Mass Transit for Cities: Skylines may be the most enjoyable expansion yet

With the Natural Disasters expansion, Colossal Order delivered what fans had been clamoring for since day one: a way to wipe out their beloved Cities: Skylines creations with meteors, tidal waves, and tornadoes. The DLC shipped with preventative measures as well, like emergency shelters and early warning systems, but mainly it was a way for players to deliver wanton destruction upon their gleaming skyscrapers and sleepy neighborhoods (not to mention a great way to terrorize Santa Claus).

Compared to plummeting space rocks, forest fires, and deadly tsunamis, the new Mass Transit expansion initially sounded like it would be rather humdrum. You get a monorail. You get a ferry. You get cable cars and a blimp. The intention is to provide players with new ways to move their citizens around their cities and new systems to alleviate traffic jams.

My first thought was... whoopee? Look, I appreciate any addition to Skylines that gives me more options for building, but I feel like as a player I'm personally more interested in blowing up buildings with meteors than I am in peering closely at snarled intersections and drawing bus lines across the map.

Or so I thought.

Thing is, I'm having more fun with Mass Transit than I did with Natural Disasters (or Snowfall, or After Dark, for that matter). Yes, explosions and fires and smoking craters are cool, but the enjoyment is a bit fleeting and when I'm working on building up a city the last thing I want is to deal with a tornado. (Once I'm done with the city, sure, let's destroy it just for fun).

And it's not even the new transit options themselves that makes the expansion so enjoyable. Having new monorails and commuter blimps and ferries is nice, but the real fun of Mass Transit, I'm finding, is coming from the incredibly useful hub buildings. While you can create simple stops for your new transit vehicles, the satisfaction comes from linking them together at the new and expansive hub terminals. To put it simply: the transit hubs are great. If Natural Disasters inspired you to knock down your city, then Mass Transit will make you want to rebuild it from the ground up around these new hubs.

If you have a ferry shipping commuters across a bay, for example, you can deliver them to a hub where they can climb aboard any number of different bus lines that you've linked to the terminal. The buses can then bring them to another hub where they can climb aboard a monorail. There are hubs that act as exchanges from metro lines to trains and even make connections from buses to blimps.

As someone who has never been interested in seriously delving into traffic problems in Cities: Skylines—typically I just slap some extra roads around, or replace two-lane boulevards with something wider—I'm finally and genuinely enjoying focusing on solving my traffic woes. I can't even say why it's so enjoyable, really, but after adding a ferry to get commuters across the bay, and then dragging all my bus lines into nice orderly stops at the ferry terminal, and then seeing citizens immediately get in line because seriously anything is better than trying to drive through my city—and I should know because I tried it myself once—it's just a remarkably satisfying activity.

With some well-placed interconnected terminals, your citizens will be able to step out of their homes, get on a bus or a metro, and make their way across your entire city without ever getting into their cars or even having to walk far to reach their next connection. I've been busily plopping in hubs, spending lots of time linking them up, and then happily watching the results. 

In fact, I'm so into it that I'm completely razing skyscrapers and deleting parks and wiping out neighborhoods, simply because I want to get all my new hubs up and running. In that respect, I'm almost acting as my own natural disaster, and sure, I see a lot of sad faces when I tear a park down or delete a university, but no one complains when I use the space to build a complex network of public transportation. At least, they don't complain loud enough for me to notice.

There's more to the DLC than just the new hubs and rides, like wider highways, roads with monorail tracks built in, and even roads with asymmetrical lanes: two lanes in one direction, and one lane in the other, useful if you've got a traffic problem heading in one direction but not the other. 

There's a few new policies, too, such as adding educational messages to blimps—as opposed to blinking advertisements—and you can also rename roads by simply clicking on them now, which is an addition based on a popular mod. And, you can zoom down to intersections to add and remove stop signs and traffic signals with a simple click, which lets you tackle traffic issues without doing a whole lot of additional construction.

I'm a little surprised to be quite so taken with what I thought would be a useful addition to Cities: Skylines if not a particularly exciting one. And I definitely wouldn't have expected to enjoy linking bus lines to ferry terminals more than I like calling in meteor strikes on football stadiums. But here we are. I'm genuinely excited about bus lines and blimp stops and ferry terminals. There's a first time for everything.