Ben has been a geek all of his life, and as such, his expertise tends to fall into gaming and technology.
Although it might be easy to overlook the basics of transportation in SimCity 2013—especially if you’re like me and just want to get in that sandbox and dig—several factors in that game can work together to make your city look like an eternal traffic jam. With patches to the game and improvements in AI, you can expect your traffic problems to get better as time goes on, but sometimes better just isn't good enough to solve your problems.
Advice on Dealing With Traffic in SimCity 2013
Fortunately, I've made all sorts of mistakes, so you don’t have to. Although my Park-and-Ride placement made the most improvement in my problems, the other tips below will also make your life a little easier and make traffic problems a thing of the past.
- Make Them Walk!
- Let Them Take the Train
- Never Use a Four-Way Stop at a Highway Connection
- Use Buses to Eliminate Cars
- Place Park-and-Rides Wisely
1. Make Them Walk!
I know it might seem kind of obvious when you think about it, but sometimes planning ahead is better than the most expensive infrastructure out there. If you have a Stadium, Casino, or Landmark tourist attraction, you want to place it next to a Passenger Train Station or other mass transit hub so vast majorities of your Sims never need a car in the first place.
No matter how wealthy they are, Sims will always walk if an acceptable destination for their current need is within 200m. This is the same distance that the green overlay of a bus stop covers, so you can use one of those overlays if you want to eyeball it. Encouraging your Sims to walk not only goes for tourist attractions, but for shopping and jobs, too.
Although pollution is a factor in this, if you place a bunch of microhabitats with the proper RCI balance, most of your Sims won’t use any kind of vehicle.
2. Let Them Take the Train
One of the little-known facts about both the Train and Ferry system is that if it's faster to use the system to get to another part of the city, your Sims will use it. This is very useful if you like to keep your Residential and Commercial zones very intertwined but have your Industrial all sectioned off in one part of your city. You can create a pocket of Residential around a train station, and your workers will all get to work on time via Train.
3. Never Use a Four-Way Stop at a Highway Connection
. . . or anywhere in your city, really. Depending on your layout, it might be a moot point, but if your highway connection has more than two links off of it, you've set yourself up for a horrible traffic problem. Having a three-way stop is manageable, but every time I've tried to set up a four-way stop anywhere in my city, eventually the traffic just wasn't manageable any more from all the backup. This was doubly true if neighboring cities were trying to "help" me by sending vehicles my way, as it just made the problem worse.
If you can swing it, you’ll also want your first intersections as far away from your highway connection as possible; this will also help a great deal with highway traffic.
4. Use Buses to Eliminate Cars
One of the mistakes I made over and over again in my beginning cities was trying to go with the Streetcar every single time when I thought about mass transit. I knew that the Bus system was supposed to do the same thing as the Street Car, more or less, but like SimCity games in the past, I wanted to use the rail system. I've learned that in SimCity 2013 the Bus is essential to having your city's traffic under control, and I've incorporated buses into my cities now.
Start With the Shuttle Bus Depot
If you're starting a new region without a Department of Transportation giving you access to a Bus Terminal, you'll have to start out by placing the Shuttle Bus Depot. You'll only need one of these while you're growing your city, and it doesn't really matter where you place it, as you'll want to upgrade to a Bus Terminal as soon as you have access to the Department of Transportation.
Place Your Bus Stops Carefully
With the Shuttle Bus Depot in place, you're granted access to bus stops as well as the Park-and-Ride module. If you're like me, you may have started by placing bus stops all along the roads, not really caring about where you put them as long as all the roads are green. But if you take a little more care about it, you can solve most of your traffic problems with buses.
When you drill down close to street level, you can see that you can actually place bus stops on either side of the street. It's not truly necessary to place bus stops on both sides of the street, but when placing them in front of high-traffic spots like a University, you will want to have them right at the entrance on the correct side of the street to ensure the best flow of pedestrians.
Upgrade to the Bus Terminal
Once you have your Department of Transportation set up you will need to place your Bus Terminal. This will make your Shuttle Bus Depot obsolete, but all of the bus stops you placed will still work. You will want to place your Bus Terminal not only near your highway connection but on the correct side of the road.
Think about how buses will turn as soon as they head off of the highway, and place your terminal in a spot that allows these buses to drive directly into it with only that one turn off of the highway. If your buses need to turn around at another intersection, you can create huge buildups of bus backlog at your highway connection, causing many more problems than you solve.
- Tip 1: Rich and poor won't mix. Rich Sims won't ride the bus or take any kind of transportation that lumps them up with the little people. If you’re trying to attract wealthy Sims, set up either an Airport or a Cruise Ship Terminal, and set up your main attraction next to that.
- Tip 2: Use the right bus terminal. Not all Bus Terminals are the same. The British terminal has all its upgrade modules on its initial plot, unlike the base terminal that has some of its additions edging off behind it. The British version also holds more passengers per bus, so always use this one if you have the DLC.
5. Place Park-and-Rides Wisely
The number-one tip that this is all building up to is the placement of your Park-and-Ride lots. Park-and-Ride modules in SimCity 2013 are designed to let your Sims ditch their cars and use your mass transit system, so you’ll want to place them strategically around residential areas. This module is also special in that you can build this right onto the highway part of your connection to the outside, and not just on the roads that you build yourself.
How to Place Them
- Place two Park-and-Rides on the side of the road that your visitor traffic travels in on.
- Place one Park-and-Ride on the side that the city traffic leaves on.
