Author Topic: Understanding and overcoming maintenance costs  (Read 383 times)

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Offline MirceaKitsune

Understanding and overcoming maintenance costs
« on: September 26, 2017, 02:48:36 PM »
It hasn't taken me long to realize that in Simutrans, making a profit is a nearly impossible task. At first it was very confusing: All of my vehicles are producing a remarkable income, yet somehow I end up having less money over time... how can that be?! I then notice that at the beginning of each month, I lose a huge sum of money for reasons unknown. I looked at the finances tab and noticed an entry called "maintenance", where I seem to be losing a lot of cash and which is always bigger than "operational profit". The more things I've built in total, the higher this cost seems to be at the beginning of every month... this seems to apply to not only buildings and vehicles, but even roads and tracks!

I'd like to understand how this works, given that Simutrans does a poor job at explaining this cost apparently. I've clicked on roads and tracks but their property windows doesn't say anything about a monthly cost, only vehicles have a cost per kilometer but that's calculated in realtime and has nothing to do with being charged at the beginning of the month. I have however noticed that roads and tracks show a price in parenthesis in the tooltip when you hover the cursor over their creation button... for instance the 80km/h freight track shows a price of "40.000¢ (4.00¢)", where I'd take it the small price at the end is how much I pay every month for every piece of this track that exists in the world. Is my understanding correct? If so it would be really nice if Simutrans had a better way of showing you where and how you're losing money due to this, as currently you simply can't keep track of it anywhere!

That being said, I'd also like to know how I can overcome this cost in pak128. I'm attaching a save of the game I'm playing now, which is a small world (128 x 128 @ 4 cities) and even has Beginner Mode enabled. In it I have a few vehicle chains all bringing a nice income on a daily basis, yet each month I end up having the exact same amount of money as the beginning of the previous month! If someone could take a look at it, I'd like some tips on what I could possibly improve to fix that: I already used the most appropriate road and rail types, as well as the most efficient cars and locomotives available in each situation... what more could I do?

Note that I had to pack the save as a multi-archive file, due to the forum imposing really low limits on file size. Download Easy.001.7z and Easy.002.7z, extract Easy.7z.001 and Easy.7z.002 from them in the same folder, then open those two files as a common archive and extract Easy.sve from them. If this doesn't work or you can't install 7zip, let me know and I'll see if I can post it directly on another file host.

Offline gauthier

Re: Understanding and overcoming maintenance costs
« Reply #1 on: September 26, 2017, 05:18:35 PM »
In real life, owning roads and stops is not costless, these infrastructure need to be maintained, the cost induced by this activity is ... the maintenance. In Simutrans it's the same, you have maintenance cost for everything you build, you pay maintenance every month, and it's your job to keep your operational profit higher than the maintenance cost.

However, it's true that pak128 is not the easiest one to make profit. Here is how I do for some savegames now and it worked fine:
- Start with a passengers network (some people say that it's easy to make lots of money by transporting precise kinds of goods, like oil, but I still have not been able to do so)
- Find the biggest city in the map and start a bus network in it. As you use cityroads, you don't pay maintenance for them (public services pay for it)
- Start intercity lines with buses to as many towns as you can around the first city, use the intercity roads so you don't pay maintenance for them either (public services pay for it as well)

Such a bus networks in the 30's and 40's can get you tons of money easily. Here are some other advice:
- Don't pay attention to your cash, care about your "wealth" (in finances window). Having negative cash is fine as long as you have a positive profit and a positive wealth. To explain a little more: wealth is the sum of your actual cash and of the value of everything you own. Vehicles loose value over time and loose a lot of it when you they go out of the depot after you bought it, so your wealth will decrease a lot when you buy vehicles, then it will slowly increase with profit.
- Don't use passenger trains before the 40's, locs available before are too weak making trains too slow to make profit with passengers. Buses will be far more profitable. Start a train line only if your buses are saturated.
- I've been told that trams are fairly profitable in early eras so use them if you want. I personally don't have much experience with them.
- If you have large bodies of water close to your network, use boats. They are surprisingly cheap. They won't make much money out of themselves but they still allow you to extend your network easily to many other towns and set up bus networks there.

All of this are advice for early eras, after the 40's you should be able to set up nice rail networks, and later planes if you want.

Online Leartin

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Re: Understanding and overcoming maintenance costs
« Reply #2 on: September 26, 2017, 05:19:06 PM »
The common problem of Simutrans is that you will always have too much money. After you know how to play, of course.

