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In SimCity 5, what is the best 'block' size to use (meaning, how much space between roads)?

How big does a block need to be to accommodate the best buildings while minimizing waste & traffic?

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up vote 12 down vote accepted

To answer this I'm going to need to establish some criteria for "ideal". I'm going to assume that most people are interested in the most efficient use of a given space for high density buildings allowing you to stuff as much population/commerce/jobs into your city as possible.

Luckily the game itself provides an excellent tool to help you with this. Turning on the "gridlines" feature when plopping a road tile will display gridlines for the last two road tiles you mouse over. The gridline displayed for a given road depends on what road you moused over and what road type you currently have selected.

Mouse over avenue with road selected: The first gridline will provide enough room for two high density buildings back to back making for maximum use of the space given the two road types you want to use.

Mouse over avenue with avenue selected: Same as above

Mouse over road with avenue selected: Same as above

Mouse over road with road selected: The first gridline will provide just enough space for a single high density building to exist between the roads. The second gridline will provide enough space for two high density buildings back to back and a gap inbetween that could fit a road (or is potentially useful for narrow parks).

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Check out this video for a visual guide for michaelwritescode's answer. –  Kevin Tran Mar 12 '13 at 23:26
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This is incorrect (but close.) Avenue over avenue has enough space for two high density buildings, but avenue over road and road over avenue do not. This is quick to see in the game by building the roads based on these different grid lines, and they simply don't line up. –  WillfulWizard Apr 3 '13 at 4:46
    
"and a gap inbetween that could fit a road (or is potentially useful for narrow parks)." - not true, there's no room left for a road or the thinnest park (tree row), just tested. –  Markus von Broady May 4 '13 at 12:02
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Using the dirt road tool, here is how much space to leave between roads in simoleans. Numbers in parentheses were tried and found to be not enough.

§239 One HD Building between 2 Streets (238)
§253 Guideline - Street Hover + Street Tool 
§263 One HD Building between an Avenue and a Street (260) 
§287 One HD Building between 2 Avenues (286) 
§378 Guideline - Avenue Hover + Street Tool 
§437 Two HD Buildings between 2 Streets (436)
§461 Two HD Buildings between an Avenue and a Street (454) 
§485 Two HD Buildings between 2 Avenues
§505 Guideline - Street Hover + Street Tool (2nd line)
§505 Guideline - Avenue Hover + Avenue tool

Back-To-Back HD buildings on avenues with 485 dirt road between them.

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This is really the most reliable tool, more trustworthy than the road guides. –  jocap Dec 30 '13 at 10:30
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The zoning tool also provides a hint. When adding a zone two rectangles will appear of the appropriate color (green for residential, etc...). The thick rectangle snaps to the road and indicates where the zone will be and the thin rectangle indicates how much space is needed for the largest building. If there is not enough space smaller buildings may still appear in the zone. Also I've seen the rectangle turn red when there was not enough space. The amount of space buildings will occupy is based on the kind of road, high density roads can support larger buildings than medium and low density roads.

This doesn't necessarily tell you the ideal block size, but it does tell you how to get the largest buildings possible for a given road.

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Since even on a dirty road some services like firemen or moving truck will never turn left (from the road to a building or other object) but will instead go to the nearest intersection (or end of the road), turn back, go back to the building and then turn right to it, in my opinion the ideal road consists of many intersections, thanks to which paths of cars and buses are shorter, and so they spend less time on the road and so they leave the space for other cars sooner. I may be wrong here, as Sims can't stay on an intersection and an intersection-heavy design decreases movement smoothness, but as I've done some experiments I thought I would share.

The ideal block size for an intersection-heavy streets is 1458$ long avenue (low traffic) or 2914$ high density avenue (without streetcars). Measuring in simoleons is the best way I found so far. In such block, every so-called '4x4' residental building will fit perfectly. Unfortunately it's not same with commercial buildings - sometimes two high density buildings will fit the block perfectly, sometimes one high density building will take about 90% available space, not leaving enough room for anything else (look on the selected building below):

8 'perfect' blocks Parks next to it don't fit perfectly as well, but you will get same problem with standard block sizes as well. 6 remaining buildings are residentials of low, medium and high value and they all fit perfectly.

There are many advantages here:

  • fires don't spread
  • intersection heavy design for optimal paths
  • every final ('4x4') building has secured space, so you don't have the problem of a high density building being away from corner and taking space for another building to develop high density
  • you lose some space, but if you fill whole terrain with such grid you will have enough traffic issues anyway, and remember you don't pay for roads

There also are disadvantages:

  • traffic is not smooth, I didn't yet test it in a huge city
  • a lot of initial costs
  • amphitheater won't fit
  • while the wasted space is not important even though cities are small, it is important when you consider attractions range

I didn't test it with industrial zones yet.

Update: I've made a test and spotted some interesting things:

  • cars actually can make a left turn, not only from a road, but also from an avenue through a median! Only some cars can't make that, e.g. a moving truck.
  • When building 1 poor low density house, 2 light construction trucks came with an intention to build a house. As soon as first truck turned left to the building site, second changed status to "just passing by" went to the nearest intersection, turned back and headed to city exit. It was same for moving trucks, except there were 5 of them (and first truck didn't make left turn). This is because of how actors behave in Simcity, they all go to the same target, and when the target is no longer active (for example a workplace is filled with employees) a new target is set for all Sims and so on. This really disrupts the traffic in city and intersection-heavy structure helps to remedy it.
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It seems to me that this could be more efficient by allowing two large buildings in a single plot, but only allow them to face the street on the short side. Can't this be accomplished by only zoning the short side? From there, further optimizations could be made by only using low or medium density roads for the less important, albeit longer side streets, since all you're worried about is giving the sims a place to make a U-turn. –  MBraedley May 1 '13 at 15:58
    
@MBraedley if you allow two large buildings, you decrease the number of intersections, and that wasn't the idea. As for road size, I also considered high density road instead of avenue, but I like avenues because I can place streetcars on them later. Oh, and if you use low or medium density roads, do you benefit somehow else than by reducing initial building costs? –  Markus von Broady May 2 '13 at 0:10
    
Fewer intersections improve traffic flow, and using low density roads means stop signs on them instead of lights, further improving traffic. –  MBraedley May 2 '13 at 0:20
    
Yea, I figured out stop signs solve the problem of waiting for no one on an intersection, but as for the "flow" I'm not sure if it's more important than shortening paths. –  Markus von Broady May 3 '13 at 14:28
    
I also added some important info to the answer. –  Markus von Broady May 3 '13 at 15:05
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