Graph Analysis Tutorial with GraphX (Legacy)

This topic covers basic graph analysis using the GraphX API. The goal of this tutorial is to show you how to use the GraphX API to perform graph analysis, using publicly available bike data from the Bay Area Bike Share portal, specifically analyzing the second year of data.


GraphX computation is supported only using the Scala and RDD APIs.

Graph processing primer

Graph processing is an important aspect of analysis that applies to a lot of use cases. Fundamentally graph theory and processing are about defining relationships between different nodes and edges. Nodes or vertices are the units while edges define the relationships between nodes. This works great for social network analysis and running algorithms like PageRank to better understand and weigh relationships.

Some business use cases include looking at central people in social networks (identifying who is most popular in a group of friends), ranking the importance of papers in bibliographic networks (which papers are most referenced), and of course ranking web pages.

This Bay Area bike share data used in this example is free for use by the public on the website linked above. The way you’re going to orient your analysis is by making every vertex a station and each trip an edge connecting two stations. This creates a directed graph.

Setup and data

To get the data into your workspace, download the data and unzip it on your computer. After you’ve unzipped the files, upload 201508_station_data.csv and 201508_trip_data.csv using one of the methods in Accessing Data.

It is unnecessary to change column types or do preprocessing before upload in this example. After the files upload as a table, you can import them as DataFrames into Databricks. The tables in the example are named sf_201508_station_data and sf_201508_trip_data but feel free to call them something else.

val bikeStations = sqlContext.sql("SELECT * FROM sf_201508_station_data")
val tripData = sqlContext.sql("SELECT * FROM sf_201508_trip_data")

It can often be helpful to look at the exact schema to ensure that you have the right types associated with the right columns. In this case you haven’t done any manipulation so you won’t have anything besides string.



You must perform imports before you can continue. In this case, you’ll import a variety of SQL functions that make working with DataFrames much easier, and you’ll import everything that you need from GraphX.

import org.apache.spark.graphx._
import org.apache.spark.rdd.RDD

Building the graph

Now that you’ve imported your data, you need to build your graph. You will build the structure of the vertices (or nodes) and the structure of the edges.

You may have noticed that you have station ids inside your bikeStations data but not inside your trip data. This complicates things because you have to ensure that you have numerical data for GraphX. That means that the vertices have to be identifiable with a numeric value, not a string value like station name. Therefore you have to perform some joins to ensure that you have those ids associated with each trip.

val justStations = bikeStations
  .selectExpr("float(station_id) as station_id", "name")

val completeTripData = tripData
  .join(justStations, tripData("Start Station") === bikeStations("name"))
  .withColumnRenamed("station_id", "start_station_id")
  .join(justStations, tripData("End Station") === bikeStations("name"))
  .withColumnRenamed("station_id", "end_station_id")
val stations = completeTripData
  .select("start_station_id", "end_station_id")
  .distinct() // helps filter out duplicate trips
  .flatMap(x => Iterable(x(0).asInstanceOf[Number].longValue, x(1).asInstanceOf[Number].longValue)) // helps us maintain types
  .toDF() // return to a DF to make merging + joining easier

stations.take(1) // this is just a station_id at this point

Now you can create your set of vertices and attach a bit of metadata to each of them, which in this case is the name of the station.

val stationVertices: RDD[(VertexId, String)] = stations
  .join(justStations, stations("value") === justStations("station_id"))
  .select("station_id", "name")
  .map(row => (row(0).asInstanceOf[Number].longValue, row(1).asInstanceOf[String])) // maintain type information


Now you can create the trip edges from all of your individual rides. You’ll get the station values, then just add a dummy value of 1.

val stationEdges:RDD[Edge[Long]] = completeTripData
  .select("start_station_id", "end_station_id")
  .map(row => Edge(row(0).asInstanceOf[Number].longValue, row(1).asInstanceOf[Number].longValue, 1))

Now you can build your graph. You’ll notice below that I make a default station. This is for any edges that don’t actually point to one of your vertices, imagine some sort of collection error, or a station that has gone out of service. It’s worth understanding and analyzing the data collection process (or historical collection process) to better understand whether or not this merits more thought when applied to your own data.

