Optimizing Urban Jungles - Urban Mobility via Multilayer Networks

April 24, 2018

Since more than 50% of the human population lives in cities, the complex system of urban infrastructures influences everyday life more than ever. Most cities we live in have not been designed for such dense population with intense mobility, therefore they have grown organically. It has resulted in many cases in a car-centric design which has obvious implications for the environment, human health as well as social structure.

Our first year PhD student Luis Guillermo Natera Orozco’s research topic is about understanding the interaction between the underlying infrastructure of urban life with human mobility. Urban infrastructures and mobile phone data have been used to understand the topological constraints and urban mobility motives. However, the interaction between infrastructure networks and mobility flows is still unknown.

How to interpret a city as a network?

Cities and their mobility infrastructure can be characterized as a multilayer network, with layers that contain the streets, bicycle infrastructure and massive public transport like metro, light rail train and bus rapid transit systems (BRT).

Luis proposes to explore the multimodal mobility and the underlying multi-layer infrastructure network following a network science approach, to understand the impact of the different layers of the urban infrastructure network in which trips are made and the effects of the missing links in and between its layers.

For this research, he will use data from OpenStreetMap and datasets related to how people move in a city, such as public bike systems and mobile applications like Strava and Moovel.

With this network science approach, he wants to answer the question of what is the impact of the multilayer infrastructure network on urban mobility choices in a city. How multimodal human mobility within a city and the missing links (eg. a metro station under construction) affect their lives. Answering these questions can help policymakers to build data-driven models to optimize citizens' mobility within these data-rich multi-layer urban networks called cities.

If you are interested to learn more about Luis’s research, follow him on Twitter and check out his amazing interactive visualization of the street network of Budapest.

Blog post by Orsolya Vásárhelyi