Yes, the monthly cost for each way is written in paranthesis - yes, that's for every single tile. Yes, that accumulates fast, and you can't place ways willy-nilly but need to actually think about what you are doing.

The way to keep track of all the maintainence cost is in the finances window, where you have a nice overview. You can also have this overview by waytype, see the two arrows next to "all" in the very top? If you do that on your map, you will see that your train makes profit. It does show that tram makes profit and road is the issue - however, you need to take into consideration that there are no "tram stations" - your tram operates on road stations, which explains how roads are so expensive. Can you think of an actually better way to display everything?

Your grain train will give you 0,13 Credits per grain-unit per tile. This is because the price is greatly reduced due to the low speed of the rail. You probably noticed by now that 120km/h rails are about four times as expensive as 80km/h rails, and thought they would not be worth it. But if you replaced all your 80km/h rails with 120km/h rails, you would deliver more often AND get more per delivery, since you delivered faster. With the current train, the current 80km/h track wins, but only by ~300 Credits per month. If the train was just one wagon longer, 120km/h would be the better choice. (Of course, you'd pay more for the additional platform, but you get the idea). Additionally, if you had two trains on that route with a simple passing place in the middle, the revenue of both trains would pay for rails and platforms. The more you reuse platforms and rails, the less of each trains revenue must be used for maintainence.

Your Tram is a trainwreck. If you did not notice yet, each station has a radius of two blocks around it which are covered. So, most of that town would not even use your tram system, and those who will would probably be happy with cheaper busses. Busses are cheaper, because you don't need to build any rails (which cost money) and can build shorter platforms (which cost money). Even so, inner-city traffic usually does not make much money, or even costs money. It is more or less a means to get all people of a city to one railwaystation, from where inter-city travel can start. large pax trains which are filled well can earn a lot of money, and so they subsidise the local networks. At the same time, the local networks will have more pax, since they can reach more places over the inter-city railway.
It's generally agreed that pax are harder to do than goods, so you might want to build good networks first that earn you enough money so you can build larger pax network.
EDIT: Well... maybe not generally agreed, but they are, at least, more complex to get right, as the networks will constantly change, wheras goods can usually stay the same for very long.

As for your road connection, I'm not sure if it would or wouldn't make money, since the statistics are flawed with all the tram-busstops. But I'm pretty sure not placing a direct road connection and instead using roads that already exist (and which you don't have to pay for) would have been the better choice, at least in the beginning.

Offline MirceaKitsune

Re: Understanding and overcoming maintenance costs
« Reply #3 on: September 26, 2017, 07:25:12 PM »
Thanks for the advice! There are a lot of points here that I've been missing.

First of all, I never tried starting my city from 1930: I always went from 2000 since I feel more drawn to modern times. I'll probably try that later, as it would be intriguing to have fun growing a whole city from 1900 to 2000. In any case I assume the rules are different back then compared to what I've been playing, as there are completely different vehicles available at the time.

One of my problems was indeed that the first thing I'd do was to look around the map, see what I could connect on a short distance, then go ahead and put a train between them. I wasn't aware of this maintenance cost at the time, and now that I am I can see how starting with a passenger buss is the better option. In my case I used a tram as both the lines and the vehicle's cost per kilometer seemed cheaper.

As far as my save goes, I ironically started with 120km rails then downgraded to 80km ones once I saw the maintenance cost ;D However I also did so because the train rarely exceeded 80km/h due to how the rail is curved and goes over terrain bumps, so it didn't seem like in practice there would be any loss over such a short distance. If I get a more powerful train I shall switch back to them.

The reason why this maintenance cost is hard to track is that there's no list of how much you pay for and where! I can think of a few suggestions to improve this, which I hope the developers will see:

  • Please display the maintenance cost in the properties panel of each road / rail. It would be a helpful little reminder of what you're paying for, especially if both the cost per month as well as the total cost that tile has brought you are displayed. If you click on a road tile it already tells you useful information such as its age, so throwing the monthly cost there shouldn't be a problem.
  • Implement a new list next to the vehicle / factory / city lists, enumerating how many roads and tracks of each type you have, which can also include the maintenance cost for every category. Obviously it shouldn't contain an entry for each tile as that would be gigantic, just one for each type of road and track you have in the world. For example: "80km/h road: 135 tiles, 52$ maintenance cost per month, 364$ maintenance cost paid in total".
  • A special world view that can highlight which roads are yours, the color depicting how great the maintenance cost is: Green for lowest, yellow for most average, red for highest. It would be nice if this view could also highlight your vehicles, the same colors representing their cost per kilometer. Right now you can't even see which roads are yours, and you need to look closely to spot your vehicles behind trees and buildings... this wouldn't only give you an x-ray view, but make it easy to see exactly on what losing most money. Please consider this as a potential feature!

