The metric that matters the most in SimCity is population. The higher the population, the more successful you are. But moreso than any other game in the series before it (at least in this beta), population is dictated by road design and placement.
That’s why for the first time, SimCity not only lets you build a wide range of road types (from dirt road to wide avenues), but also curved roads in addition to straight ones. Homes, designated by residential zoning, can only be built along the sides of roads, meaning that the goal should theoretically be to maximize the amount of edge-space around and in between my streets. The fact that the size of your city is restricted to a fixed square area means every acre of space is valuable. For my experiment, I chose three familiar types of street design: a rectangular grid, a circular sprawl, and cul-de-sac segregation.
With rectangular houses, you can stack many in a row along a long street, back to back, with little wasted space. This design also was the easiest to implement with SimCity’s road tool (tip: hold shift and drag for straight lines).
In practice, the multiple times I tried using a straight rectangular grid layout in the beta, my city struggled to exceed 15,000 population in the hour played. I discovered that while the grid design lent itself to a high density of residential buildings per acre, it also had a high density of roads–which take up a fair amount of space. Yes, grids lend themselves to tons of intersections–minimizing traffic congestion–but it was probably more than the game needed for efficient traffic management.