fictional city seeks reality check

Newport for blog
Did you draw maps of fictional cities when you were 8 years old?  If so, you and I are part of a near-invisible, uncounted minority. 

If that's you, I dare you not to be interested in this!  Even if you just enjoy maps of other cities, here's a chance to study a city you've never seen before.

For the transit planning course that I'm developing, I've created a fictional city that's designed to present a range of major transit issues, while also being an interesting place.  I considered using a real city, but in my experience, planning for a real city slides too quickly to details that obscure the big picture of how a good network works. 

My introduction to the fictional city is here:  Download Game Newport intro (.doc)

A rich set of map layers, created in Excel, is here:   Download Game data backsave  (.xls)

Both documents are covered by the assertion of copyright that covers all of this blog's material. 

I'd love feedback, especially about these questions:

  • Is the city realistic?  Does it contravene what you perceive to be "facts" of geology, hydrology, urban economics, bird psychology, or post-1800 urban history?
  • Have I omitted information that seems relevant to the basic task of designing a transit network?  Note that I'm not asking "have I omitted anything that might be interesting?"  The austere novelist and dominatrix who sells rare Asian herbs out of her Craftsman basement at 3315 W 43rd St while also being the invisible brains behind a top eco-fashion label is extremely interesting, but I only had a day to put this together.

Have fun!  The premiere of the transit planning course is in Surrey, British Columbia near Vancouver on June 9-10.  Last I checked there were a few places left.  Details here.


  • Please do not try to comment based only on the illustration above.  I'm getting many comments that indicate you've only looked at that image.  You would need to download the files and look at the whole thing.
  • Apologies to those who had trouble with the .docx and .xlsx versions; these old formats should be more widely compatible and convertible.
  • The newest version now has layers for income and existing rail infrastructure.

Finally, I'm surprised at early comments that I don't have enough freeways!  It's not a freeway dependent city, by choice.  (See the .doc file above for more on the freeway wars.)   But freeways that run only on the periphery and don't connect into the core are common enough in cities of this size class.  See:

  • Victoria, British Columbia, metro pop 330k.  Two small shreds of freeway, created only as traffic required.
  • Halifax, Nova Scotia, metro pop 372k.  Fragments of an outer ring freeway, nothing into the city.
  • Christchurch, New Zealand, metro pop 390k at least before February's earthquake.  One 5-km shred of freeway approaching from the north (Kaiapoi to Belfast), but it's really just an extended bridge.
  • Palm Springs-Indio, California, metro pop 365k.  The area is bypassed on the north by Interstate 10, far from most of the urban cores.
  • Gold Coast, Queensland, metro pop 591k.  A massive highrise hotel/retail core (30-60 storeys) at Surfers Paradise, a highrise business core in adjacent Southport, but the only freeway bypasses 7 km to the west.

The last two of these are not, by any stretch, leftist car-hating enclaves.  In fact, they're exceptionally car-dependent.  Still, no freeways near the core.  It's possible!

    52 Responses to fictional city seeks reality check

    1. Brad May 21, 2011 at 8:21 pm #

      Perhaps the College clustered with the high school and shopping (top left) should be separated and put somewhere by itself?
      Perhaps some tourist attraction should be added, like an amusement park? How about a sports stadium too?

    2. Danny May 21, 2011 at 8:54 pm #

      Is there an if-you-build-it-they-will-come option? Without that kind of option, most people (transit planners included) would just get frustrated and quit. Too much thinking.
      I wasn’t able to see the real thing because I’m currently on a linux box and it wasn’t formatting correctly on OpenOffice…but from the picture I can’t really tell if there is any sort of indicator for density. That certainly affects certain decisions.

    3. JJJJ May 21, 2011 at 10:01 pm #

      I dont understand how to open and view the files. What program do I need?
      If your screen cap is any indication, needs more cul-de-sacs.

