Redesigning the Transit Network #CitiesSkylines Style. Lessons for Auckland

Could Cities Skylines transit network redesign offer hints for Auckland’s poor accessibility to transit?


Yesterday a paper was released by MRCageny on accessibility to transit and basically how Auckland’s accessibility let alone equity to transit sucked.

The paper can be found in the Tweet below and I’ll write on this more extensively next month after the Summer Series concludes:



And yes Auckland pretty much sucks at accessibility:



I have also written on accessibility in the past over at Talking Southern Auckland when the Manukau South Link was a topical issue:

Manukau South Link catchment close up by Saeid Adli


Cities Skylines offers lessons


Having to redo your entire transit network becomes a must as your City matures and approaches larger sizes. Bus lines end up a mess as the City expands while trams don’t operate efficiently due to expanded roads and lack of priority measures. As much as you can forward plan it some days a reformat is required.



San Solaria’s bus and trams will need a reformat as they are not tying in well with the subway network and central bus stations throughout the City. Patronage use to exceed total vehicles on the road but recently it is struggling to match one-third of its previous peaks.

Route accessibility has become the problem with routes going everywhere BUT where people wanted and this has a double knock on effect. The first being less people on the transit network means more cars on the road. More cars on the road means roads and intersections are more jammed up blocking busses and trams. Given the tram and bus network was designed around San Solaria being a mono-core City but in reality it has matured into a two Core city accessibility fast becomes a problem. Also as industry expands into new complexes the population becomes more diverse in its travel patterns.

Sounds a lot like Auckland right?




So time to delete about 10 tram lines and 75 bus lines (some more recent ones will stay) and reformat the surface transit network!

Fun times ahead!




San Solaria Going Green Continues #CitiesSkylines

New Green policy continues

I speak Green in Twitter I follow Green on #CitiesSkylines.  As shown in San Solaria Leads the Way in Low Carbon Future San Solaria gets 95% of its power from green sources while 1/3 of the Districts are ‘Green’ Districts  and several more following E-cars for residents.


The last week I have been developing up Solarian Ranges after completing the last of surrounds with Laytonville which is situated at the bottom of the Solarian Range hills. Solarian Ranges is the (at the time) latest Green community situation up in the Solarian Ranges next to the Solarian Dam (the main hydro power station and fresh water storage site). It is accessible by a single two lane highway or cable car traversing the Ranges. Given the Solarian Lake tourism value Solarian Ranges is serviced by busses connecting it to the Laytonville Harbour Ferry Interchange.


Green is the name of the game from the roads, buildings, organic produce, residential self-sufficiency, bio fuelled busses, recycling centre, EV charging stations and the combustion engine ban.

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Solarian Ranges continued:



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Solarian River and Laytonville Heights also continue to mature well as Green communities:

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Finally a preview at the latest Green community – Solarian Point:



Next up: Solarian Point – San Solaria’s latest green community. After that we take a ride on a cable car and the subway to the Airport.


All here in Ben’s Cities!


To 2018 with Ben’s #CitiesSkylines

Even San Solaria marks New Years


New Years Eve was a quiet one in real life but was a noisy affair in San Solaria City. Coincidentally when I loaded the game up on New Years Eve it was also Sunday going over to Monday in the game as well. So why not mark it as the New Year celebrations for my largest city!


Happy New Year via Cities Skylines:



It has been a busy year for the City with the Greens Cities DLC coming out and San Solaria doing its part going green.

100% of its power comes from emissions free sources consisting of: nuclear, hydro, wind and wave power. Quite impressive really.



So here is to what is going to be an extremely busy year in San Solaria (and my new city San Layton City)!


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Lessons for Auckland Ctd – Proof is in the Pudding: From Motorway to a Place People Love. #CitiesSkylines

Part Three – The Urban Form Established


Where a motorway once was is now a thriving urban area that connects the City Centre up to the main urban area in San Solaria City.

Putting down some side streets, a lane way or five, building the tram line and placing down some Government buildings marked the coming of age of an area that was once a six lane motorway.

Some quick retrofitting of a six lane roads that runs parallel to San Solaria Boulevard to place some new tram tracks to allow the running of City Boulevard Lines 1 and 2, and the eventual cross-city routes from the Airport to the City Centre (an all stop service compared to the express service run by the Metro system (think of it as the Northern Airport Line via Dominion Road and the Southern Airport Line via Puhinui Station and the existing Southern Line)) were also done before the final zones went down.


Once the zones went down it was time to unpause and let the simulator run through its day-night-day cycle and the new urban area take form.


The tram runs I will post in a separate post.


