PROGRESS IN GEOGRAPHY ›› 2014, Vol. 33 ›› Issue (10): 1289-1299.doi: 10.11820/dlkxjz.2014.10.001

• Orginal Article •     Next Articles

Transport networks, intraurban structure and system of cities: a Sino-US comparative perspective

Fahui WANG1(), Yu LIU2, Jiaoe WANG3   

  1. 1. Department of Geography and Anthropology, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge 70803, USA
    2. Institute of Remote Sensing & Geographical Information Systems, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China
    3. Key Laboratory of Regional Sustainable Development Modeling, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
  • Online:2014-10-25 Published:2014-10-25


This article provides an overview of research on interaction between transport networks and human settlements from both the interurban and intraurban perspectives. Case studies from the US and China are cited to examine the commonalities and differences between them. In the interurban context, the regularity of systems of cities is represented in the popular rank-size model; and in the intraurban context, the regularity of urban structure is exemplified in the negative exponential density function. Both can be explained by the configuration of transportation networks that shapes the variability of location. Among other approaches, multiple centrality indices (for example, degree, closeness, betweenness, and straightness), developed from the space syntax theory and the complex network science, capture the location advantages across space. While several studies have examined the spatial patterns of centrality shaped by the railway and highway networks in China, one study explicitly confirmed the strong association between city sizes and centrality values based on the air transport network in China. There is a rich body of literature on the association of centrality and land use intensity in an interurban setting with an ample of case studies on cities in the United States and China. A case study in the United States shows that the variation of centrality indices explains the urban population density pattern better than the urban economic model. Recent work strives to identify what land use (or specific economic activity) values one type of centrality over others. For instance, a case study on commercial activities in Changchun indicates that specialty stores value various centralities most, followed by department stores, supermarkets, consumer product stores, furniture stores, and construction material stores; and specialty stores favor closeness most, department stores and supermarkets prefer betweenness, and consumer product stores value straightness most. Furthermore, based on a case study in China, the air passenger traffic flows between cities reflect the gravitations of cities by a particular transport mode, nodal attractions in cities reconstructed from the reverse gravity model are generally in line with their population sizes, and the analysis helps reveal the complimentary roles of multiple transportation modes in the growth or decline of cities. Based on another case study in Shanghai, the spatio-temporal patterns of intraurban traffic flows, detected from the location aware devices (LAD), reflect the underlying distinctive land uses. The study shows the great potential of using mobility data collected from LAD to model the rapid urban land use change in China and to help design meaningful policy intervention to mitigate traffic congestion. In summary, the interdependence between human settlements and transport networks offers a common thread integrating the traditional division of inter- and intra-urban studies. The Sino-US comparative examinations have important implications for public policy and urban planning practice in China and beyond.

Key words: interurban and intraurban study, rank-size model, exponential urban population density function, transport network, centrality index, Sino-US comparative study

CLC Number: 

  • F293.35