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Centrality in networks of urban streets

Porta, S. and Crucitti, P. and Latora, V. (2006) Centrality in networks of urban streets. Chaos, 16 (1). pp. 1-9.

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Centrality has revealed crucial for understanding the structural properties of complex relational networks. Centrality is also relevant for various spatial factors affecting human life and behaviors in cities. Here, we present a comprehensive study of centrality distributions over geographic networks of urban streets. Five different measures of centrality, namely degree, closeness, betweenness, straightness and information, are compared over 18 1-square-mile samples of different world cities. Samples are represented by primal geographic graphs, i.e., valued graphs defined by metric rather than topologic distance where intersections are turned into nodes and streets into edges. The spatial behavior of centrality indices over the networks is investigated graphically by means of color-coded maps. The results indicate that a spatial analysis, that we term multiple centrality assessment, grounded not on a single but on a set of different centrality indices, allows an extended comprehension of the city structure, nicely capturing the skeleton of most central routes and subareas that so much impacts on spatial cognition and on collective dynamical behaviors. Statistically, closeness, straightness and betweenness turn out to follow similar functional distribution in all cases, despite the extreme diversity of the considered cities. Conversely, information is found to be exponential in planned cities and to follow a power-law scaling in self-organized cities. Hierarchical clustering analysis, based either on the Gini coefficients of the centrality distributions, or on the correlation between different centrality measures, is able to characterize classes of cities.