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Methods on Mass Transit


Please PM STomnibus if you have any questions about this article.

Section 1 - Types of Mass Transit

Section 2 - The city

Section 3 - Notable tests

Introduction

As most of you know I have been working on mass transit trying to figure out what, where, when, why, and how it works. We know what it is, it is mass transit. We need to know the other the answers to the other questions before we can fully incorporate MT into our cities. I started this study because I was frustrated with "Savage traffic" and "Black hole of a bus stop" news blurbs. So I took it onto myself to figure this mystery out. When I started I never imagined I'd be writing this article because the whole project started off very slowly. But thanks to many people who helped encourage me and point out little things I overlooked, this project took off. I would like to thank everyone who offered their assistance and guidance to me.

Section 1 - types of Mass Transit

Bus Stops-


These are the cheapest and easiest to use. By placing these on corners you encourage usage by the Sims. The only thing to watch out here is making sure the arrow is facing the road. The downside of using buses is that congestion and road damage slow them down. Getting Sims to use buses is a good idea because buses are faster than cars. The biggest plus to buses is the fact that they don't contribute to congestion. On the lesser side they also don't produce any air pollution.

I found that when density is low bus stops can be as far as 12 tiles away from one another, but as the density increases the frequency of stops increases. I learned early on that to run an efficient MT system I'd need to have all forms running together some sooner than others. At first and throughout the life of your city buses will play an important part. Because they are so cheap to run use them all over.

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Here you can see the placement I use. The bus stops are shown in red and the rail stops in blue. The city is laid out in a checkerboard fashion. Every other block is divided up so that it contains sections that contain mass transit hubs. This gives me a great place to put bus and subway stops and also some parks or even water pumps. I see this as a way to help eliminate the chance of having to tear down buildings to place stops. I also place bus stops at the edges of higher density zones to reduce congestion at the stops. Here are some close ups of two blocks that I plant mass transit in. I vary the size to suit my needs.

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Passenger Rail

This is a fast and efficient form of MT. It is great for moving huge amounts of Sims and great for intercity trips, but is more expensive than buses. This is the only form of MT that can be accessed by cars. The biggest minuses are the huge amount of real estate that it consumes. Both from the fact that turns take a lot of room and the fact that stations are huge compared to the other forms. It isn't directly affected by road congestion, but having freight also using rail will hurt commute times. This is by far my favorite form of MT. I like how many people that rail can move. Relieving congestion is a little harder, but I will discuss a way that I found and use to help. I also like the fact that the Sims can drive to the station and then ride. This is especially nice when dealing with medium wealth Sims.

The pictures show where to place the rail and road to get the station to work for you. The road can run along any side except where the building is and just the opposite for rail. I have had luck when I've ran the rail and roads as shown below.

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Subways

This is a fast and efficient mode of transportation. The biggest drawback to it is the upkeep. As far a space goes though you can't beat it. Since the whole network, except the station, is below ground this is a great option to those trying for a huge population. Putting in a subway too early will definitely sink a city. At one point in the life of the test city upkeep from rail was at §55/mon while subway was at §5000/mon. If I wasn't truly ready for it I would have given up in frustration.

Highways

I know this isn't truly a mode of MT, but I use it to further help with the reduction of commute times and traffic volume in my cities. These move high volumes of Sims to and from their jobs everyday quickly and efficiently. Highways have two drawbacks: first being the sheer size of them and secondly is the fact that you must sometimes force its use. Once you start to use them though you will find that they are a god-send.

Here is some advice before I get to the fun stuff:

--- I would suggest that one of the first ordinances you enact be the commuter shuttle. For §20/mon you can't beat it. This will greatly influence your Sims to use MT.

--- I recommend that whenever you start a new city plan for MT. I feel the best way to do this is to start building your MT network right off the bat. It is much easier to build it as you go than to have to destroy a lot of hard work trying to fit a rail line in.

