Entangled communities and spatial synchronization lead to criticality in urban traffic

Sci Rep. 2013:3:1798. doi: 10.1038/srep01798.


Understanding the relation between patterns of human mobility and the scaling of dynamical features of urban environments is a great importance for today's society. Although recent advancements have shed light on the characteristics of individual mobility, the role and importance of emerging human collective phenomena across time and space are still unclear. In this Article, we show by using two independent data-analysis techniques that the traffic in London is a combination of intertwined clusters, spanning the whole city and effectively behaving as a single correlated unit. This is due to algebraically decaying spatio-temporal correlations, that are akin to those shown by systems near a critical point. We describe these correlations in terms of Taylor's law for fluctuations and interpret them as the emerging result of an underlying spatial synchronisation. Finally, our results provide the first evidence for a large-scale spatial human system reaching a self-organized critical state.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't