    4. Jarrett at May 21, 2011 at 10:20 pm #

      Intro is Word (.docx).  Maps are in Excel (.xlsx).  Let me know what the problem is.  Thx J

    5. Morgan Wick May 21, 2011 at 10:46 pm #

      .docx and .xlsx, as far as I know, only work in Office 2007 and above – they CAN work on lesser versions of Office with converters, but if you’re boycotting the Evil Empire, you’re kinda screwed.

    6. NCarlson May 21, 2011 at 11:51 pm #

      My only real concern about this is how universal something like this really is. Yes, it applies fairly well to older traditional communities and does have some real suburban components I get the feeling it doesn’t represent the thoroughly suburban oriented nature of so many cities. Honestly I don’t think that there’s much that can be done about it though, short of having two separate cities (even if the size of the map and city were increased having a strong core is going to dominate a transit planning exercise IMO). Anyway, I think it serves it’s purpose quite well in general, and while a pair of cities with different characteristics seems like a conceptually wonderful way of handling an exercise like this I can’t even begin to imagine how you could run it in the real world.
      Is it realistic? Maybe not entirely, but I think it is still representative, and that’s what matters here. My only real question as to realism is how obviously influenced by Vancouver is this to people who aren’t familiar with the city?
      Other than that I wonder if a little more information isn’t needed. I’m not really sure what kind of exercise you intend here, but the three things that jump out at me looking at it with an eye to transit routes are that I want to know something about traffic patterns (one can guess based on density, but it just doesn’t feel like enough information). Hard to implement, but I suspect most people will want this kind of information. Second, what is the built form like? You talk about it a little, but I have no idea what kind of room is available for infrastructure, and obviously that is going to play a pretty big role in transit planning beyond local bus routes. Finally (and getting more specific than I think you are really looking for), signifying something about the navigability and of the various bodies of water might help if you do anything looking at specific potential transit routes (I see a lot of potential for waterbuses in the old port, especially if the river going north can handle them).

    7. Jarrett May 21, 2011 at 11:52 pm #

      NOTE: I have updated the files so that they are now in the more widely convertible .doc and .xls formats. Apologies for any confusion, and only because Microsoft will never apologize for having created the problem.

    8. Jarrett at May 22, 2011 at 12:01 am #

      NCarlson.  The influence of Vancouver will be obvious in the National University site, but the Arts Bank and Trade Coast come from Brisbane, Cannery Row is from Monterey, the hilltop medical center on West Ridge is from Portland, and the Plateau is from any number of mountain west ciites I've worked in.  There may be bits of Hobart, Tasmania and Wellington, New Zealand in the shape and feel of the harbour, or I may just be miniaturizing Sydney Harbour to suit my purpose.  There will definitely be scope for little ferries, especially since the low 10th Street bridge is a drawbridge, so ferries can force their advantage by requiring it to open, obstructing the buses …

    9. Loose Shunter May 22, 2011 at 12:22 am #

      Purely from a reality-check viewpoint, the area around the bird sanctuary and wetlands may not be the best place for an airport.
      On more transit-based matters, I’m interested in knowing what the hierarchy of lines represent (roads I imagine) and what the different line weights/types represent.
      Also, is there a current or legacy ‘Central’ or ‘Union’ railway station/terminal in the city?
      Would it also be right to say that the tightness of the grid represents density, which puts the CBD to the south of the map?. That being said, the lack of knowing where the commercial heart of the city is makes me wonder if there are any activity centres to the north in the ‘new’, less dense suburbs?
      As a first cut of a map, it’s quite good. I’ve already overlaid my assumptions upon it! Wish I was doing your course. It might help my Urban Planning degree go faster.

    10. Sasha May 22, 2011 at 12:52 am #

      it has pretty good detail, especially for excel
      this may have already been noted – but one detail that’s lacking is railroad infrastructure, which plays a big role in the shaping of a city. Pre-existing railroad infrastructure also gets incorporated into public transportation as light rail and commuter rail – so this map sort of misses out on the opportunity to work with that

    11. Jarrett at May 22, 2011 at 1:16 am #

      Sasha.   I will introduce some rails, don't worry. J

    12. Jonathan Hammond May 22, 2011 at 4:08 am #

      Did I draw maps of fictional cities when I was eight? Man, I still do that. (And, yes, of course this makes me even weirder.)
      I’ll see what I can do with Newport. I’m having the same problems as others with getting the map to resolve in OpenOffice. Have you considered using GIMP to create a vector-based GIS?

