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Physics  2010 

Measuring Urban Sprawl Based on Massive Street Nodes and the Novel Concept of Natural Cities

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In this paper, we develop a novel approach to measuring urban sprawl based on street nodes and naturally defined urban boundaries, both extracted from massive volunteered geographic information OpenStreetMap databases through some data-intensive computing processes. The street nodes are defined as street intersections and ends, while the naturally defined urban boundaries constitute what we call natural cities. We find that the street nodes are significantly correlated with population of cities. Based on this finding, we set street nodes as a proxy of population to measure urban sprawl. We further find that street nodes bear a significant linear relationship with city areal extents. In the plot with the x axis representing city areal extents, and the y axis street nodes, sprawling cities are located below the regression line. We verified the approach using urban areas and population from the US census, and then applied the approach to three European countries: France, Germany, and the United Kingdom for the categorization of natural cities into three classes: sprawling, compact, and normal. This categorization sets a uniform standard for cross comparing sprawling levels across an entire country. Keywords: Street networks, openstreetmap, volunteered geographic information, GIS


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