Equitable SimCity Sandbox Design Competition

  • While the Expressions of Interest deadline has passed, you are still able to submit an application by May 15th.  Please e-mail to ensure you are added to the e-mail communications.
  • Final Submissions are due on May 15, 2022;
  • Two finalist teams in both the student and professional categories will be notified by Friday, June 17, 2022.
  • Each finalist team will be expected to send one representative to do a final presentation in New Orleans for the ITE Annual Meeting and Exhibition on Monday, August 1 from 11:15 a.m.-12:45 p.m. and winners will be announced during the Awards Luncheon on August 2.
  • For questions, contact Kathi Driggs.


Competitors will plan and design a community in a post-pandemic world that balances the elements of equitable design taking into account the size, demographics, transit, and population for the community living in this neighborhood. Submissions will be judged on their creativity and innovation, the practicality and balance achieved by the individual ideas, soundness of their technical approach and design, and the transferability of the overall plan and its elements to other jurisdictions. It should be noted that this is an independent and hypothetical competition and is not connected in any way to the promise of work or meant to solve issues associated with a specific community. Note:  You DO NOT need to use the SimCity software to participate in the competition.

Problem Statement

The goal is to envision a community that would serve as an ideal example in terms of balancing transportation and equity.  To make the competition parameters consistent, we will be using the Town of Matthews in North Carolina as a case study.

Matthews is in Mecklenburg County and has a population of about 30,000 residents. It is a suburb of Charlotte. Information for the town of Matthews such as population, size census tracts, etc. will be provided.

The goal would be to use the information provided and re-envision the ideal growth for the Town of Matthews with equity in mind. Please note that this is a hypothetical competition, and the intent is not to suggest that the Town of Matthews needs to be re-envisioned. This town is simply being used as a case study due to its size and overall demographics, and for consistency in the parameters being assumed.

The objective of the competition is to plan the ideal city that shows the right balance between safety, public health and emergency response, mobility, transit, land use, and demographics keeping equity in the forefront.   

Challenge Parameters

  • The following Town of Matthews data is provided:
  • Town of Matthews’s current population is approximately 33,000 with 12,400 households.
  • Develop and discuss a plan illustrating how and where would you add 8,600 new households (23,000 more population) and improve access to transportation infrastructure; grocery store/fresh foods; emergency facilities; and affordable housing as follows:
    • Access to transportation infrastructure (roadways and transit) 
      • You can add complete streets to improve connectivity between your proposed development and existing highways. There is no limit on how many miles of roadway network you can add – however, you cannot add any new freeways/highways/arterials.  You can add only local streets or collector streets and they need to be designed for all modes (vehicles, pedestrians, bicycles, and transit if applicable).
      • You can add up to three miles of greenways or shared use paths.
      • You can add up to five miles of additional bus routes.
      • Consider last/first mile mobility such as bike sharing stations, e-bikes, e-scooters and others.
    • Access to grocery stores/fresh foods
      • Shapefiles are provided showing existing grocery stores. 
      • You can add up to three new grocery stores.
      • Discuss how many homes are within walk/bike zone of a grocery store which is defined as a ¼-mile radius for the walk zone and a 1-mile radius for the bike zone.
      • Consider improving access to the grocery stores and local fresh food sources for existing neighborhoods using the parameters defined under transportation infrastructure category.
    • Access to emergency facilities
      • Shapefiles are provided showing existing hospitals and fire stations. 
      • You can add one new fire station.
      • You can add up to three medical clinics.
      • Discuss how your proposal will improve access to emergency facilities and medical response times (existing and proposed facilities).
      • Consider improving emergency access for existing neighborhoods using the parameters defined under transportation infrastructure category.
    • Accommodations for affordable housing
      • Identify affordable housing for up to 10% of the new households (~900 households)
      • Residents of these households need to be in the ¼-mile walk zone and 1-mile bike zone of both a train stop and grocery store.
    • Other notes:
      • Keep the surrounding growth in the context.  Matthews is surrounded by several rapidly growing communities – Charlotte to the south and west; Mint Hill to the north; and Indian Trail/Stallings to the east. 
      • For several decades, Matthews emphasized a lot on incorporation of land use into transportation planning effort.
      • New housing may be through new developments or through redevelopment of existing neighborhoods. Provide a narrative justifying your approach.
      • Areas noted as "no development zones” must not include any new developments.

Submission Guidelines

  • Complete this application and upload along with your submission (one PDF file) to the judging portal.
  • Each submission is limited to ten 8 ½ X 11 pages including covers, tabs, graphics, and/or images.  Submitters can use a 11X17 page to present the proposed community layout and this 11X17 will count as one page.
  • Methodology and transferability to other communities are the keys to the competition.
  • The submissions have to give judges the confidence that it is a legitimate approach when it is transferred.
  • Submitters must articulate why they selected the approach they did.


  • There will be separate professional and student categories. Cities/agencies wishing to enter would do so under the professional category.
  • Teams can include an unlimited number of participants, but at least one member of the team must be an ITE member.
  • Please note that if you are entering in the Student Category, each member of your team must be a full-time undergraduate or graduate student.

Evaluations of Entries/Submissions

  • The top two teams in both the professional and student categories will be invited to present their approach and solutions as part of the ITE Annual Meeting in New Orleans and take questions from the audience in an open and interactive session.
  • Presentation guidelines will be provided to the finalists once shortlisted.
  • A panel of 4-6 judges will be established by ITE


  • Community’s vision and goals (15%)
  • Criteria that determined transportation equity and the layout of the plan (40%)
    • Access to transportation infrastructure (roadways and transit) 
    • Access to grocery stores/fresh foods
    • Access to emergency facilities
    • Accommodations for affordable housing
  • Differentiator – any other criteria you suggest incorporating into the plan (10%)
  • Transferability, adaptability, and constructability of the approach to other communities (20%)
  • Quality of writing and presentation (15%)
    • There is an expectation that one graphic will show proposed community layout and submitters can present this on 11X17 page instead of 8 ½ X 11 page


  • The winning teams will be recognized at the ITE Annual Meeting and Exhibition Awards Lunch in New Orleans, LA . Press and industry announcements will be issued highlighting the finalist and winners.
  • One paid full Annual Meeting registration will be provided to one representative from each of the two professional teams that are finalists.
  • One paid full Annual Meeting registration and up to $500 in travel expenses will be provided to one representative from each of the two student teams that are finalists.
  • The entries from the two winning teams (professional and student) will be featured in an issue of ITE Journal.
  • Other innovative submissions may also be highlighted in ITE Journal and included on the competition web page.