Using GIS to generate mutually exclusive service areas linking travel on and off a network

Chris Upchurch, Michael Kuby, Michael Zoldak, Anthony Barranda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


Generating a buffer or service area around a feature is a very basic command of a geographic information system. However, most existing methods for doing so create simple distance-bounded geometric buffers. While these methods function well for many applications, they have limitations when dealing with network-based phenomena because they do not take the geometry or impedance of the underlying network into account. More complex methods can be used to create network-based service areas. While they tend to work well on the network itself they often do not allocate off-network areas on an exclusive basis. In our case study of light rail systems, we required a set of mutually exclusive network-based buffers. To create such buffers we developed a hierarchical raster-based algorithm. It is hierarchical in the sense that the off-network distance between each cell and its nearest network segment is calculated separately from the on-network distance between each segment and its nearest node. This method allows the creation of buffers bounded by distance or travel cost with true mutual exclusivity and realistic allocation of off-network areas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)23-33
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Transport Geography
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2004


  • Buffers
  • GIS
  • Networks
  • Service areas
  • Shortest paths
  • Transportation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Transportation
  • General Environmental Science


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