But here we are the proof in the pudding – once was a motorway is now a brand new urban area that links up two formally separated areas.

The night shots:

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The day shots

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 And those lane-ways? Here is a few of them:



Yes the project was expensive and time consuming to pull off but the benefits were most definitely worth it.

Lessons for Auckland?

I hope so!


From the BIG DIG to New Urban Spaces. Stitching Up Two Urban Areas #CitiesSkylines

Part Two – reconnect the urban areas


A recap from Part One – Bury the Motorway:

Motorways, great for moving cars and trucks but boy do they take up land and create large severance in the urban form. In San Solaria City the Great Solarian Coastal Motorway was a 6-lane highway that ran east-west along the Solarian Coast connecting the city up to the wider region.

The highway was already there when I built San Solaria however, the motorway still severed the main urban area from the City Centre and Downtown.

The elevated Metro line (Light Rail) also forms a severance and will be dealt with as well as the urban regeneration continues.

But as you can see the Great Solarian Coastal Motorway is rather not that great when contributing to Solaria’s urban form?




Now for Part Two

Reconnecting the Urban Areas

First things first was to bury the elevated Metro line that also formed a severance to the urban form:



As a result of placing the Metro line underground I was able also build three new subway stations that would allow the catchment of the respective Lines to expand. As for the foot and cycle bridges they are remaining up for the moment until the new cycle boulevards are built.


Next up is removing the old underpasses and connecting up the two formerly severed urban areas with new roads:


And now for the brand new boulevard running down what was the former surface motorway. I chose the new 4-lane boulevard that comes with tram tracks, parking and grade separated cycle lanes as not only I am planning to build a new tram line but also lots of trees, street furniture and of course new cycling facilities.


I had to alter the west end motorway ramps that were taking excessive amounts of space. At the same time on the eastern end I started laying down the new roads for the new urban developments:



Now for the fun – building!

In go the side roads, civic infrastructure and parks:


In this case I used the alternative education facilities that came with the Greens Cities DLC expansion rather than the conventional schools from the normal game. By alternative I mean: Community School, Institute of Creative Arts, and Institute of Technology rather than Primary and High Schools, and a standard university.

And yes I also built a new set of Government Offices (and Central Park) >_<


The Result of the initial urban regeneration after burying the motorway?

Have a look below. Part Three – ‘Was there ever a motorway here’ will showcase the fully regenerated urban area reconnecting the old two urban areas once severed by the motorway.

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Lessons for Auckland?

Auckland has plenty of excessively wide roads that can be humanised and two motorways that can be “buried” by placing parks above them. Grafton Gully is one and State Highway 20 between the Great South Road and Lambie Drive bridges is another.

No it is never a cheap exercise reconnecting severed urban areas whether in real life or Cities Skylines life. But the investment is most definitely worth it when urban areas are reconnected and the people get to enjoy both new urban spaces from the reconnected urban form.

Part Three showcasing the fully regenerated urbanscape after burying the motorway will have lessons Auckland and other urban areas can learn. I know for sure the residents of San Solarian City are loving the new urban area so much so there is a spike in new Residential demand for the City (word of mouth works)!


More soon



Part one – bury the motorway


Motorways, great for moving cars and trucks but boy do they take up land and create large severance in the urban form. In San Solaria City the Great Solarian Coastal Motorway was a 6-lane highway that ran east-west along the Solarian Coast connecting the city up to the wider region.

The highway was already there when I built San Solaria however, the motorway still severed the main urban area from the City Centre and Downtown.


The elevated Metro line (Light Rail) also forms a severance and will be dealt with as well as the urban regeneration continues.

But as you can see the Great Solarian Coastal Motorway is rather not that great when contributing to Solaria’s urban form?





The motorway between the Downtown/Uptown Turnoff and the Port District Interchange was placed under grounds with on/offramps connecting to the underground motorway.

The Franklin Avenue Bridge was replaced with a surface road while the elevated Metro line will also be placed underground.

Next up will be to have the old underpasses for the connecting roads removed and those roads brought to the surface. Two sets of long ramps at the Downtown/Uptown end will be later retrofitted to normal roads to blend in with the new urban form that will be created where the motorway once was. Foot and cycle bridges will also be reset as well as the urban regeneration continues.


This was part one of the BIG DIG – burying the motorway!

Now for part two – stitching up the two urban areas into one.


That will be the next challenge in Transform Solaria.

All here on #CitiesSkylines


#CitiesSkylines Night Shots an Art of Beauty

San Solaria at night


Night shots of your Cities Skylines cities I find are a work of art and beauty. Just something about night time over a humming city that gives emphasis that your City is alive.

