Motorway Planning Game Really Underscores How Inefficient Cars Are

By Gita Jackson on at

As I watch cars sit at a standstill at an intersection in Mini Motorways, the new game from the makers of Mini Metro, all I can think about is how much more efficient this city would have been with public transportation.

Dinosaur Polo Club, the developers of Mini Metro and Mini Motorways, have created two games that work in concert with each other. Mini Metro has you linking together stops in a subway line, joining up different symbols until the map is a spider web of coloured lines. The goal is to create an efficient public transportation system so that everyone can get to the stations they need to be on time. Mini Motorways has players create road systems instead, leading to similar logistical snares. You link houses to buildings with roads. Over time, more and more houses and buildings appear, and you have to adjust the roads so that the traffic isn’t overwhelming.

All the maps in these games are based on real world cities. Mini Metro has cities known for their public transit, like New York, whereas Mini Motorways focuses on driving cities like Los Angeles. Now that I’ve played both, I know the kind of place I’d rather live. Mini Motorways is a very clear example of how inefficient cars are.

My best game of Mini Motorways ended with over 300 cars on the road over a period of around 40 days. If all those cars were packed to the gills, that’s a maximum of 1,500 passengers going to and fro on the wide open road. That’s the maximum, though. If you’ve been in a car before, you know that it’s much more likely that each car holds one or maybe two passengers. With that in mind, I’d estimate the total number of passengers in my “best” city to be between 300 and 600. In a game of Mini Metro I just played, I reached 700 total passengers in 30 days before one of my stations got overloaded. While my city in Motorways had a much higher total capacity for people if they all packed their cars, my city in Metro reached a higher headcount in less time.

A lot of places in the United States were designed with cars in mind, but even driving cities like Los Angeles are starting up new initiatives for public transportation. The last time I was in LA, I saw a metro stop being renovated as part of the Purple Line expansion. Making Los Angeles a city that’s accessible through public transportation will be hard; the city is enormous. But it’s clear that the city is investing in it. Once the expansion is completed, the Purple Line will run all the way from Union Station, to Korea Town, through Beverly Hills, and into the UCLA area. That’s not an insignificant route.

I’ve long thought that cars, beyond relying on the dinosaur bone juice that’s currently killing the planet, are simply not as efficient as public transportation. I am lucky enough to live in a city with really good public transit, despite its best efforts to ruin my day. Playing Mini Motorways further cements my conclusions about cars. I’d also love to see these games combined, to have even more models with which to study the flow of human beings, and how to get them where they need to go in a timely manner.