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Cities Skylines: Mass Transit and the war on cars

Blimp my city

I've done a lot of terrible things in my two year quest to ruin as many lives as possible in Cities: Skylines [official site]. I’ve allowed the dead to fester in their homes, I’ve turned off heating and electricity in the dead of winter, and once, I made an entire city drink its own poo. But with the launch of the Mass Transit expansion, I’m turning over a new leaf. Instead of making things worse, I’m going to fix my city’s awful congestion problems and be hailed a hero of the people.

At least that's the plan.

There’s one major obstacle in my way: I lack the fundamental knowledge that would be useful to my citizens. Roads are a mystery to me. I don’t even drive, and when I use public transport, I lose myself in a sea of Twitter threads and Spotify playlists. Being faced with this realisation as I stare at nothing but gridlock sort of bums me out. It’s dispiriting. However! I didn’t know anything about poisoning people with excrement, either. But I did it. I learned and in learning I toppled a whole city. I can do it again. I just need somewhere to start. Somewhere like this road.

The problem is pretty clear. This road is full of cars. And what are cars scared of? Stop signs, of course. In the complex tarmac ecosystem, these creatures are mortal enemies. Diligently, I place signs everywhere to ward off unwelcome vehicles. As an extra precaution, I give the road a new name.

As the cars continue to flood the blighted thoroughfare, I start to wonder if I’ve been overestimating just how scared cars are of stop signs. They’re creeping along timidly and stopping at junctions, so they must be a little bit nervous, but it’s only making Extremely Unpleasant Street more congested. It’s so bad now that the land value is dropping and residents are starting to peace out.

Pondering the conundrum in the bath, it dawns on me that I’ve been approaching the problem in entirely the wrong way – I’ve been trying to cure a symptom, when I should be trying to find the source. Why are people so obsessed with this road? Is there a hip new club nearby? Some handy new tools make it easier to find out.

The traffic routes map mode has me more thrilled than any map mode should [map modes are actually the greatest thing in gaming - Ed]. Clicking on a road reveals all the different types of vehicles that use it, and then a line charts their entire route. Extremely Unpleasant Street, it turns out, is the point where an unholy mass of serpentine roads converge, creating a nexus of metal and rubber and agitated commuters. Trucks, shoppers, people going to work – everyone on this side of the city ends up stuck on Extremely Unpleasant Street at least once a day.

I place some tunnels to get cars moving straight from the top end to the bottom, bypassing the problem area entirely, but while that alleviates some of the strain, traffic continues to pile up. More roads are required, and a few roundabouts and junctions that aren’t non-Euclidean mindfucks. The process of slapping down roads has been greatly improved, thankfully. The tool now shows the angle of the proposed road, and it subtly offers suggestions about where you should connect it via nodes and dotted lines. It’s a lot of extra information without much additional screen clutter.

A welcome side-effect of the enhanced precision is that it’s easier to make pretty transit networks that don’t look like they’ve been put together by a brow-beaten city administrator who, after hours of faffing, gave up and decided it was good enough. It’s a particular boon when attempting to make city blocks even and symmetrical.

Despite my hard work, my citizens still spend a terribly large portion of their day stuck in traffic. They seem to be happy, mind. Just chilling in their hot cars as pedestrians suck in those lovely petrol fumes. I’m convinced, however, that they’d be even happier if I could free them from their metal coffins. That’s where Project Blimp My City comes in.

Unlike the horrible cars clogging up the arteries of my city, blimps are majestic sky whales that bring delight and joy to everyone. You’re never going to get hit by a blimp crossing the road. They just bob gently in the sky, never getting in the way. They’re also very expensive and fit only a tiny number of people inside them, but they wobble as they fly! I just want to cuddle them all.

Anyway… my city now has a lot of blimps.

In my eagerness to supply every citizen with their own blimp, I may have overlooked my city’s dire power situation. I’ve got a lot of power plants, but they’re running on fumes. Trucks are getting stuck on the highway, and then when they get into the city they get stuck again, so they’re not delivering the resources my plants need. The blackout is a bad one.

Every corner of my city goes dark. Industry, businesses, utilities – they all shut down. People can’t even get access to clean water. The blimps seem a bit ridiculous now. Folk are starting to get sick because I wanted to fill the sky with fat balloons. I could just plonk down some wind turbines, but that’s only a temporary solution. I need to get those trucks in, or more people are going to die.

It’s back to the traffic route map mode to see how the trucks are trying to get to the power plants and which roads in particular are causing all the problems. There’s an out-of-control intersection with roads coming from everywhere (above, below, other dimensions) and nobody is getting anywhere. Some of the roads have to go – sorry, Phantom Zone commuters – while I widen others. I can use traffic lights and stop signs to control the flow of vehicles, too, giving top priority to the route my trucks are taking.

The emergency surgery succeeds and power returns. Corpses finally get taken to the crematorium, and everyone is able to forget about the horrors of the blackout. There was no cannibalism. It’s just a rumour. We got close to the edge, though, and it was those blasted cars that drove us there. It’s become an us or them type of situation, frankly. There simply isn’t enough room in this town for both humans and cars.

The panacea for all that ails my wonderful city is more public transport. The blimps were a good start, but they don’t shift enough bodies. What I need is a monorail. There's nothing on Earth like a genuine, bona fide, electrified, six-car monorail. While buses are cheap and convenient, they still get stuck in traffic, but the monorail sits above it all, gliding as softly as a cloud towards its destination.

While each line, whether it’s for buses, ferries or the monorail, is distinct, with its own budget, fleet of vehicles and route, they can be linked together using transport hubs. Monorail stations are big and expensive, so I’m only able to place a few down, limiting the number of potential passengers. By constructing monorail and bus hubs, however, people are able to hop on a bus and get dropped off right in the monorail station, expanding their range. Essentially, they serve as a stop for both vehicles and bring in more passengers.

The cars’ grip on this city is loosening. People are finally free to walk the streets at night without fear of being harassed by roving gangs of BMWs. Fixing traffic problems in Cities: Skylines used to frequently devolve into a chore, but the extra clarity provided by the new map modes and the expanded suite of options and road types make it feel more like a puzzle. Investigating gridlock, working your way back through vehicles routes until you can find the source of the issue, has become an unexpectedly compelling activity.

I never did manage to sort out Extremely Unpleasant Street. I came up with another solution.

Rest in peace, nemesis.

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