Suburbs: What are they?
Let’s give a quick definition of a suburb before we continue. Suburbs are generally considered the outlying areas of a city. Usually, they include much of the cities population, as well as holding much of the shopping centers, malls, etc. Mikeaut1 outlines them in greater detail in his article, Suburbs: Creating Realism in SimCity4.
Now, what makes a suburb? To me, a suburb, or a subdivision, is a contained residential area, near or backing onto an arterial road. I can see the look of confusion on your faces already, so let me illustrate with pictures.
BlackMain arterial roadwayRedArterial roadwayGreenMain residential roadBlueLarger roadYellowCommercial areas
This suburb is surrounded on two sides by arterial roadways, one to the north which is out of the picture’s range, and the one to the south. On the east and west, there is a creek and a river. Essentially, to get out of this area, you need to access either one of the arterials. By doing this, city planners can force people to take the routes they want them to take, funneling traffic into the large, multi lane roads which are designed for more traffic.
How Can I Use This In-Game?
It’s actually quite simple. Just emulate the design of this neighborhood, and point the arterials towards the downtown area, to large commercial districts, or towards arterials leading to either of those locations. Now, chances are good that, due to SimCity’s rather unrealistic pathfinding engine (not the fault of Maxis though, that’s a difficult thing to make!), Sims won’t flow onto the arterials if you just plop them everywhere, willy-nilly. When building your neighborhoods, be sure to have streets doing a crescent or leading to a cul-de-sac feed onto a larger road, perhaps even an avenue. Alternatively, you could leave a tile’s space on one side for room for possible widening to an avenue, as many real life city planners do. Lets go through a few pictures for examples now.
Take a look at this shot. The avenue has 2 smaller roads feeding onto it (which is considered in my books to be the area’s arterial road), and the road which we have full view of has streets feeding onto it. By following this technique and only leaving a few exits from a residential area onto an avenue, you can force the Sims to take the main routes you want them to take. Not to mention, it looks a heck of a lot more realistic and interesting.
If space is tight in your suburb, and you don’t feel like making room for a 4 lane road, there’s always another avenue you can explore (bad pun, I know). As shown in the picture above, try just adding more exits out of the subdivision with roads. By allowing each section to exit independently, it relieves the impending bottleneck that would occur with only 1 central exit.
Pretty much, that’s about all you have to look out for when creating a realistic subdivision, keeping track of arterials and that.
For your reference, some good mods to have to aid in your efforts would be the NAM, which adds much to the transport networks, including the fancy little roundabouts and more. That mod pretty much makes transportation layout a whole new game, adding new intersections, interchanges, and some traffic networks. Easily the best mod created for this game thus far (not discounting any of the other wonderful creations though). For more visual pleasure than anything, I’d also suggest the Bridge Height Mod, and one of the road top mass transits (this is merely a link to the original, from back in 2003). All of these will add a whole new level to your transport networks, both in function and in aesthetics.
I wish you luck in your subdivision building, and hope that these tips have helped you create both a more realistic city, as well as a much more pleasing view for the eyes.