CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - MIT researchers have created a new Urban Network Analysis (UNA) toolbox that enables urban designers and planners to describe the spatial patterns of cities using mathematical network analysis methods. Such tools can support better informed and more resilient urban design and planning in a context of rapid urbanization. "Network centrality measures are useful predictors for a number of interesting urban phenomena," explains Andres Sevtsuk, the principal investigator of the City Form Research Group at MIT that produced the toolbox. "They help explain, for instance, on which streets or buildings one is most likely to find local commerce, where foot or vehicular traffic is expected to be highest, and why city land values vary from one location to another."
The tools incorporate three important features that make network analysis particularly suited for urban street networks. First, they account for geometry and distances in the input networks, distinguishing shorter links from longer links as part of the analysis computations. Second, unlike previous software tools that operate with two network elements (nodes and edges), the UNA tools include a third network element - buildings - which are used as the spatial units of analysis for all measures. Two neighboring buildings on the same street segments can therefore obtain different accessibility results. And third, the UNA tools optionally allow buildings to be weighted according to their particular characteristics - more voluminous, more populated, or otherwise more important buildings can be specified to have a proportionately stronger effect on the analysis outcomes, yielding more accurate and reliable results to any of the specified measures.
The UNA toolbox can be downloaded from the group's website.