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Transportation infrastructure #0535
Updated: 7/30/00 OS/platforms(s): All Versions: All

Contributor/author(s): Daniel K. H. Cortese

Cities are rarely planned in a vacuum. Often, there is already a smaller population in place when planners decide to structure an organized grid-like city. For example, when the capital of the new Republic of Texas in 1836, Austin was designed to be grid-like only in the downtown area and the surrounding areas were left natural with roads following old indian trails. The same for Broadway in Manhattan; it followed an Indian trail and ignored the grid-like structure of the original planners. However, in the "outer areas", developers left room for railroads and, later, highways (as is the case for the oldest highways in the nation, such as the Southern Parkway in Long Island, NY). originally, the outer parts of the cities were suburbs, and later, when the city expanded, these less-organized areas became a part of the main city. Chicago, Miami, and the Northeast Cities were designed similarly. For a very realistic city, I apply these models of urban design. Here's how:

  1. Leave a space of 4 - 6 tiles wide through your city connecting neighbors. Often, I leave these with trees so that I know that they are reserves. Build on either side if you'd like, but do not build within those reserves. Let them meander throughout your city. Then, when you need a highway, you have a place for them with additional room. Since there will be a tree-barrier that muffles out the sound of the cars and trucks, your property values will not decrease significantly.
  2. Do the same for railroads. These are communer rails for the most part. Very few neighborhoods actually have a railroad on street level running in their backyard. Often, there is a street on either side, or a set of bushes/trees on both sides that will quiet the sound of the train passing through. Use this method! Save 3-5 spaces wide and fill them with trees. The rail can go through the preserve (even two if you need it!) without causing a ruckus from your environmentalists or the suburban land values! The only neighborhoods that don't mind a rail in their backyards are commercial areas and industrial areas, especially the latter.
  3. Leave some roads that go diagonal and meander through your city and to outlying areas. People like to travel to smaller "towns" near their city that have roads that meander. And when you build a grid over it and the smaller outlying towns, you have a perfect place for pristine public squares for museums (where do you put them anyway, except near parklands?). That will increase the tax base for the city. SC3K writers swore against this because it "wasted space" but it is up to you on function versus form.
  4. A city works best when there is a main city and some smaller low density residential/commercial areas that extend out like spokes from the main city that are connected by a non-straight gridlike road. I usually build those with very few roads... a junction or some sort with a rail line nearby. Tax bases skyrockets because the wealthy love to be near a commuting rail in a very small town near a big city. Eventually, the larger city may "annex" this area, which is fine--it is just a nice subdivision!

Try these out and see. Foresight for wise urban sprawl that incorporates ecology and economy will make your city thrive. Even without cheats, my cities often are very aesthetically pleasing while huge economic money-makers.

See also
Traffic and transportation specifics
Building railyards
How to make large avenues
Avenues: form or functional?
Beautify your highway system
Highways, for aesthetics only?
Building an effective highway interchange system
The where and what of mass transit
Building the perfect mass transit system
Eliminate traffic and mass transit costs
Mass transit: in efficiency, realism, and stuff
How to build a big, mass transit free city

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