San Solaria is a 24 hour city with activity always happening whether it be the industrial complexes, the tourism or leisure districts or even residential areas as citizens walk and cycle at all hours.


So here are some night shots of San Solaria in all its glory at night:



Set Phasers to Smite! #CitiesSkylines

Weather proves to be an ass


Only one problem living in a California type environment, when the storms roll in they roll in!

The recent storm is San Solarian City decided to cause all sorts of havoc for the City as these snaps would show:

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The resulting plantation fire kept the fleet of 15 fire helicopters rather busy while the fire engines dealt with other messes around the City.

Causalities were light but it was a pretty spectacular light show.


Some more pictures from afterwards:

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Those blimps are a sight to watch!


Amenities and Residential Development. What Goes Missing When Planning?

A question often asked


A question often asked in the real world as well as Cities Skylines: How to upscale your residential area – that is how to trigger intensification or how to get a new residential area started.

This is a crossover post with my Talking Southern Auckland blog on amenities and residential areas. Amenities or rather facilities, services, conveniences, comforts  and creature comforts are things we all need but things we often forget about when it comes to residential planning. Specifically when a residential area has been upzoned for intensification or a new residential laid down (Greenfield) what encourages their developments.


The question above gets asked in the Cities Skylines forums as players struggle to achieve their aim of a new residential area or an existing residential area upgrading to a more intense and more wealthy one. That struggle can apply to a real life City as well.

Yes we can all lay down some roads, put in the pipes, maybe add a bus line or two and put down a school. But that is not quite it is it? Sure you get the basic housing going in your new area but not the more high-end stuff you are looking for.

Remember what the synonyms for amenities are: facilities, comforts etc and so on.


Let’s take a look at a new residential area I started in San Solarian City:



This is a new Greenfield area next to an existing urban area. The basics such as roads, pipes and a bus line have been laid down. But if you look deeper the amenities reveal themselves and would be what attracts new residents to the area quickly.

Parks, public loos, a cycle way connecting to the existing urban area, ferry station, some basic shops, lane ways, a busway and shared space roads. All are classed as amenities, facilities, comforts and creature comforts and are what makes the area suitable for rapid development.


Looking at an existing area:


This is that existing urban area I was talking about just earlier. A high density area that is still developing. Amenities are still needed to trigger further intensification as there is still quite a bit of blank land especially commercial land available. Simple things such as a new park or loo will often do the trick while upgrading the road or transit line requires a bit more investment.

In this case improving access through that large roundabout in the picture triggering off further urban development after the busway construction triggered off the last round.


In the end it comes down to more than just a road, a pipe and a bus stop to develop or intensify a residential or even commercial area. It comes down to what facilities or amenities are available for those residents, employers or shoppers.


Back to the real world simulators such as Cities Skylines look at:

The use of simulation games such as Sim City 4 in the USA and Cities Skylines in the EU has thrown up the question on their value to give input into urban planning. With Cities Skylines – How Cities: Skylines is being used to build a real-life city district was trialled with interesting results (see: ). The premise of Cities Skylines is around a few universal rules such a Government provided public amenities and infrastructure with urban development set around a basic framework of loosely defined zones. The urban environment adapts and evolves within the interactions and rules of the public amenities and the zones.


It seems a simulator has quite a bit to offer planners and elected representatives in how residential and commercial demand is driven within a City.


The new residential area developing. Notice I did Phil Goff’s million trees program too. Those trees act as amenity as they are a comfort to the new residents. So never forget your trees!



Finally a drive through of my latest residential area:

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Travelling Down the Subways #CitiesSkylines

Metro Overhaul Mod overhauls subway systems


I will post an introduction to my latest city San Solaria in another post. In this post I will be showcasing what it is like being on a metro/subway train both above and below ground for the first time.

This is thanks to the Metro Overhaul Mod for Cities Skylines that allow you to create a conventional subway system as well as a ground and/or elevated metro (light rail) system seen in New York City, Chicago and London. The mod allows me to bring the expensive subway system above ground making it cheaper to build and maintain out in the suburbs (while in the urban centres the system goes back underground per normal) compared to being all underground or using the conventional heavy rail system like Neo Layton City.


With my new city – San Solaria (the map theme is California) I am trying out using the metro system via the mod to move mass amounts of people around the City in place of heavy rail (which will be used for inter city connections). Busses and trams are still used but for localised connections rather than pan-city connections.

One of the spin off’s from the Metro Overhaul Mod is that when in first person mode you can see an actual subway system with actual subways stations. The pictures demonstrate what can be seen for the first time:


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San Solaria