Spatial inequality in a Southeast Asian intercity transport network

SPATIAL INEQUALITY IN A SOUTHEAST ASIAN INTERCITY TRANSPORT NETWORK 

Geographical Review 

Xingjian Liu, Liang Dai, and Derudder Ben

Intercity transportation network between 47 Southeast Asian cities (The circle size reflects cities’ number of direct connections; link width and colour are proportional to linkage strength; and the circle colour corresponds to groups of densely connected cities)

Intercity transportation network between 47 Southeast Asian cities (The circle size reflects cities’ number of direct connections; link width and colour are proportional to linkage strength; and the circle colour corresponds to groups of densely connected cities)

 

American Geographical Society: What is the main purpose of your study?

Xingjian Liu: Our analysis selects 47 major cities in Southeast Asia and examine how they are connected by road, rail, and air transport. In an intercity network, cities are treated as nodes in a network, while inter-city transportation connections are deemed ‘edges’. Individual cities’ connections are evaluated by three centrality indicators, each of which measures one dimension of ‘network centrality’: The degree centrality reflects how many direct connections individual cities have; the closeness centrality measures the overall difficulty for a city to connect with all other cities in the network; and betweenness centrality assesses whether individual cities hold a strategic position and serve as ‘bridges’ among other cities.

 

American Geographical Society: What are the practical, day to day implications of your study?

Xingjian Liu: Economic inequality has been rising in Southeast Asia in the past few decades. Spatial inequality in transport access is both the driver and outcome of rising economic inequality in Southeast Asia. Our analysis therefore examines how individual cities in Southeast Asia are served by different modes of transportation.

 

American Geographical Society: How does your study relate to other work on the subject?

Xingjian Liu: Unlike many regional disparity studies that focus on national economic indicators, this paper takes an urban network approach to assess the spatial inequality in Southeast Asian intercity transport network. Rather than treating Southeast Asia as comprised of national political units, this paper conceptualizes the geographical space of Southeast Asia as a network of cities.

 

American Geographical Society: What are two or three interesting findings that come from your study?

Xingjian Liu: Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, and Jakarta were identified as the most dominant nodes in terms of all three centralities in Southeast Asia transportation network.

The spatial inequality is conditioned on the uneven development that dates back to the colonial times, the region’s fragmented and tropical geography, and more recent socioeconomic and political strategies.

 

American Geographical Society: What might be some of the theoretical implications of this study?

Xingjian Liu: Seeing Southeast Asia through the lens of city networks is consistent with the new network paradigm in the “urban system” literature. The network paradigm departs from the conventional approaches of studying urban hierarchies in that the focus is no longer on the “characteristics” or “attributes” of cities in and by themselves (for examples, population size and number of companies). Using data on intercity connections has become an increasingly popular way to examine urban systems.

 

American Geographical Society: How does your research help us think about Geography?

Xingjian Liu: Seeing space as ‘networks of cities’, what happens “between” cities might be as important as what happens “within” cities in determining cities’ fortune. 

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