S05. Co-evolution of networks and cities

Full title

The co-evolution of transport networks and cities



It is generally assumed that transport network development, economic and urban growth are reciprocally reinforcing processes. Since Hansen's seminal paper, a substantial body of work in geography has in fact tried to identify to what degree transport networks structure patterns of human activity. Although it is equally conceivable that patterns of human activity structure the outcomes of transport network development, transport infrastructure is often considered static in studies of transport impacts. In fact, very little is still known about the geographic evolution of transport networks. Potential reasons for that knowledge gap are the lack of data on network evolution; underdeveloped methods to analyse and model network development; and the intrinsic complexity of co-evolving systems furthermore embedded in space. New progresses have been made recently on the subject of transport network development, including contributions from fields as diverse as geography, economy, physics and biology. Recent data studies have mapped out historical development of railways (e.g. Mimeur et al, 2018) and European highways (e.g. Stelder et al, 2013). Physicists, geographers, computer scientists and economists have developed methods to study and model networks and network development. Ever more powerful computers and software are opening new opportunities to study network development at sufficient geographic detail. These new data and methods provide new insights into the open question of a direction of causality between urban and transport network development, revisiting for example the question of “structuring effects” from a co-evolutionary perspective. It may be clear that the necessary conditions for more robust empirical and modelling studies of transport network and urban development as a joint process are getting into place. Still, many questions pertaining to such studies are left unanswered. Examples of such questions may be

This special session aims at bringing together researchers from all disciplines to share their works and thoughts on the above posed questions or any other questions relevant for the topic at hand, to build interdisciplinary and integrative perspectives and develop the mixed methods necessary to study processes that combine bottom-up development and top-down planning.

Publishing intent



Mimeur, C., Queyroi, F., Banos, A., Thévenin, T. (2018) Revisiting the structuring effect of transportation infrastructure: An empirical approach with the French railway network from 1860 to 1910. Historical Methods: A Journal of Quantitative and Interdisciplinary History 2, 65-81.

Stelder, D., Groote, P., De Bakker, M. (2013) Changes in road infrastructure and accessibility in Europe since 1960. Final report tender reference nr 2012.CE.16.BAT.040, European Commission