Being a city planner must be a rather thankless job. Get it right, and your citizens are able to go about their business with little to no traffic to hold them up. It’s likely they will never know your name, let alone why you’re responsible for their short commute. On the other hand, mess things up and your work is decried and citizens fume. If you’ve ever sat in a long traffic jam caused by less-than-intelligent traffic light timings there’s likely a city planner somewhere with figures showing those lights are actually improving things. After playing Cities: Skylines most recent add-on, Mass Transit, we can now scratch that particular aspect of our city planning itch.
Cities: Skylines’ previous piece of DLC was all about levelling your city and essentially revelling in your City’s demise. The Natural Disasters content was often a cathartic way of resetting things especially if, like us, getting your city to grow doesn’t come easy. On the flip side, Mass Transit’s focus is on fixing or improving your city. As anyone who has gotten their city to an appreciable size knows, traffic becomes increasingly problematic if things aren’t planned properly. If things are particularly bad it can lead to rather large scale problems. For example, your city could end up having blackouts because the coal trucks that are transporting the fuel for your power plant is stuck in a tailback somewhere. Therefore, if you have a city with a traffic problem, it’s important that you have the tools the fix it.
Previously, your best option was to build new roads to bypass the problem. It wasn’t the best solution but generally it did a pretty decent job. An alternative was to upgrade roads to larger versions with more lanes but you lost houses and businesses in the process. Public transport was another option, as the fewer citizens driving their cars, the less traffic there was to deal with. Finding the best solution was a bit of a dark art but also, sometimes, to fix a problem you need to be able to identify the cause. Why does all your traffic go down one road? What is it about your one-way system that causes people to lose their minds? With Mass Transit’s focus on the movement of people there are now several tools at your disposal.
Some are analytical in nature. You can click any road of your liking and see what type of vehicles are using that road. In conjunction with another, which shows a heatmap-style overview of traffic congestion, you can start to see where your trouble spots are. It could be that heavy trucks are using your residential streets to get to their destination. To fix this you could enact a policy on that city region to ban heavy trucks or provide another, faster route, which they will use instead. But without the tools to identify the route that your heavy traffic is taking, you would have no idea on which roads you need to avoid or tinker with. Reading the data is very straightforward; the more green your streets are, the better the traffic is flowing. Should you spot any red, you need to hop to it and start sorting things out before the problem spreads.
Going back to public transport is where Mass Transit really starts to shine. Whilst they’ve always been a feature of Cities: Skylines you can now connect these services via hubs. Now, if you wanted to, you could have a citizen wake up, take a bus to a ferry terminal, cross the river and get a connecting bus the other side to complete their commute. By being able to link services together in one seamless journey, you can start to reduce the number of cars on your roads. It’s also rather rewarding to get the services working together in harmony, not to mention the fact that the hubs look rather cool, too. There are also some additions to the public transport roster as ferries, cable cars, monorails and even blimps are now at your disposal. They all have their strengths and weaknesses and it’s important, then, to plan accordingly so that they all work together.
Some will be able to take lots of passengers but are slow, others will be fast but only able to carry a handful of passengers. You’ve obviously got to keep an eye on your budget too as all of this will need upkeep. However, get it all right and traffic can become a thing of the past. Doing so leads to happy citizens and the happier your citizens the better your economy will be. Still it’s not easy and sometimes we were a little confused as to how to solve our problems. This was most apparent when we tried to tackle one of the new scenarios. All of them are traffic related but none of them are an easy beast to battle. In one we had a prebuilt city that had a traffic problem. Whilst we could see the traffic jams and where these problems were and despite the tools laid before us combating a pre-existing problem eluded us a little. We tried everything from adding new public transport routes, banning certain types of traffic and upgrading roads. None of these seemed to help and a little direction or a tutorial would have helped here. Try as we might we just couldn’t solve the City’s woes and eventually failed the scenario.
Away from the title features there is a new visualisation when building roads. Previously you had to eyeball whether your roads lined up so your neatly arranged grid system continued. However, things like terrain often got in the way and eventually you’d end up with a slightly wonky road. Now, when you start building, you will see an indicator when it lines up with another road and it will also show you the angle of the road too. It’s all very minor but makes a huge difference when you’re setting the lay of the land. This feature also extends to piping so you can easily line things up to create neat little grids if you so wish. The more your city starts to expand the more you’re grateful it’s there.
Mass Transit, then, is made up of lots of little things that help you to, hopefully, realise the utopian city of your dreams. It doesn’t bring lots to the table but what it does bring are very welcome additions. Some of them will take a while for you to unlock but they do so at times when your city is still in its infancy, allowing you to build the public transportation system your city deserves. There isn’t a lot of extra content here but what there is changes things so fundamentally in how you approach your city building it’s well worth the pickup