    13. Ed O May 22, 2011 at 6:39 am #

      Some quick comments on the fictional city:
      1. the downtown core has about 45% of the city’s jobs – are jobs usually concentrated to such a degree in US cities? I’d put more jobs around the airport and in the ‘Commerce City’/freeway area.
      2. It’s only about 7-8km from the downtown core to the rural-urban fringe. This seems too compact – aren’t US cities a bit more sprawly that this? With the sort of topographic constraints suggested, low-density development would have pushed up to the north-east along the freeway, way past the airport.
      3. Unless the Bird Sanctuary is a swamp that has always been too difficult to fill and develop, the area would have been cleared for farms and then suburban development long before the land was likely to have been set aside as a bird sanctuary. I’d probably expect a fair proportion of jobs and people to be located here on this flat land, extending north-east from the City.
      4. The landuse layout and density already appears to indicate a fair degree of transit usage. With such a significant concentration of jobs in the CBD, a radial transit network immediately suggests itself. I’d probably disperse and spread the jobs around a bit more to make this exercise more interesting and realistic.

    14. Steve S. May 22, 2011 at 8:51 am #

      1. PHL is an excellent example of a real-life airport created on tidal wetlands, as is JFK, so I see that working. That also goes hand-in-hand with the assumption of the bird sanctuary as being too swampy to develop properly. Again, PHL and JFK provide excellent real-life examples.
      2. I’d be really surprised if transportation planners didn’t run a freeway along the top of the Plateau, concentrating people and jobs up there.
      3. Agreed that jobs need to be more decentralized. The government seat is a centralization factor, yes, but it sounds like there needs to be more edge city up on the plateau. I think that the urban core would have ~30% of the region’s jobs in the setup you’re proposing.
      4. What about rail infrastructure? The city wouldn’t have been able to grow, prior to 1950, without it. And what would the story with the downtown station be? I can easily imagine it being a Deco station way undersized viz. the present city turned into condos with an Amshack right next door (assuming it’s been preserved at all). I can also see one (or maybe two) starter commuter rail lines having been developed from downtown out to the nether edge of the Plateau in the past decade–especially if the terminal was preserved and an Amshack not built.

    15. Jeff Ferzoco May 22, 2011 at 10:37 am #

      This is the best use of Excel I’ve ever seen. I used to do this all the time as a kid and am really excited when I see that others do it, too.
      It’s a great map. I’d just add on Fortune 500 campus outside the city bounds, probably in the Plateau. Of course, if you add time, you should move it to another city (spreadsheet) in 40 years:)
      Also, you should have a property tax layer. That would be a real-life factor that works itself into every, single policy a of a city. I’m also now wondering how you could actually work a policy layer into this now, too.

    16. Alon Levy May 22, 2011 at 10:57 am #

      What do the freeways connect to? The main suburban area seems to be to the northwest, so I’d expect a freeway to go there, and not east-west. If not, then I’d expect a railroad, with a few older, more compact neighborhoods along it.
      More generally, in many ways the city reminds me of Vancouver – I don’t know if it’s intentional or not. Downtown is at one end of the city, near water. There is little freeway development by American standards. The densest neighborhoods have about 25,000 people per km^2. Downtown has a lot of mixed uses, with some of the densest residential cells; conversely, its job density that peaks at 28,000 per km^2, which is low by the standards of skyscraper-ridden single-use CBDs.

    17. rich May 22, 2011 at 12:44 pm #

      Very interesting. I don’t have any quibbles, other than the amount of freeways being less than one might expect, but not unrealistic.

