Street-network Sprawl in Berlin, Germany


What is Street-network sprawl?

Street-network Sprawl is a way to measure urban sprawl, worldwide, through the connectedness of the streets. Less sprawl means more connected, more walkable streets. Well-connected streets – like New York City’s grid – are more walkable and can be served by public transit.

The street network is permanent, and its connectivity affects the livability and environmental footprint of cities for decades and centuries to come. In places with more connected streets, residents drive less and walk more. A well-connected street network is associated with better outcomes for health, the environment, sustainable consumption, social integration, and equity.

We can quantify how connected street networks are with the Street Network Disconnectedness Index (SNDi).

SNDi -- our measure of street-network sprawl (disconnectedness)

The SNDi is a comprehensive measurement of “sprawl”. It captures:

A higher SNDi means less-connected streets – i.e., more sprawl. For the 10262 cities in our dataset, the average SNDi is 2.25, with half of the cities' SNDis falling between 1.08 and 3.25.

More information on the sprawl index can be found in these research papers:

To see the state of street-network sprawl across the globe, visit the sprawlmap.

Berlin: region in Germany

What exactly constitutes the spatial extent of the city? For these aggregations, we used the Global Human Settlement Layer Urban Center Database (GHS-UCDB) to define the boundaries of the city. These cities -- or urban centers -- cover areas that are densely populated and built-up, and so may extend beyond the spatial borders of these cities that we may be familiar with. The GHS area is shaded in blue.

View Berlin, Germany on the sprawlmap

Most recent snapshot: Taking into account the entire (i.e. aggregate) street network in Berlin as of 2014, the overall level of street-network sprawl is 0.5, which is relatively well-connected.

Trends in street network construction: The SNDis of street construction for the respective time periods are 0.47, 0.91, 0.91 and 1.13. In each period, new street development in Berlin steadily grows more disconnected than in the last. This increase has slowed: between 1975 and 1976-1990, SNDi rose by 0.44 points, but between 1991-2000 and 2001-2014, it rose by just 0.21.

Quantity of street network construction: The street network in Berlin spans a total of 6487 kilometers. It is dominated by roads constructed prior to 1975. These roads have an SNDi of 0.47, which is relatively well-connected.

Effect on the aggregate network: New construction in each period adds to the total stock of streets, but does not change streets that have already been built. Therefore, it has a limited effect on the street network as a whole. The SNDis of the aggregate street network in the respective time periods are 0.47, 0.49, 0.49 and 0.5. Overall, the SNDi of the aggregate street network has risen: the street network in Berlin has become more disconnected. This increase has slowed: between 1975 and 1976-1990, SNDi rose by 0.03 points, but between 1991-2000 and 2001-2014, it rose by just 0.0.

The level of street-network sprawl in new development in Berlin rose steadily. To get a sense of how street development has changed in Berlin, we can consider one of its most populous cities: Berlin. None of the most populous cities follow the same trend as the region. The level of street-network sprawl in new development in Berlin peaked in 1991-2000.

How do development practices in Berlin fare in comparison to others in Germany? Most recently in 2001-2014, street construction in Berlin was the 16th-most disconnected out of the 16 regions in Germany. Its position in the ranks since 1975 has not changed. Berlin ranked 16th in 1975, 16th in 1976-1990, 16th in 1991-2000 and 16th in 2001-2014.

As of 2014, the city with the most disconnected street network in Berlin is Berlin with an SNDi of 0.46, which is relatively well-connected. Conversely, the most connected city is Berlin with an SNDi of 0.46, which is relatively well-connected. See trends for these cities: Berlin, Berlin

The level of street-network sprawl in the aggregate network in Berlin rose steadily. To get a sense of how the aggregate street network has changed in Berlin, we can consider one of its most populous cities: Berlin. Disconnectivity in the most populous cities in Berlin follow the same region trend.

To date, Berlin is the 16th-most disconnected out of the 16 regions in Germany. Its position in the ranks since 1975 has not changed. Berlin ranked 16th in 1975, 16th in 1976-1990, 16th in 1991-2000 and 16th in 2001-2014.