Public transport: the cities most vulnerable to attack

Public transport networks are easy targets for terrorist attacks: anybody in London, Tokyo or Madrid will tell ya that. So Christian “Furbie” von Ferber at Coventry University in the UK and his buddies have decided to model a few of ‘em from the point of view of network theory and find out how vulnerable they are to various kinds of attack.

Public transport networks have many small world features. For example, it’s easy to get from one point in a city to another with only a few changes in transport. Now small world networks are known to be robust under random attack but particularly vulnerable against specific organised attacks.

So Furbie von Ferber has worked out how various systems break down when stations or connections between them are removed according to predetermined rules. So this ain’t a measure of how easy it is to attack the transport system but how well the buses ‘n’ trains run after an attack (and let’s face it, in my ‘hood they don’t run too good at the best o’ times).
Here’s the list of cities he’s chosen to model: Berlin, Dallas, Dusseldorf, Hamburg, Hong Kong, Istanbul, London, Los Angeles, Moscow, Paris, Rome, Sao Paulo, Sydney and Taipei.

Strangely, no room for Madrid or Tokyo, both of which have suffered serious attacks on their transport systems.

Turns out that Paris and Hong Kong look the most robust and Dallas (do they have public transport in Dallas?) looks the most vulnerable: shout BOO and it’ll grind to a halt.

What Furbie von Ferber fails to do is say what Dallas has gotta do to strengthen its network. Of course, that wouldn’t be in any way related to the potential for consultancy fees from this work ;)

Ref: arxiv.org/abs/0709.3206: Attack Vulnerability of Public Transport Networks

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