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

Book cover of the Guide to Graduate Planning Programs 4th Edition

Thinking about Grad School?

New! 4th Edition of the Planetizen Guide to Graduate Urban Planning Programs just released.
Starting at $24.95

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 $209

City Coasters

Hand-drawn engraved maps of your favorite neighborhoods are divided up across 4 coasters making each one unique.
$36.00
Book cover of Contemporary Debates in Urban Planning

Contemporary Debates in Urban Planning

Featuring thought-provoking commentary and insights from some of the leading thinkers and practitioners in the field.
$18.95