Social Network Analysis Approach for Improved Transportation Planning


Social network analysis (SNA) is a well-established methodology for investigating networks through the use of mathematical formulations abstracted from graph theory. It has been successfully used in social sciences to evaluate how individuals and institutions are affected by societal or professional networks, and it has been applied to some civil and construction engineering applications where a network's main actors are people or organizations controlled by people. Current transportation analysis tools are expensive and time consuming, and require rigorous data for reliable results. Accordingly, a quick and inexpensive methodology to preliminarily analyze traffic networks is beneficial to better direct more detailed transportation analyses. Because of its ability to grasp the full complexity and connectivity of networks in a timely and cost effective manner, SNA can fulfill this requirement. Mathematically speaking, social networks are very close to transportation networks because they share fundamental characteristics. This paper uses SNA to analyze transportation networks and consequently corroborate its effectiveness as a complementary tool for improved transportation planning. To this end, the authors adopted a four-step interrelated research methodology: (1) investigating the connection between the language and concepts of SNA and those of transportation systems; (2) using different SNA centrality measures in the transportation context; (3) using SNA in two case studies in Mississippi; and (4) analyzing the results of the case studies and drawing conclusions. The SNA approach was able to easily and quickly determine the most critical intersections in the investigated transportation networks. These results were in alignment with Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT 2014) traffic studies. Using SNA, the research also demonstrated that the performance of central intersections drives the overall performance of the area roadway network. Accordingly, SNA is believed to be an effective and innovative tool in transportation analysis. Using it as an initial analysis step to identify critical areas will assist decision makers in better focusing their more detailed analyses using validated traditional methods in such areas only compared with the entire network. This will significantly decrease the invested resources in transportation planning and will create a more integrated and holistic perspective for evaluating transportation networks.


Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering

Keywords and Phrases

Cost effectiveness; Decision making; Digital storage; Graph theory; Social networking (online); Telecommunication traffic, Centrality; Construction engineering; Department of Transportation; Fundamental characteristics; Infrastructure; Mathematical formulation; Social network analysis approaches; Transportation planning, Transportation, computer simulation; numerical model; planning method; research work; social network; transportation infrastructure; transportation planning; transportation system, Mississippi; United States

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

1076-0342; 1943-555X

Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version


File Type





© 2017 American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Jun 2017