--- Never, ever use the carpool ordinance. This is the biggest waste of money for the "good" it does. Use the money saved to better the city. When your cities get large you'll definitely enjoy the extra dough in your pocket.

--- Make room for a subway system in your city if you plan on having a huge population. The denser you go the more stops you'll need. Have a vision before you build on how big you want it to be and build accordingly. This way you won't destroy some precious building just to put in a subway stop. Place parks and such at the places you want to have saved for the subway.

--- Don't worry about rail usage early on. Unless you have a spread out city, I never get much usage from it until the city gets to be between 6-10k peeps. It may seem like a waste at the time, but it will save you from headaches later on.

--- Try to keep a one tile gap in between different modes of MT. The guide says that you need this gap to let the riders switch from one type to the next. This is a touchy subject and I'll get into that later. I will say this now though. I do place subways and bus stops next to each other when they across from a rail station. I feel that either the Sims will take the subway or bus when they get off the train - either that or when getting off a train.

How to Place a Clover Leaf

First you will need to decide where you will want to place the cloverleaf. Next, drag the highway tool across the existing highway and continue to build until you are past the intersection. The road should turn blue when the cloverleaf can be placed. Then choose to accept the cloverleaf. If funds are low you can always come back at a later time and add the cloverleaf then.

A few things to remember:

Probably the most important is to make sure the area is free of buildings, roads, rail, and anything else that would hinder the building of any other road or on-ramp. Try to plan a little ahead and build up to the cloverleaf, rather than bulldoze buildings to fit it in. Try to have somewhat level ground. It is possible to build it on a rather bumpy area though. You just want to make sure that the ground doesn't have steep drop-offs and peaks. The highways should be perpendicular to each other. You can't place a cloverleaf when one highway is at a diagonal and the other isn't. The crossing highway section can start as close as 8 tiles away from the existing highway. You want to make sure that on the existing section of highway that the intersection is at least 14 tiles away from the end of the highway.

Section 2 - the city

I started posting about the test city, Capital City, when it had about 40k peeps in it. It is made up of medium and high density residential and commercial zones. The only connection to neighbor cities is by either rail or highway. The city contained industry, but early on, I decided to remove it for pollution reasons. I can't tell how bad the commute times suffered, but I can't imagine it was much. The highway and rail did an outstanding job moving the commuters. I forced them to use the highway and mass transit systems to slow down road congestion. I tried to keep the city as poor as possible also since high wealth chooses not travel on MT. I never had a problem slowing down the rich from entering the city. I offer both good educational and health system. I noticed since the second patch came out that the emphasis on the poor seemed higher. This actually helped me meet my goals of a working class city. Here is an early shot of the traffic density in the city.

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I started out by having the highway and roads connecting the residential and commercial zones together, but found that this leads to nothing but problems. It seems that the Sims would rather take a heavily congested road than a clear highway. To take care of this problem I bulldozed the roads and forced the Sims to take the highways or mass transit. At first I noticed a 2-3 minute increase in CT, but had lower air pollution. This struck me as funny, but then I looked at my income from mass transit and saw that it more than doubled. So the mass transit along with the highway helped make the city a more desirable place to live in.

As the city grew and grew, I noticed that rail was the best way to move Sims around the city. So I started to put in more rail stations and tracks. I didn't feel that one track was enough. So to help combat track congestion I added a second rail line through the city. There is a 2 tile gap that I try to keep throughout the entire city to place rail stations, bus and subway stops, and parks. I had to destroy some sections of the city to accommodate the new rail line. After spending about §80k I had 2 independent rail lines in the city. Money well spent though.

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This is the best thing that I could do to help further the usage and accessibility of mass transit to the people. The second line really helped cut down rail traffic and commute times. As you can see from the pictures the two lines cross, but never tie into each other. The blue line is the existing line and the red is the new addition. After the city grew I decided that the best course of action was not to run the lines on the bottom of the map, but rather bring them into the city.

