deep-geeking a fictional city

Newport for blog
In this post I invited readers to poke around in a fictional city that I'm developing for use in a transit planning course.  The city is laid out in Excel to make its features easy to analyze.  Students will work with a slightly more naturalistic map under a layer of acetate, and will draw lines on the map to attempt various types of transit networks that might address the city's needs.  More on the project and its purpose here.

I received many excellent comments, which I've used to expand and enrich the city.  The city now has more layers of detail that you might find it fun to explore and comment on. 

You're welcome to poke around in the updated version and share your views on its realism.  Download here:

Download Game Newport intro (.doc file)

Download Game data (.xls file)

Your comments are welcome, but before you comment, have a look at the previous post and its comments first, just to see what's been said!  Also, the little illustration at left is just one of many layers; to see the whole thing, open the files above.

This course is going to be fun!  I hope to be able to repeat it many times in many cities. 

4 Responses to deep-geeking a fictional city

  1. Joe Steindam June 2, 2011 at 8:54 am #

    Thanks for the updates, it’s great to see a Congestion section added to the layers. That is a great addition to the previous set of maps. I also enjoyed the inclusion of the 1925 rail system. You might want to include in the description when the system was dismantled and what replaced it (likely with bus routes closely following the streetcar routes). This is awesome Jarrett!

  2. Eric O June 3, 2011 at 6:22 am #

    This is a pretty ideal framework for a city, if I do say so, with nice variety and compactness. A Sydney with a grid, huh? If I didn’t know better, I’d say Jarrett is designing his utopia!
    What I find very interesting is that wealthy residents tend to the west side of town, opening up the university areas to youth and economic diversity, giving creative industries a better chance on the east side. That’s so thoughtful of you.

  3. Daniel Howard June 6, 2011 at 7:19 pm #

    So, I think this is pretty neat, but like another Linux user named Danny, the experience is somewhat underwhelming without access to Microsoft Office.
    The optimal technology for this exercise really depends on the objective. As an amateur city fanatic / mapper I thought I’d share some notes on possible software solutions.
    As an alternative to Excel, Google Docs has a spreadsheet package that will run in just about any modern web browser. It lacks some of excel’s heavy power, but you can share and collaborate trivially.
    For building a city map in layers, I would vouch for the open source Inkscape, in which one could draw a land form, add a layer, turn on a grid constraint, draw a city grid, add the next layer, and turn layers like density, income, on-and-off. Pretty easy and probably the closest thing in software you’d get to acetate layers.
    The kid in me loves a more “game” interface, so I thought I’d share that:
    Simutrans is a free, open-source, multi-platform, multi-modal “transport simulator” with a variety of customizable “pak” files specifying the graphics and available infrastructure and rolling stock options. One could “paint” a city, and then use the native UI for setting out bus routes. Among its drawbacks is that while tiles are all two-way for auto traffic, they are one-way for rail, which detracts from the realism of trams. There’s no particularly good way to render highways. But this is the closest software I know that regards transit planning as a fun game, and there is an active community of developers, geeks, and artists who have discovered that working on a game is even more fun than playing one.
    Sim City 4, while half a decade old, has beautiful highways but very limited transit options. What does make it interesting, however, is an active “mod” community which would allow someone to “paint” a city . . .
    Cities XL is a recent city simulator which prides itself on not being too grid constrained. What is noteworthy is that for transit you need to build bus depots, and then lay out the bus routes in terms of runs from those depots. Last I played it you couldn’t revise a route without drawing a new route and cancelling the old. You can change line capacity instantly by clicking on different rolling stock, which only changes the running costs, but ignore the capital concerns.
    Hey, this looks interesting:
    For free-drawing I’d go with Inkscape. For “drawing” a city out that you could then fly around, purchase equipment, and lay out bus lines, Simutrans can approximate what you want, and the community could probably pitch in to gear up something better. If Excel meets your needs and its a tool you are already comfortable with: stick with what works, possibly try importing it into a Google Docs spreadsheet.
    I guess I have to get a Windows box and check out this “Cities in Motion” game. 🙂 If I have Office I’ll take another look at Jarrett’s Excel City.

  4. Alon Levy June 8, 2011 at 1:08 am #

    How wide are Newport’s streets? This question is especially important for bus planning, because it affects issues such as separated versus dedicated lanes, parking policy, and auto capacity.