Toward a Universal Subway Typology

Brandon Keim explores the fascinating findings detailed in a new paper, which shows that the world’s major subway systems appear to be organically converging on an ideal form.

The new paper, authored by statistical physicist Marc Barthelemy of France's National Center for Scientific Research, and appearing in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, compared the layout of subway systems around the world (including New York City, Tokyo, London, Barcelona, Beijing, and many others) using a network analysis lens to look for underlying trends.

According to Keim, patterns emerged: "The core-and-branch topology, of course, and patterns more fine-grained. Roughly half the stations in any subway will be found on its outer branches rather than the core. The distance from a city's center to its farthest terminus station is twice the diameter of the subway system's core. This happens again and again."

"Subway systems seem to gravitate towards these ratios organically, through a combination of planning, expedience, circumstance and socioeconomic fluctuation, say the researchers," which, promisingly, "may hint at universal principles of human self-organization."

Full Story: World’s Subways Converging on Ideal Form

Comments

Prepare for the AICP Exam

Join the thousands of students who have utilized the Planetizen AICP* Exam Preparation Class to prepare for the American Planning Association's AICP* exam.
Starting at $199
Planetizen Courses image ad

Planetizen Courses

Advance your career with subscription-based online courses tailored to the urban planning professional.
Starting at $14.95 a month
T-shirt with map of Chicago

Show your city pride

Men's Ultrasoft CityFabric© tees. Six cities available.
$23.00
Book cover of Where Things Are from Near to Far

Where Things Are From Near to Far

This engaging children's book about planning illustrates that "every building has its place."
$19.95