Street Network Patterns, Orientation, and Entropy around the World

Spatial networks such as streets order and constrain urban transportation. These networks may be planned according to clear organizing principles or they may evolve organically through accretion, but their configurations and orientations help define a city’s spatial logic and order. Measures of entropy reveal a city’s streets’ order and disorder. Past studies have explored individual cases of orientation and entropy, but little is known about broader patterns and trends worldwide. This study examines street network orientation, configuration, and entropy in 100 cities around the world using OpenStreetMap data and OSMnx. It measures the entropy of street bearings in weighted and unweighted network models, along with each city’s street length entropy, median street segment length (a linear proxy for grain), average circuity, average node degree (how many streets emanate from each intersection/dead-end), and the network’s proportions of four-way intersections and dead-ends. It also develops a new indicator of orientation-order that quantifies how a city’s street network follows the ordering logic of a single grid via a normalized linear-transformation of the entropy of street orientations. It finds significant statistical relationships between a city’s entropy and other indicators of spatial order, including street circuity and multiple measures of connectivity. These indicators, taken in concert, reveal the extent and nuance of the grid. On average, North American cities are far more grid-like than cities in the rest of the world, exhibiting far less orientation entropy and street circuity. These methods demonstrate automatic, scalable, reproducible tools to empirically measure and visualize city spatial order, illustrating urban transportation system patterns and configurations around the world.

  • Supplemental Notes:
    • This paper was sponsored by TRB committee ADB30 Standing Committee on Transportation Network Modeling. Alternate title: Urban Spatial Order: Street Network Orientation, Configuration, and Entropy
  • Corporate Authors:

    Transportation Research Board

  • Authors:
    • Boeing, Geoff
  • Conference:
  • Date: 2019


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Digital/other
  • Features: Figures; Maps; References; Tables;
  • Pagination: 21p

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01698274
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Report/Paper Numbers: 19-06036
  • Files: TRIS, TRB, ATRI
  • Created Date: Dec 7 2018 9:50AM