Characterizing street hierarchies through network analysis and large-scale taxi traffic flow: a case study of Wuhan, China

Liang Huang, Xinyan Zhu, Xinyue Ye, Wei Guo, Jiye Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Hierarchy is an important property of a street network, which suggests that only a small number of streets are prominent. A previous empirical study of a European city has identified four levels of scale in a street network, namely the top 1%, top 20%, bottom 80%, and bottom 20%. This paper investigates such street hierarchies in a large Asian city, Wuhan, with a complicated network of streets. Based on network analysis, we find that street hierarchies in this case study are slightly different so that the fourth scale is adjusted from the initial 20 to 25%. The detected street hierarchies are further compared to the intensity of large-scale traffic flows at different time scales. We find that distributions of both daily and hourly traffic conform well to the street hierarchies. More specifically, the 20% of top streets accommodate about 98% of traffic flow, and the 1% of top streets account for more than 60% of traffic flow. Moreover, this finding indicates that the current street network of Wuhan needs to be improved because the top 20% of streets are rather overburdened leading to traffic congestion. Our study not only provides new quantitative evidence as to the emergence of street hierarchies but also highlights the possible traffic congestion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)276-296
Number of pages21
JournalEnvironment and Planning B: Planning and Design
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • General Environmental Science


  • Street hierarchy
  • network analysis
  • power laws
  • time-dependent taxi traffic analysis


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