    18. Andrew May 22, 2011 at 4:00 pm #

      – The airport needs to have a LOT more jobs than is shown on the map. Major international airports can employ tens of thousands of people. Also the employment area really should be expanded to take over the land immediately surrounding the area (where the bird sanctuary is). In Toronto, one of the GTA’s largest concentration of jobs (both industrial and business park) is located near Pearson Airport, primarily in Mississauga.
      – It is sort of unrealistic to have all the business park/industrial areas on one side of the city and all the subdivisions on the opposite site of the city. Usually residential and commercial uses in big US/Canadian cities are located somewhat near each other, even though the areas are typically not walkable, generally not mixed use and utterly car dependent. Also, business parks/industrial areas are nearly always located near freeways. I would suggest adding some low density subdivisions east of the big employment area on the map, and some more freeways of course.
      – You really need to add some indicator of socioeconomic status (e.g. property values) because this makes a big difference in transit planning. Poor neighbourhoods have higher transit usage, and are often (though not always) far from where the jobs are.

    19. Nikko P May 22, 2011 at 4:33 pm #

      First off, I found this exercise very interesting and I look forward to working on it once you’ve finalized it. To save time, I’m first going to say I generally agree with the points others have already brought up so I’m going to try not to repeat them.
      Maybe my biggest concern is that, while the table effectively represents districts, it doesn’t depict actual corridors which I feel is important to a transit planning exercise and makes planning transit lines difficult. Even in a compact settings like “East Ride” there is almost always a single street/corridor that commerce and life in the neighborhood revolves around. In other words, there’s no “Main Streets” anywhere.
      The incompletion of the freeway doesn’t seem realistic, especially for a North American City. I think it would have been realistic to have the 80th Street and 25th Ave segments completed. Additionally, suburban areas like The Plateau usually freeways going out to these outlying areas which fosters the sprawl to begin with.
      Legacy Transit
      While a lot of people have already brought up the lack of legacy railroad lines, I wanted to bring up the lack of legacy transit lines. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, transit corridors such as metros and streetcars had enormous influences on development patterns. Even if they ceased to exist, their impact on the area’s development remained.
      While reading through all this information, I just wasn’t quite clear on where the epicenter of city life was supposed to be. You can figure out that it’s supposed to be the Government Core but that’s not made clear right away.
      The lack of tangible representations (as opposed to abstract numbers and generalized descriptions) of the districts makes it hard to discern an “organic flow” to the system. Perhaps you could find pictures of real-life neighborhoods around the internet that you feel accurately represent Newport’s districts and give the participants a better sense of what they’re looking at.

    20. Eldan Goldenberg May 22, 2011 at 6:50 pm #

      Like Nikko P, I found myself wondering about corridors (or clusters), and the interconnection with both the rails that you have added and legacy transit. Seattle, for example, has some corridors (California Ave, Broadway, Pike/Pine, 45th St N) and some clusters (North Green Lake, Georgetown, Madison Park) of commerce and somewhat higher housing density than the streets immediately adjacent. The presence and form of both has a lot to do with the transit lines they grew with, even when the specific lines they were shaped by may no longer exist.
      I’m also interested in bike infrastructure. Here in Seattle we had a big flap when a new streetcar screwed up a key bike route, while the next line (which I think you covered on this blog) is going to be planned to try and avoid such snafus – so even if you don’t want the course to touch on bike planning at all, it interacts in interesting ways with transit planning.
      Finally, I’d like to see more about nightlife, since it’s often distributed quite differently from the daytime life that’s indicated by the distribution of jobs.

    21. Jarrett at May 22, 2011 at 7:04 pm #

      @ all up to here
      The comment about "needing more freeways" is so surprising that I've replied to it in the main post. 
      The other common comment is about the need to identify commercial strips rather than just clusters.  I should probably do a "retail" layer that lays out these patterns more clearly.
      Re Eldan's excellent comment on nightlife, I'll do a layer on that too.  Generally, high-end nightlife is around the Arts Bank and Convention Core, which have lots of upscale hotels and bars, and a bit on Sunset Cliffs.  Nightlife is inevitable around the two universities, but the Waterworks have a quite a few bars and clubs mixed in, where the low population means few complaining neighbors, and it's really the central party zone for the younger and hipper east side.  Many cleverly retrofitted Waterworks buildings are gyms or meeting spaces by day and convert to dance clubs at night.  Sunset Cove is the place to meet international backpackers, but only after sunset when they're back from the National Park.

