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Subways only for mass transit? #0236
Updated: 7/5/99 OS/platforms(s): All Versions: All

Contributor/author(s): Jonathan Harper, edited by Wren Weburg

If a city is making enough profit and has enough cash reserves, a subway system is an excellent choice to reduce traffic. Subways do not affect anything, as they are below ground and can cross pipes. Though more expensive than rails, subway systems are more effective in terms of less space. This is manifested both in the actual rail, as well as the subway/train stations sizes.

I myself prefer subways to other forms of mass transportation for the reasons of space, but also for manageability. Subways have their own window in the underground view, and therefore can easily be maintained. One might argue that rails can be viewed by turning off the zoned buildings option. However, for the reasons of space, explained above, I do not use rails (well, industrial zones need rails, but that's not mass transit in that case). I am so concerned with manageability because I have experimented with bus stops a great deal. To be frank, I hate them. They're one space, don't stand out, need to be built far too often, and get lost in the mix frequently. When building new zones, I overlook them far too often.

The above is all opinion, and therefore subject to question. For solid fact (or theory in this case) one must look for conditions where subways are superior. Assume one has built a city of 100,000 sims. However, one did not plan one's transportation well, and focused oneself on expanding rapidly. Rapid expansion has left the city out of funds, but making large amounts of money yearly. One has several options to reduce traffic (horrendous and rarely moving at this point): rails, bus stops, subways, ordinances, or a combination thereof.

The cheapest option is bus stops, but this is self defeating! Examine this rationally. Every bus stop removes one zoned space (except when built in areas not yet zoned, such as the outskirts or purposely left empty space). "Certainly," one says, "this will not be a problem, it's only one space." However, that one space has a geometric effect. It not only removes a miniscule fraction of a tax base directly (it's only one space, right?), but it adds a large cost to the budget. Furthermore, it destabilizes the zone. With a bus stop placed on each side of a dense zone, it shifts the placement of towers a space or more over. This means less towers, more singe family housing or small commercial buildings, which in turn means a massive decrease in income (less taxes, more expenses) in a large city. It's not just one space, it's a mind boggling number of spaces, and each one is eliminating a tower.

Still, this is not argument enough against bus stops. One must further look at how often bus stops must be placed. In order to be effective, there must be at least one bus stop on each road (there's no such thing as an occupied building no one leaves or enters, right). On very long roads, one would probably have to place two or more, but that's your zoning choices, not a question of mass transportation. Basically, it boils down to one bus stop for every 10-20 spaces of road (estimated figure). For management purposes, this is unacceptable.

To close up the arguments against bus stops, our ever-present mayor must be considered again. One's roads are terribly crowded while we debate a solution. After implementing a huge BUS system, costing income and tax base, one has actually increased traffic. Without expensive ordinances (more money thrown away), it is difficult to get Sims to universally accept buses. An already-crowded road is not helped with a thousand empty buses added to it. Now assume, one has chosen to keep one's bus stops. What exactly has been done? Cost oneself a great amount of money, both in tax base and in extra cost, created many management problems, and increased traffic on the city's roads. By itself the cost is probably less for a bus system than a subway system, but the ordinances and all the problems it causes make a subway more effective.

For reasons not to consider for a moment a rail system outside industrial areas, see above arguments on cost, management difficulties, and increased traffic (railroad crossings stop traffic) and multiply by a factor of one thousand.

This leaves subways and ordinances as choices for our poor mayor. It is my personal belief that one can combine both of these options to create a very effective transit system. Parking fines, subsidized mass transit, and choice others virtually eliminate traffic on roads. The use of subways is extremely expensive, yes, but the reduction in traffic pays for the subway system in a few years.

It can be argued that subway stations also take up one space, and cost more than a bus stop at that. When considered on an overall cost basis, a hundred bus stops costs far more than two dozen subway stations. Why is it that I say only two dozen subway stations? One is not looking to entirely eliminate traffic, but more to reduce is greatly. With parking fines in place and the cost of a subway token halved, Sims will walk great distances to subways. Subways stations are therefore needed less frequently. A truly effective subway system will have a grid pattern. This reduces the number of subway stations even more. Therefore, the argument that subway stations also take up one space makes sense in a one-to-one sense, but not in the overall sense.

Another argument for subways is the ease of management, already argued above in my opinion section. Re-zoning does not affect subways, except for the stations, and that can be replaced. Some rail will have to be replaced, possibly, but these are one-time, marginal costs.

A final case for subways is the number of passengers a subway system can carry. Far and away, subways carry the most passengers of all the mass transit systems (except for highways, but that is essentially a big road). Rails likely carry the same number or slightly less, but rails are inefficient and are not to be considered. Buses simply cannot compete.

Therefore, our now-wizened mayor chooses to construct a grid-based subway system (meaning the subway stations are parallel, since the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. The way to make lots of points connected with straight lines shorter is to make them parallelograms). One enacts ordinances to reduce traffic and increase subway uses. Traffic drops off to nearly nothing, one gets lots of love from the sims and feels happy for awhile. Shortly thereafter, one discovers there is an very poor water system in the city, but that's another problem.

Regarding highways: highways are expensive. Highways cost lots of money, space, effort, and other horrible things. To make it short, highways are double wide roads, only more expensive, and should be used only for really big things, like connecting two ends of a large city.

See also
Avoiding congested subways
Beautify your highway system
Highways, for aesthetics only?
The where and what of mass transit
Building the perfect mass transit system
Mass transit: in efficiency, realism, and stuff

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