I’m also going to cache your graph for faster access.

val defaultStation = ("Missing Station")
val stationGraph = Graph(stationVertices, stationEdges, defaultStation)
println("Total Number of Stations: " + stationGraph.numVertices)
println("Total Number of Trips: " + stationGraph.numEdges)
// sanity check
println("Total Number of Trips in Original Data: " + tripData.count)

Now that you’re all set up and have computed some basic statistics, let’s run some algorithms.


GraphX includes a number of built-in algorithms to leverage. PageRank is one of the more popular ones popularized by the Google Search Engine and created by Larry Page. To quote Wikipedia:

PageRank works by counting the number and quality of links to a page to determine a rough estimate of how important the website is. The underlying assumption is that more important websites are likely to receive more links from other websites.

What’s awesome about this concept is that it readily applies to any graph type structure be them web pages or bike stations. Let’s go ahead and run PageRank on your data, you can either run it for a set number of iterations or until convergence. Passing an Integer into pageRank will run for a set number of iterations while a Double will run until convergence.

val ranks = stationGraph.pageRank(0.0001).vertices
  .sortBy(_._2._1, ascending=false) // sort by the rank
  .take(10) // get the top 10
  .foreach(x => println(x._2._2))

You can see above that the Caltrain stations seem to be significant. This makes sense as these are natural connectors and likely one of the most popular uses of these bike share programs to get you from A to B in a way that you don’t need a car.

Trips from station to station

One question is what are the most common destinations in the dataset from location to location. You can do this by performing a grouping operator and adding the edge counts together. This will yield a new graph except each edge will now be the sum of all of the semantically same edges. Think about it this way: you have a number of trips that are the exact same from station A to station B, you just want to count those up.

In the below query you’ll see that you’re going to grab the station to station trips that are most common and print out the top 10.

  .groupEdges((edge1, edge2) => edge1 + edge2)
  .sortBy(_.attr, ascending=false)
  .map(triplet =>
    "There were " + triplet.attr.toString + " trips from " + triplet.srcAttr + " to " + triplet.dstAttr + ".")

In degrees and out degrees

Remember that in this instance you’ve got a directed graph. That means that your trips are directional - from one location to another. Therefore you get access to a wealth of analysis that you can use. You can find the number of trips that go into a specific station and leave from a specific station.

Naturally you can sort this information and find the stations with lots of inbound and outbound trips. Check out this definition of Vertex Degrees for more information.

Now that you’ve defined that process, let’s go ahead and find the stations that have lots of inbound and outbound traffic.

  .inDegrees // computes in Degrees
  .sortBy(_._2._1, ascending=false)
  .foreach(x => println(x._2._2 + " has " + x._2._1 + " in degrees."))
  .outDegrees // out degrees
  .sortBy(_._2._1, ascending=false)
  .foreach(x => println(x._2._2 + " has " + x._2._1 + " out degrees."))

One interesting follow up question you could ask is what is the station with the highest ratio of in degrees but fewest out degrees. As in, what station acts as a pure trip sink. A station where trips end at but rarely start from.

  .join(stationGraph.outDegrees) // join with out Degrees
  .join(stationVertices) // join with your other stations
  .map(x => (x._2._1._1.toDouble/x._2._1._2.toDouble, x._2._2)) // ratio of in to out
  .sortBy(_._1, ascending=false)
  .foreach(x => println(x._2 + " has a in/out degree ratio of " + x._1))

You can do something similar by getting the stations with the lowest in degrees to out degrees ratios, meaning that trips start from that station but don’t end there as often. This is essentially the opposite of what you have above.

  .join(stationGraph.inDegrees) // join with out Degrees
  .join(stationVertices) // join with your other stations
  .map(x => (x._2._1._1.toDouble/x._2._1._2.toDouble, x._2._2)) // ratio of in to out
  .foreach(x => println(x._2 + " has a in/out degree ratio of " + x._1))