    22. Corey Burger May 22, 2011 at 9:03 pm #

      Freeway looks quite realistic to me. In recent years freeways are built/deconstructed in little tiny pieces, one exchange and section at a time.
      Maybe create some fictional events in the past to explain changes? IE: When did the various places like the university open? Were there any major sporting events (Victoria hosted the Commonwealth Games in 1994. We got a new transit exchange and some new buses then. Olympics also gave us new buses, for example).

    23. Aidan Stanger May 22, 2011 at 9:14 pm #

      Your pedestrian linkage map is baffling. Firstly you seem to have got the fraction upside down (surely walk radius / air radius always exceeds 100%?) Secondly I can’t understand how the figures could possibly be that low.

    24. Matthew Flower May 22, 2011 at 9:18 pm #

      Great idea!
      You should have just created the documents in the Open Document Format – would’ve been easier. Anyway – if you can’t open the files DOWNLOAD LIBRE OFFICE

    25. In Brisbane May 22, 2011 at 10:42 pm #

      What about islands and difficult topography?

    26. Jarrett at May 23, 2011 at 1:05 am #

      @ Aidan.  I should have explained the Ped Linkage map more fully.  The numbers are answers to the question "What percentage of a 400m air radius is within 400m walk along the street and pedestrian network?"  See , especially after the second image.

    27. Jarrett at May 23, 2011 at 1:10 am #

      @ In Brisbane.  Islands imply chokepoints, and chokepoints can make transit planning too easy, at least at the network scale.  There' plenty of difficult topography, though; see "Topo" layer.

    28. Russ May 23, 2011 at 1:25 am #

      A few comments/questions, where is the water supply, and what is the history of that supply? Your topography is quite rough whereas land has lots of undulations within those broad ranges. Is that a major river (salty/fresh, and to what point) and if so where are the minor creeks that feed it? How many bridges cross it and of what size. Rarely does a transport infrastructure cross a major river easily. Is it a deep water port, the flat plain and undulating river that forms lakes implies a marshy soil, whereas the promontory implies a deep water harbour and hilly streets through that area.
      When were the various districts built? Is the arts bank built on old docks land (as has been the trend since the 1980s)? What urban renewal has been recently completed (East Bank?) – places with old industry typically have major adjacent road/rail legacies whereas East Bank has very little. Was sprawl monotonously outward, or were older villages and railway suburbs subsumed. There are almost always legacy roads between old villages, and from there out to nearby towns that don’t act within a grid.
      How wide are the streets? Are there other strips of land with transport potential (electricity towers/old short-line branch railways to factories/creek or water pipeline paths)?

    29. Wad May 23, 2011 at 2:42 am #

      Jarrett, this is mainly a technical question.
      Would you be able to replicate this form in a program like Photoshop in which you can layer and toggle on/off the different maps?
      Or is this meant to be printed out as individual sheets and worked on by hand?

    30. Joe Steindam May 23, 2011 at 7:14 am #

      Even though from the start I think we’re meant to assume that this is a car dependent city (after all, we’re meant to discern transit corridors at some point, I expect) but car ownership is a nice factor too. I know you touched on it a bit with the Commerce City area, but off-street parking is probably also a big factor to know from the start too.
      I also think you need to elaborate on the rail in Newport. I’m unsure what role it fulfills. I just assumed, based on their placement that the Heavy Rail operates as a freight line and the light rail may operate as passenger rail, but again, that is unclear. If that is what you meant, perhaps you should separate them out as freight and passenger rail, and then specify the type of rolling stock used.
      This may make the practice too complicated, but a layer of political reality might be helpful. What sort of government does Newport have (strong mayor or strong council) and what level of autonomy does it have from higher governments, is the government reliant on forms of assistance from higher governments? Are Newport’s political boundaries coterminous with its metropolitan regional boundaries (are there workers commuting to jobs in Newport from outside the boundaries) and if no, is there some form of metropolitan government and what are its roles?

