Understanding connectivity

When you create your network dataset, you will make choices that determine which edge and junction elements are created from source features. Ensuring that edges and junctions are formed correctly is important for accurate network analysis results.

Connectivity in a network dataset is based on geometric coincidences of line endpoints, line vertices, and points and applying connectivity rules that you set as properties of the network dataset.

Connectivity groups

Connectivity in ArcGIS Network Analyst begins with the definition of connectivity groups. Each edge source is assigned to exactly one connectivity group, and each junction source can be assigned to one or more connectivity groups. A connectivity group can contain any number of sources. How network elements connect depends on which connectivity groups the elements are in. For example, two edges created from two distinct source feature classes can connect if they are in the same connectivity group. If they are in separate connectivity groups, the edges won't connect unless they are joined by a junction that participates in both connectivity groups.

Connectivity groups are used to model multimodal transportation systems. For each connectivity group, you select the network sources that interconnect. In the subway and street multimodal network example below, metro lines and metro entrances are all assigned the same connectivity group. Note that Metro_Entrance is also in the connectivity group with streets. It forms the link between the two connectivity groups. Any path between the groups must travel through a shared metro entrance. For example, a route solver may determine that a pedestrian's best route between two locations in a city is to walk on the street to a metro entrance, board a subway train, take another train at a line-crossing station, and exit through another metro entrance. Connectivity groups keep the two networks distinct yet connect them at shared junctions (metro entrances).

Connectivity Groups

Connecting edges within a connectivity group

Edges in the same connectivity group can be made to connect in two ways, set by the connectivity policy on the edge source.


Not all crossing line features can produce connected edges. If they do not share any coincident endpoints or vertices, no connectivity policy will create a junction at the point of intersection. Street data for network datasets must be cleaned first so that either vertices or endpoints are present at all intended junctions.

No coincident vertices, no connectivity

If you need to remedy your street data, either use a geoprocessing tool, such as Integrate, to split crossing lines or establish a topology on these feature classes and edit street features while applying topology rules that enforce feature splits at intersections.

Connecting edges through junctions across connectivity groups

Edges in different connectivity groups can be connected only through a junction shared by both connectivity groups.

In the example of a multimodal system combining a bus network and street network, a bus stop is added from a point source and is in both connectivity groups. The point location of the bus stop must then be spatially coincident with the bus lines and street lines it joins. When the point location for the bus stop is added, whether it successfully becomes a junction depends on the junction connectivity policy. As with edges, junctions connect to edges at endpoints or vertices, depending on the target edge source's connectivity policy. However, there are situations in which you might want to override this behavior.

junctions that honor connectivity
Setting up honor connectivity policy for junctions

For example, the bus line that the bus stop connects to has an endpoint connectivity policy, but often you will want to place the bus stop at an intermediate vertex. To do so, you will need to set a junction policy to override the default behavior of connecting a junction to a given edge.

To override the default behavior of junctions forming at endpoints or vertices according to the edge source's connectivity policy, set the junction source's connectivity to override. The default is to honor the edge connectivity policy.

junctions override the connectivity

Setting up override connectivity policy for junctions

Modeling elevation

The connectivity of network elements can depend not only on whether they are coincident in x and y space but also on whether they share the same elevation. There are two options for modeling elevation: using elevation fields and using z-coordinate values from geometry.

Elevation fields

Elevation fields are used in the network dataset to refine the connectivity at line endpoints. They contain elevation information derived from fields on a feature class participating in the network. This is different from establishing connectivity based on z-coordinate values, in which the physical elevation information is stored on each vertex of the feature. Elevation fields apply to edge and junction sources. Edge feature sources using elevation fields have two fields to describe elevation (one for each end of the line feature).

In the example below, four line features, EF1, EF2, EF3, and EF4, belong to the same connectivity group and observe endpoint connectivity. The elevation values for EF3 and EF4 are 0; the elevation values for EF1 and EF2 are 1. Hence, at the point of intersection, EF3 is connected to EF4 only (not to EF1 or EF2). Similarly, EF1 connects to EF2 only, not to EF3 or EF4. It is important to understand the elevation fields refine the connectivity; they do not override it. Two edge elements may have the same elevation field value and may be coincident, but if they are placed in two different connectivity groups, they will not be connected.

modeling connectivity through elevation fields

Numerous data vendors provide elevation field data to model connectivity. The ArcGIS network dataset connectivity model can use this elevation field data to enhance connectivity. The interaction of elevation fields with the connectivity model is also vital to model special scenarios, such as bridges and tunnels.

Z-coordinate values from geometry

When source features have z-values stored in their geometry, you can create three-dimensional networks.

Indoor pedestrian paths are often modeled with 3D networks. Consider that many hallways in a multistory building are indistinguishable in 2D, x-y space, yet they can be separated by their z-coordinate values in 3D space. Similarly, elevator shafts connect floors by moving vertically. In x-y space, elevators are points, but in 3D space, they are properly modeled as lines.

Z-coordinate values make it possible to model the connectivity of point and line features in three dimensions. Connectivity can only occur in a 3D network dataset where source features (specifically, points, line endpoints, and line vertices) share all three coordinate values: x, y, and z. The next set of images demonstrate this requirement.

Connected and disconnected lines in three-dimensional space (front view).
Four line features are shown in three-dimensional space: three horizontal lines (blue) and one diagonal line (red). The six green spheres represent the line endpoints.
Connected and disconnected lines in three-dimensional space (side view).
This graphic shows the same lines and endpoints from another perspective. It is clear that the red line connects with the top two blue lines at their endpoints. Yet the red line doesn't intersect the lower blue line.
A diagram shows what edges are created from the 3D features.
This graphic demonstrates which edges would be connected from the three-dimensional features shown in the previous two graphics. Because the red line shares x-, y-, and z-coordinate values with the two blue lines at the top, the edges are connected. However, since the red line and the lower blue line do not intersect, their corresponding edges in the network dataset cannot connect.

Three-dimensional networks also respect the connectivity policy settings of the connectivity group, as the next three images demonstrate.

A red line feature intersects two parallel blue line features in three-dimensional space.
One red line feature intersects two blue line features at vertices (green cubes). Since the lines intersect at vertices, their corresponding edges may or may not connect in a network dataset; it depends on the connectivity policy.

A diagram shows the results of using the End Point connectivity policy.
When the connectivity policy is set to End Point, the resulting edges (e2, e1, and e3) don't connect.
A diagram shows the results of using the Any Vertex connectivity policy with the three-dimensional line features.
When the connectivity policy is set to Any Vertex, the resulting edges do connect, which makes it possible to travel between the blue edges and red edges.

Once you have a 3D network dataset, you can perform 3D analyses.

Learn more about analyses on 3D network datasets

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