Cities Skylines: The Quick Starter's Guide - Transportation, Districts, and Policies

Want to build a massive city but aren't sure where to start? Check out our Quick Starter's Guide to help you get ahead of the curve.


City builders can be tough to get used to, and Cities Skylines is no different. There isn’t any type of cut and dry tutorial, so you’re going to be learning a lot about how your city components work through trial and error. This in turn can lead to you having to start three to four different cities, maybe more or less, and can be very frustrating. To help you get a head start in your city building endeavors we’ve put together a list of some of the top tips we could come up with to help you get started.

Starting small isn’t bad

You don’t have to rush to build the biggest city you can right from the start. Begin small and work your way up through the various levels, after all, your main goal is to build a thriving beautiful city, not burn one to the ground. Be careful when you start zoning as well. You’ll want to make sure you have plenty of residential, a good size area of industrial zoning, and then some commercial spaces to buffer out the ick and grime of the industry’s pollution. Just remember not to go overboard, and leave plenty of money in your bank account to fund your tiny city’s electric and water bills.

Tip: Remember that power cables from your power stations only need to touch the blue aura around buildings in order to power them, and once you've connected all your buildings via this blue area you won't need anymore power cables. Also keep in mind that water pipes cover both incoming and outgoing (sewage) water, so you'll only need to connect your sewage pump to the closest water pipe in order to have a viably working water system.

Ignore the policies… for now

It’s easy to get lost in the idea of making your city yours. We don’t blame you, we’re the same way. The problem, however, persists when policies come into play and you end up overextending yourself in some fashion which leaves you with less money than you had moments before. Just ignore the policies for a while. If anything, the only two you should activate early on are the Power Usage and Smoke Detector Distribution as these two will cut down the amount of power wasted as well as lower your fire hazard. If you’re strapped for cash stick with the original plan for policies and just ignore them until you’re sitting at a high enough income threshold to afford them.

Burn baby burn

This isn’t a song you want your citizens singing, and as soon as you open up Firehouses you’re going to start seeing more and more buildings going up in flames. This is most easily managed by plopping down firehouses throughout your town, however, don’t simply place them anywhere and expect them to do well. Each firehouse only has 5 firemen, which means they are pretty limited on how many fires they can fight at once. We suggest starting off with one near the residential center of your city (depending on the size), and one near the industrial area depending on how efficient your fire services are being rated. Just to clarify, you do not want the roof to be on fire.

Fight traffic with public transportation

Setting up bus stops and metro tunnels can be a bit tricky in Cities Skylines, however, it’s well worth experimenting with. Traffic in this game, like any other City builder, is absolutely disgusting, and if you aren’t careful you’re going to end up with intersection after intersection locked off by traffic jams. The easiest way to fight this is to limit intersections, however, if that isn’t an option the next best thing is public transportation. This also becomes very helpful with the Free Transportation policy enabled.

Districts are your best friend

It’s super easy to forget about districts when you’re caught up navigating the other trials and tribulations of not only building your city, but also keeping it up and running well. Make it a point to remember them, and use them to your advantage. Need extra income? Check your Natural Resources and then plop down some industry, setup a district, and add a specialization for the Natural Resource below that district. This allows you to fill the need for more industry, make extra money, and take advantage of your resources.

Districts are also a great way to limit the amount of traffic going through certain areas, as you can set district specific policies, such as Heavy Traffic Limits, to keep traffic down by not allowing heavy delivery trucks to drive through dense residential areas.

Use Unique Builds to your advantage

Unique Buildings allow you to build up your tourism, and that in turn builds up your bank account. Your city may not be centered on tourism, but that doesn’t mean you should take advantage of the benefits that Unique Buildings offer. Not only do these buildings generate money, but they also increase the happiness of your citizens. Just be careful not to place things like stadiums right in the center of high population residential areas, as that will generate unneeded noise pollution.

That isn’t all we have to share with you concerning Cities Skylines, to be honest we’re just barely scratching the surface. However, if you’re mindful of these things when building up your city, you’ll be a step ahead of someone who doesn’t pay attention to these important aspects.

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