilization rates and their implications," Information Economics and Policy, Elsevier, vol. 12(4), pages 341-365, December.
    12. FitzRoy, Felix & Smith, Ian, 1999. "Season Tickets and the Demand for Public Transport," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 52(2), pages 219-238.
    13. Odlyzko Andrew, 2004. "The Evolution of Price Discrimination in Transportation and its Implications for the Internet," Review of Network Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 3(3), pages 1-24, September.
    14. Amy Finkelstein, 2007. "E-ZTax: Tax Salience and Tax Rates," NBER Working Papers 12924, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    15. Bogart, Dan, 2005. "Turnpike trusts and the transportation revolution in 18th century England," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 42(4), pages 479-508, October.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Ghaffari, H.O. & Sharifzadeh, M. & Young, R. Paul, 2013. "Complex aperture networks," Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, Elsevier, vol. 392(4), pages 1028-1037.
    2. Lindsey, Robin, 2012. "Road pricing and investment," Economics of Transportation, Elsevier, vol. 1(1), pages 49-63.

    More about this item


    Networks; Transportation; Structure; Entropy; Pattern; Continuity; road network; evolution; topology; simulation;

    JEL classification:

    • R41 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Transportation Economics - - - Transportation: Demand, Supply, and Congestion; Travel Time; Safety and Accidents; Transportation Noise
    • 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
    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nex:wpaper:topologicalevolution. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (David Levinson). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.