Abstract Public transport networks of fourteen cities of so far unexplored network size are analyzed in standardized graph representations: the simple graph of the network map, the bipartite graph of routes and stations, and both one mode projections of the latter. Special attention is paid to the inter-relations and spatial embedding of transport routes. This systematic approach reveals rich behavior beyond that of the ubiquitous scale-free complex network. We find strong evidence for structures in PTNs that are counter-intuitive and need to be explained, among these a pronounced diversity in the expression of typical network characteristics within the present sample of cities, a surprising geometrical behavior with respect to the two-dimensional geographical embedding and an unexpected attraction between transport routes. A simple model based on these observations reproduces many of the identified PTN properties by growing networks of attractive self-avoiding walks.
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