Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Archive for February 22nd, 2011

Transport Simulator “Cities in Motion” Released Today

with 8 comments

It is not often I get inspired by Press Releases. This one is different. This is not serious planning software. This is a computer game that allows the user to “develop and operate their own public transport company building a travel network across Vienna, Berlin, Helsinki and Amsterdam using more than 30 different modes of transport including buses, trams, subway trains and water buses. As each city develops and grows the player must continue to meet the ever changing transport needs of its commuters, while at the same time ensuring it remains as profitable as possible.”

Now that is where I begin to wonder about the utility of this thing. I think the words “profitable” and “Public transport” need to be kept well apart. Britain saw extensive deregulation of its buses and trains and the results were not pretty. Services to people in rural areas who were dependent on pubic transport almost disappeared. Profitability was also an issue as instead of lots of small companies competing – as was anticipated – a few large very profitable groups emerged and now control most of the services. A lot of small companies went bust – and continue to do so. Breaking into the market is now a very expensive operation even with so called “open access” imposed by the EU.

Moreover, the game is just about pubic transport. The land use – and, presumably, other modes, are built in based on the 100 year history of the cities involved. There is a “sand box” mode but I would be very surprised indeed if the population actually responded to the provision of new services as they do in the real world in this type of time frame. Of course, as I have often complained here, real transport models as used in this region don’t do that either.

I have also got over an early fascination with this type of simulation, and I have played a few in my time. I would like there to be a video of what the Arbutus Line would look like with Brussels streetcars, for instance, if only to be able to show that it would not nearly be as disruptive as the locals think. But then they are much more concerned about change in their neighbourhood  – and people from outside it travelling through it – than they are about transit technology. And no amount of simulation will change that.

Actually, change in every neighbourhood is inevitable. The people are coming here and there is nothing we can do to stop them. They will be accommodated. The only question is how pro-active do we wish to be in shaping that growth. The current sudden fuss about the new regional plan – after many, many soporific meetings and consultation sessions where not a word of dissent was heard – is a good illustration that it is only when we feel under attack do we respond. Most people south of the Fraser actually thought widening Highway #1 and the Port Mann was a Good Idea. And that is now almost done and the consequences will follow. The SFPR and the NFPR seem a little less certain for now, but no doubt the uncertainty will be dispelled soon after the new BC Liberal Party leader is selected.

There is a video but I can’t embed it as WordPress only likes Google or You Tube.

As a parting shot I must also add that there does not appear to be anything in the game about pedestrians – and every transit trip is an interrupted walk  – or bicycles. But then we do know that these places do look after such things properly.


Written by Stephen Rees

February 22, 2011 at 10:49 am

Posted in computers, transit