In spots I have one rail station being serviced by both lines. This helps increase riders in areas where two stations would be a waste. When usage went over 100%, I removed the station and gave each line its own station.

It was around this time that the second patch was released. I had my hands full with bus, car, and truck loads of residents coming to the city. With the addition of the dual railroads the commute times went from around 80 minutes to around 120 minutes.

I started to get some "no job" sots so decided that the next course of action was to add another section of commercial. This I placed on the left of the existing residential zone. So this zone now had two different places to find a job. This allowed me to lower my commute time to the 70-75 minute range.

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I took some before and after shots of the traffic density of the city. This first shot is before.

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Here is a shot after the addition was placed.

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You can see the traffic did what I'd hoped and shifted toward the new commercial section. The rail lines really saw a lot more traffic due to this addition. I then added more commercial to try even this section out and add further jobs.

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The first shot was taken a few years after the last traffic picture was taken. I added as funds were available. I also tried something new here.

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I called these MT hubs, but someone asked what the loops were for and the name loops stuck. Their sole purpose is much like there cousins that break up the residential zones. These give me spots to place bus stops, subway stops, and plazas. The added benefit to them is that I use streets to make them so there's less intersections. The area highlighted in blue is where I placed the subways. There is also left over space if capacity is maxed out for the addition of more stops.

Eventually, I started to wonder if the carpool ordinance was of any help to the city at all. What I found was it is a HUGE waste of money. I was spending §1600/month for it, this amount was 50% of my monthly ordinance budget. So I turned it off and this first picture is before. I then ran the city for 10 years. The second picture shows what happened to the traffic density.

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The next thing I checked was the commute times. I found that turning off the ordinance did little to affect commute times. They hovered right around 70 minutes. This was normal from what I had been seeing. So my advice is to never use it, unless you have extra money to waste.

The money I saved from turning off the carpool rod went to fund further expansion to the west of the current commercial zone. Again I used the highway as a divider, but had a new idea to tie the two sections together. I was zoning over the highway and then making a transition to the next zone. The only connection that the residential and commercial now share is physical. The old way can be seen in the first shot.

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But this is a pain, so I went with my new layout idea and used the highways as a divider. This was much easier to place. I used more on/off ramps here, but this was well worth it.

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Here are the traffic density shots of before and after the new residential addition.

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You can see how traffic moved when I made this addition. The most notable was the residential addition on the north end of the city. It is on the shore, so that is the main area that the high wealth lives. I have had loads of problems with controlling traffic in this section. The only way I could think of to combat the traffic was to add a subway.

So I paused the game and started the "Big Dig." I found this to be the most difficult addition to do. This is where all the "loops" and breaks in the zones came into play. The one thing I would change about this whole project would be to build the subway in smaller sections rather than all at once. I spent over §700k and added a lot of tube and stops, but the cost was well worth it.

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The first shot is before I started laying the subway and the second is after. You can see a little difference in traffic density. Most notably in the north where there is a higher concentration of wealthy. The commute times dropped from 85 minutes to a solid 70 minutes. Land value skyrocketed and air pollution dropped by about 4 points, too. Here is a shot of the whole subway system.

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As I've said before subway is expensive to maintain. This system is costing me about §5500/month to maintain while rail is costing me a mere §55/month. But you can see what it does for road congestion, so the trade-off is worth it for bigger cities. Here is a shot of the traffic density 20 years after the subway was put into place.

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The one thing I want to stress is not to do what I did. I wish I'd added some sections of subway sooner and added as I went. In the article I showed how many problems I had. Mainly from people making the transition to subway and also the hit my budget took. I was §60k in the hole before I started making a profit again. I thought I'd lost the city, but it pulled through.

The city is now sitting at 277k people and is making about §2k/month profit. Here, also, are the most current traffic density and commute times for this city.