    31. Jarrett at May 23, 2011 at 9:23 am #

      Wad.  For now, this is a paper exercise in the class.  (A main map of water+roads+landmarks+pop+jobs will be blown up and placed under acetate so students can draw on it.  Others will be handouts though students will also have read-only versions for their laptops where they can quickly assess, say, how many jobs are along a particular transit corridor of interest.
      However, I'm intending to gradually automate this more.  I'm not sure whether to go the route of  Photoshop, which can be beautiful, or GIS, which can carry more information.  I'm tending toward the latter, as it will take us in the direction of a self-play game eventually.

    32. Jarrett at May 23, 2011 at 11:39 am #

      The Rail layer simply shows rail infrastructure and says nothing about its use.  The colors, however, signal whether each segment is abandoned, lightly used, or heavily used.  Occasional intercity trains, maybe once an hour at most, depart from the train station indicated on that layer (in the legend).  Apart from that the other uses are freight, including heavy traffic to the Trade Coast and very occasional traffic to south downtown "grandfathered" uses that keep the people from tearing up the tracks along 15th Av W and turning them into community gardens or very-thin condo sites.
      In the rail planning stage of the game, students will have the opportunity to lay various kinds of commuter rail or rail transit, making the tradeoff between using existing rail lines (where frequency is limited if the track is active for other uses) as opposed to laying new ones in streets, or elevated, or underground.
      Structure of govt is a great question, but it's the kind of question that leads us away from thinking clearly about what a people-based transit system would look like.  Govt boundaries usually don't affect people's travel patterns, so they ideally wouldn't affect transit networks as much as they do.  One of my main critiques of how transit is often taught is that it's so focused on "case studies" that the political and cultural details take center stage, preventing anyone from thinking about how the transit tool works as a tool. 

    33. Alon Levy May 23, 2011 at 1:06 pm #

      Off-topic: I’d be so much happier if you’d called your fictional city Arkham and made it a deindustrialized New England town.

    34. Jarrett at May 23, 2011 at 1:32 pm #

      Alon.  Much as I aim to please, it's a matter of policy that all placenames in Newport, including "Newport" itself, be cliches that could be found almost anywhere in the US, Canada, Australia, or New Zealand.  Other options satisfying this screen included Kingston, Windsor, Richmond, Southport, Westport, and Portsmouth.  Arkham sounds much to specific, and New England is certainly much too specific as a location for something that's trying to conquer the world.  J

    35. JJJJ May 23, 2011 at 7:40 pm #

      Jarrett, just wanted to confirm that I can open the new files just fine. I actually have Office 2007, but the original link was giving me a zip file filled with stuff I didnt know what to do with. The new link opened straight away into office.
      I agree with a previous comment that the job center is too concentrated. While that is the case with older cities, I feel that cities laid out on a modern grid have a much weaker downtown (ie, Phoenix). Id especially put more jobs by the airport, as industrial type places tend to locate there. You mention office parks, but at least from my experience, light industry loves airport locations.
      As for income distribution, your “poor” area is lacking. There doesnt seem to be a “south side” style district (where are the gangs?) Based on the tracks, E47/N47 seems like the location of a poor neighborhood.

