Friday, October 30, 2009

More Evidence of Our Fragile Networks -- the Bay Bridge

The San Francisco Bay bridge is still closed, days after 5,000 pounds of steel collapsed from it last Tuesday, causing havoc for commuters, who have had to determine new routes of travel to work (and back to their homes). This is another example of the fragility of the transportation network infrastructure in the United States, and one of the major themes of our Fragile Networks: Identifying Vulnerabilities and Synergies book. has provided an update to this important story.

The Europeans "get it" and are applying the measure that Patrick Qiang and I developed to determine the importance of various nodes and links in critical infrastructure networks, including transportation networks, the Internet, electric power distribution and generation networks and even financial networks.

For example, the Nagurney and Qiang measure has been applied to determine the efficiency of transportation networks in Germany and the ranking, in terms of importance, of various highways. It has now been proposed as a powerful tool in evaluating a proposed addition to the Dublin, Ireland metro in a very interesting article written by John Walsh. The article is contained in a glossy publication in the October 2009 issue of ERCIM, which focuses on Green ICT. The issue is in pdf format and may take a while to download but it is certainly worth the wait. More information about the ERCIM organization can be found here.

Those links in networks (think: roads, bridges in urban transportation networks; electric power lines, communication cables and fiber optic links in telecommunication networks, and even manufacturing and distribution channels in supply chains, including those in vaccine and medical ones) that are identified as most important from a network efficiency/performance standpoint, should be best maintained and protected since their removal or disruption will have the biggest impact on the system. At the same time, one can ascertain what improvements via the measure that we have developed will have the greatest positive impact.

What is the U.S. waiting for? What matters more than the infrastructure that our society and economy depend upon?!