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As you can see everything is leveling off rather well. I just hope with further additions that I can keep up with this trend. Future additions to the city and mass transit system are still up in the air. I have some ideas as to how I'm going to expand. As you can see I have had different ideas before and implemented them throughout the building of this city.

Section 3- Notable tests

There were loads of questions asked about how far a sim will walk or where bus stops should be placed in regards to rail stations. I ran a few tests to try to answer these for everyone.

The first test I'll show the results from the test deals with the placement of bus stops and rail stations. I started 2 small cities, both identical except for the placement of the bus stop. Both cities had factories to save on space and fire stations to lessen the chance the city would be disrupted from a fire. There is one bus stop placed near residential and one by the rail station. The tests were run on cheetah speed.

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In this first city, City A, the bus stop is across from the rail station. The cities were run for 10 years apiece. You'll also see one number for bus stops because the numbers were the same for both stops.

Year 1:

Res. Rail station- 40 passengers and the bus stops- 52

Ind. Rail station- 40 passengers and the bus stops- 28

Year 5:

Res. Rail station- 52 passengers and the bus stops- 34

Ind. Rail station- 52 passengers and the bus stops- 32

Year 10:

Res. Rail station- 52 passengers and the bus stops- 34

Ind. Rail station- 52 passengers and the bus stops- 32

Next I ran City B; it had a bus stop right next to the rail station.

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Year 1:

Res. Rail station- 44 passengers and the bus stops- 44

Ind. Rail station- 44 passengers and the bus stops- 27

Year 5:

Res. Rail station- 44 passengers and the bus stops- 56

Ind. Rail station- 44 passengers and the bus stops- 32

Year 10:

Res. Rail station- 44 passengers and the bus stops- 56

Ind. Rail station- 44 passengers and the bus stops- 32

So the thinking was that the guide was wrong and the Sims don't need the one tile gap between modes of MT to accommodate switching. This is what I saw.

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I saw Sims walking to and from the rail stations on both the residence side and the industrial side. The road was 20 tiles from their homes to the station and 20 from the station to work. So my belief is that the Sims will walk as far as they need as long as their commute time doesn't go over the 2.5 hour limit. Another thought I've had is that perhaps when the Sims leave one mode of mass transit they walk on to the sidewalk. This act alone may be enough to satisfy the one tile gap.

The next step was to see if we could run the same test. This time I placed a tunnel over the rail tracks in both zones to see if we could stop them from walking. The guide says that Sims will not walk through tunnels.

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The first thing I noticed was that usage rose by from 5-10 riders on the bus. Did the tunnels help stop walking?

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I realize that the game's automata ads cars and pedestrians, but this still makes me wonder. If they don't walk through tunnels how are those Sims getting to work? So I ran yet another test. This one was to see just how far they are willing to walk.

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The road is 6 tiles from residential to the industrial zone. There are bus stops in the city because the residential didn't want to develop without bus stops so I placed them in to help. In the industrial section, I had one building become vacant and when it was bulldozed more sprang up. Then I started to take out road one section at a time. After the second section was removed more industrial was built for every section of road removed. I went back 5 sections of road and only had the one building become vacant. As the roads were cut back I started to get no job sots that would stay around for a month or two and then disappear. No one left the city though.

The bus stops had 10-15 riders when the industrial was serviced fully by roads, but after the roads were taken out usage fell to 0-10 riders. I did take the stops out, but when I did that I started getting no access sots on top of the any job sots. So I had to build the bus stops back as I took out the road and that took care of the no access sots. This shows that if forced and the commute time can stay under 150 minutes than they will walk. Here is a 10 year look at the commute times for this test.

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As the roads were taken out the commute times would spike and then fall. Not too sure as to why this happens though.


2 Comments

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Brenaman Jarmin Luiz
Jun 15, 2011 - 03:54 AM
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WOW, ok that was a lot to digest at once. Don't get me wrong, its a great thing! You're quite an artist when it comes to MT. Thanks for the tut!