    36. Jarrett May 23, 2011 at 8:16 pm #

      Long ago, the East Bank was the poor part of Newport, and it still is in relative terms. But because once the town became a capital in 1900, socially-improving polices got underway. Until about 1950 the city was tightly packed around the shores of he harbor, so many people could walk, cycle, or take streetcars in the early years.
      The laissez-faire growth of the Plateau in the late 20c means that parts of it are now the chapest place to live in Newport, but you’ll pay for that in isolation. The cheapest housing of all are mobile home or caravan parks in charming locations like W 10th at 160th St.
      Even today, the East Ridge has median adult incomes below $40k, and though some of these are students, many are just poor people who welcome the opportunity to live in a place where they don’t need a car and have interesting places in walking distance. Even the waterfront area of the East Bank, with a median adult income under $70k, is really a mixture of wealthier people in waterfront or city-view homes along with a lot of poor people who live downstairs from them.
      These observations come, I suppose, from a lot of experience with Canadian and Australian cities where you just don’t find the concentrated districts of extreme poverty that characterise many US cities. Perhaps that’s because Newport hasn’t had to deal with intense racial conflict and segregation, due to its location and cultural history.
      The sensible city fathers of Newport also drew the line at letting the poor settle in floodplains. Some of that did occur in early years around the the wetland that is now the Bird Refuge, but the after a few floods the city sensibly defined floodplains and helped citizens get out of them. Still, there’s a lot of marginal poor housing all along the east side of 20 St E north of 100th, basically the are that backs onto the Bird Refuge.

    37. Brent May 23, 2011 at 9:46 pm #

      For us visual learners, it might be helpful to (a) turn off gridlines (though this won’t matter for the printouts), and (b) add colour-coding to the population, employment, and dwelling sheets. (note that this can also be done using patterns… you are not limited to Excel’s preset colours.)
      It looks like most of the railways are “on top of” arterial roads. Is this correct? Some clarification here might be helpful.
      Something seems off with the road network. Part could be that the entire “older” town is arterials at 500×500 m spacing, where typically you would see some radial streets more closely spaced than this, and greater spacing on peripheral / crosstown streets. Part could be that the role of some of the streets doesn’t seem to be clear (e.g. 45 Street shows up as a collector for 1.5 km, then an arterial for 1.5 km, then a 1.5 km gap, then 1 km arterial, 1 km collector etc.). Part could just be that the constraints of an Excel format just make it too artificial… we are tempted to think about small details like local street pattern, road configurations and traffic patterns, stop locations, very localized land use, etc. — things that are not generally conducive to depiction in this format.
      While Excel makes these maps a little artificial (similar to the original Sim City — very limited zone sizes and 90-degree angles), one thing that is nice is the ability to use “ctrl-page up/down” to navigate between layers, provided that each sheet is laid out the same way.
      What is the exercise? Are we to assume that this is currently a city served by buses (and presumably reasonably well, given that it is fairly dense and with comparatively little freeway access to the employment core from any of the residential areas), but that the participants will be instructed to design a system from scratch assuming the existing system is not a constraint?
      Is Newport a centre for other areas beyond the limits of what’s shown on the map? In particular, I’m looking at the rail line and freeways that extend north and east; based on typical historical development patterns, I would expect that most suburban expansion would have followed those corridors. Is there much use of the freeways for commuting if they are largely removed from the residential areas? Maybe they are more heavily used for reverse-direction commuting to the industrial parks surrounding them?

    38. JJJJ May 24, 2011 at 12:14 am #

      Jarrett, as you mentioned, I’m used to the american city which usually does have clusters of poverty and violence. DC, our planned capitol has the infamous Anacostia region, where only the people who live there venture. But even near the US Capitol building, walk three blocks and you find yourself in a neighborhood you don’t want to visit at night.
      San Francisco, with the enormous civic center (goverment) area is mere blocks away from the dangerous, dirty and poor tenderloin. LA has southland, very close to downtown and a stone’s throw from the prestigious USC.
      So while I understand your explanation, for a US simulation, I think you do need to add a downtrodden region, and all the transportation problems that come with it. They’re the people that most rely on transit but the ones with the smallest voice in city government. Nobody wants to run their shiny new rail line through gang territory even if ridership will be many times higher than running it to the affluent suburbs.

    39. Danny May 24, 2011 at 4:05 am #

      Looks great. I don’t think Excel was the best bet for this application, but as a self taught programmer I fully understand the need to use what you understand. It is definitely a workable prototype.
      I think the biggest feedback is that for a North American city, there is a lack of freeways. But that doesn’t really matter too much because from what I can tell you want to teach people how to make tradeoffs. This will work perfectly for that.