One on each side might do it, but I prefer the second for overflow. These three Park-and-Rides changed my city from being so congested that I couldn't even keep the power flowing for lack of coal, to my streets looking downright empty and not needing those avenues at all. These three Park-and-Ride locations collectively have over 10,000 Sims using them each day and virtually eliminated all of my traffic problems by getting rid of cars before they ever truly entered my city.
Water, Rail, or Air?
nightshadow on November 03, 2017:
@krumple you do realize maxis is no more right? and hasnt been for quite some time now EA shut them down and simcity thus no longer will receive any more updates period outside of player made mods that will fix the issues IF they ever do so i dont even think the servers are even online anymore after maxis got shut down hence why they released offline mode cause i think maxis knew they were about to get the EA shutdown hammer :P
Krumple on June 09, 2017:
So its June 2017 and I'm playing to check out any improvements. Well looks like there are none. Seriously, stuff is still broken or works but barely. It is comical that after so long the game is essentially the same since launch. Traffic is still a major issue but its not because of player made design or layout issues. Its how the agent system works which causes the problem. Same with mass transit. It is still broken. Essentially all mass transit does is drop your sims out in the middle of no where and force them to walk home. At least they aren't driving!
Ben Martin (author) from Nova Scotia on February 12, 2015:
Glad you like this Chris. First of all, Park and Ride's are there to help you get rid of cars on the roads. They work for both internal and external city traffic, so don't be afraid of using them. Second, think of the Bus Terminal as an upgrade to the Shuttle. Get rid of your shuttle stops when you have access to one. The other buses are bigger and do more things. If you were using your shuttle locations as a way of getting rid of cars in favor of buses, replace them with park and ride locations. And just because you want another city to specialize in things doesn't mean you can't add extra department buildings to one temporarily. Just edit the building and remove that department building later. Lastly, if you're only ever going to play by yourself, I suggest offline mode. Some of the mechanics, including intercity transit, just work better when there's another player in another city when playing online.
Chris on February 12, 2015:
Thanks for this post! I'm just now getting back into SimCity and buses are STILL driving me nuts. I just can't figure out what I'm doing wrong. I'm playing an online region that's private and only filled up by me. It currently only has two cities and they're both kind of self sufficient. However, they both have shuttle bus depots and some of my Sims keep trying to "take mass transit to the neighbor" but they have no ability to do so! They walk around a bit then get fed up and go back home unsatisfied. These two cities have absolutely NO method (at this point, but they will soon) of having mass transit take them where they want to go. I'm trying to play the game slowly and savor my time with it (and by myself since other players ruin the game for me) and have my third city be a high wealth tourist attraction that will house the Dept. of Transportation. I have a whole plan that each city contributes only one specialization...it's all worked out in my head I just don't know if the game engine will comply. Can anyone help me figure this out? I placed bus stops and park and ride stops and then I deleted the park and ride because I stopped to actually read the description and it said "commuters" so I thought "Maybe that means intercity commuters?" I have noticed too in my online playthroughs that having both the municipal bus and shuttle bus messes up my Sims in very bizarre ways. For the life of me I can't figure out WHY every time I play my Sims insist on getting on the shuttle bus to get out of the city. Or why they get of at stops that don't have what they're looking for. HELP!!!
Ben Martin (author) from Nova Scotia on August 26, 2014:
Actually I'm a rail guy, so I found it unfortunate that buses were the way to go. Still, can't argue with the results. They work tremendously well.
Rick from Fort Pierce FL. on August 26, 2014:
Love the hub buses are the way to go. Love the game been a simcity fan for along time.
Ben Martin (author) from Nova Scotia on August 23, 2014:
As you can see, I learned all this stuff the hard way :) Now that you know some of these tips and tricks, I'm sure you'll get off on the right foot and won't have to worry about traffic nearly as much :)
Samuel Franklin on August 22, 2014:
Great guide! Traffic in SimCity always causes me a headache and I get frustrated with it too easily. I really just need to do some better planning and push the public transport options a bit more.
Ben Martin (author) from Nova Scotia on April 07, 2014:
Glad you enjoyed the article. I find that although getting a Department of Transportation to not be necessary as your first upgrade, it certainly helps when you get it early or have it unlocked by another city. Too many speciality vehicles on the road can clog up so much. Depending on how you build your city, both encouraging people to walk and using wider roads can help just as much as public transportation.
Viceroy on April 06, 2014:
Nice post, will certainly try getting Dept of Trans first after this.
Ive selected Dept of Safety, Dept of Utility and Dept of Edu with my cities but traffic have hindered all these efforts. Police can't patrol, firetrucks can't go fight fires, ambulance stalled, students not attending school and garbage trucks stuck - all due to traffic. Thanks a lot.
Ben Martin (author) from Nova Scotia on March 09, 2014:
Glad that I could help you start to get your traffic troubles down to manageable levels.
Hunter Wild on March 08, 2014:
Thanks a ton for this. I followed a video guide last night for structuring the road layout to minimize traffic, but I ended up having worse congestion than in my previous cities of just square blocks all the way across the map. There's obviously a key element that I'm not understanding. But your suggestions on public transit placement is already going a long way in my new city. Keep up the good work.
Ben Martin (author) from Nova Scotia on February 17, 2014:
Glad you enjoyed the hub. It can be so hard to figure out traffic at times because it's not a simple relationship of 'more is better'. Placement is very important. I hope everyone understands things just a little better after reading this hub :)
Sarah Forester from Australia on February 16, 2014:
I'm definitely a train focused SimCity builder. I struggled with buses for a long time like you as well. Love the Hub.