    40. Aidan Stanger May 24, 2011 at 4:11 am #

      @ Jarrett –
      That makes more sense, but why do the figures in the northern sprawl go as low as 20%? I could understand it if there were railways or freeways in the way, but your map shows none around there.
      And why is P13 blank? I’d expect it to have factories on it and hence a significant number of jobs.

    41. Jarrett at May 24, 2011 at 8:31 am #

      Northern sprawl is really incoherent sprawl.  E.g. to get to a mobile home park, you turn off a main road, cross a couple of cattle guards and finally reach a the park in gated-community format with lots of little internal culdesacs. 
      P-13 is the beginning of the very ragged edge of the north end of the city.  It's probably in the portfolio of some oil baron who feels no pressure to sell at the moment.  Who knows, maybe he's secretly drilling for oil there.

    42. Jarrett at May 24, 2011 at 8:33 am #

      Danny.  "Lack of freeways"???  Aargh!  See the update at the end of the post!  🙂  J

    43. Zoltán May 24, 2011 at 10:45 am #

      In testament to the general difficulties of working with city boundaries, I’m particularly interested in what’s off the map. I assume that the 80th St and E 50th Av freeways have spawned considerable suburban or exuburban commercial and residential development that are likely to have an impact on the travel patterns of those in the city – and are also likely to be the most obvious places for investment based upon legacy rail.

    44. Danny May 24, 2011 at 3:15 pm #

      Yes, for me it feels like a lack of freeways. I have lived in Stockton CA, Sacramento CA, San Jose CA, Salt Lake City UT, Cleveland OH, and Boston MA and this hypothetical city feels barren in comparison to all of them.
      I fully understand that not all cities are like that, but I do think that depending on where you play this game that you might get the “Well this just isn’t realistic enough” response.
      Just so you know, I’m not advocating that you change anything. Asking for suggestions in an open ended manner tends to be an exercise in counting the ways to pull your hair out. Keep it simple, which you have already done. If it won’t affect people’s decisions (freeways in general should only affect Commuter Rail decisions), it isn’t important enough to change.

    45. Alon Levy May 24, 2011 at 3:32 pm #

      The amount of freeways is perfectly normal if you think of Newport as a stand-in for Vancouver, where the course will take place. It doesn’t have to be a stand-in for a freeway-choked American city.

    46. Jarrett at May 24, 2011 at 3:40 pm #

      Alon.  Actually, the next three venues for the course are Surrey BC near Vancouver, Halifax, and Victoria BC.  None have freeways penetrating the core.  J

    47. Jarrett at May 24, 2011 at 3:50 pm #

      Zoltán.   Yes, you always have to choose a frame!  J

    48. Aidan Stanger May 27, 2011 at 10:05 am #

      @ Jarrett –
      I think you’ve let Andrew’s comment about freeways distract you from what else he said. Is it realistic for that northern sprawl area to have no industrial estates at all?
      That’s why I was so surprised that P13 was undeveloped – it seems to be ideally positioned for manufacturing goods for local consumption.

    49. Alon Levy May 27, 2011 at 7:02 pm #

      @Jarrett: fine, you can amend what I said about Vancouver to “any Canadian city that isn’t Toronto or Montreal.” And it’s also true in Australia, if you choose to go back there.

    50. Jarrett at May 27, 2011 at 7:10 pm #

      Aidan.  You're right.  I'll add a scattering of industrial estates around the eastern Plateau and around the Bird Refuge.  J

    51. Jeffrey Bridgman May 28, 2011 at 8:09 pm #

      Page 4: “…some developers from Texas came in and saw gold at the beautiful (to them) new cloverleaf interchange…”
      That line sounds really biased against highways… almost like it is implying that cloverleaf interchanges are inherently ugly and the Texans (Stereotype) are crazy for thinking so. I’ve taken it a bit to the extreme obviously, but depending on the target audience, that line could be a turn-off for some.

    52. Jeffrey Bridgman May 28, 2011 at 8:13 pm #

      I also still draw cities… I need to get a job doing transit planning so I can stop making maps to design transit networks for–the only reason I make-up cities in the first place.