Offline Isaac.Eiland-Hall

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Re: Understanding and overcoming maintenance costs
« Reply #4 on: September 27, 2017, 12:59:49 AM »
One thing about Simutrans is that you get to decide what you feel is cheating vs. not cheating.

I personally play with -freeplay and my goals are more oriented around 1) playing with a big trainset and 2) trying to transport ALL the goods and passengers, not letting crowds build up beyond station capacities.

So that being said: You may decide that the public player should build roads that are in cities and connect cities, and even run from existing roads to the edges of your private stations. Or you might decide that's cheating and not use it. If it's too much temptation and feels like cheating, then don't do it. It would only solve some problems, anyway.

Your Tram is a trainwreck.

*tramwreck ;-)


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Re: Understanding and overcoming maintenance costs
« Reply #5 on: September 27, 2017, 05:53:21 AM »
[...]I also did so because the train rarely exceeded 80km/h due to how the rail is curved and goes over terrain bumps, so it didn't seem like in practice there would be any loss over such a short distance.[...]
The speedbonus is calculated based on the nominal vehicle speed or the track speed, whichever is lower. Due to sharp 90° turns and hills, you might never reach those speeds, but that is not taken into account when calculating how fast the connection is - much like with internet providers. So even though the speed is never really reached, pax have to pay a more expensive 120km/h fee on 120km/h rails.
Note that the speedbonus forces you to build faster connections over time, as you need to reach a higher speed for the same fee. This is also what you expierienced when building a railway for inner-city transport - railway requires a higher speed compared to bus or tram to gain the same fees.

Right now you can't even see which roads are yours, and you need to look closely to spot your vehicles behind trees and buildings
Note that you can change the display of both trees and buildings. Trees can be replaced by a transparent green shadow or by the lowest form of the tree. Buildings can be transparent brownish blobs or the construction pit. Also, anything the player owns could include player colors for easy recognition, it's up to the pak devs to use that or not.

Offline Ters

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Re: Understanding and overcoming maintenance costs
« Reply #6 on: September 27, 2017, 06:07:27 AM »
Just a tip: The goods information window lets you see how much you get paid for moving a unit of goods one tile at the present time. You can adjust the speed bonus factor until the speed displayed for a particular mode of transport matches the vehicles/infrastructure you want to build. But remember that profit is (usually) calculated on a more direct path than your maintenance and running costs. This can be annoying when you have to circle around a lake.

Offline MirceaKitsune

Re: Understanding and overcoming maintenance costs
« Reply #7 on: September 27, 2017, 12:05:55 PM »
One thing about Simutrans is that you get to decide what you feel is cheating vs. not cheating.

I personally play with -freeplay and my goals are more oriented around 1) playing with a big trainset and 2) trying to transport ALL the goods and passengers, not letting crowds build up beyond station capacities.

So that being said: You may decide that the public player should build roads that are in cities and connect cities, and even run from existing roads to the edges of your private stations. Or you might decide that's cheating and not use it. If it's too much temptation and feels like cheating, then don't do it. It would only solve some problems, anyway.

*tramwreck ;-)

Very true. For now I tried avoiding Freeplay or switching to Public Player, as that does essentially feel like going into godmode. However I may do so for saves I intend for that purpose!

The speedbonus is calculated based on the nominal vehicle speed or the track speed, whichever is lower. Due to sharp 90° turns and hills, you might never reach those speeds, but that is not taken into account when calculating how fast the connection is - much like with internet providers. So even though the speed is never really reached, pax have to pay a more expensive 120km/h fee on 120km/h rails.
Note that the speedbonus forces you to build faster connections over time, as you need to reach a higher speed for the same fee. This is also what you expierienced when building a railway for inner-city transport - railway requires a higher speed compared to bus or tram to gain the same fees.

Ahhh, that explains a lot then. I was under the impression that you get paid based on how much time the train has taken to get from one station to another, not the speed of the train or rail... big mistake on my end and this changes all of my calculations. Actually I did get the impression that once I upgraded the rail, I was making more money even if the train wasn't going any faster! I shall upgrade my other circuits in this case, even if they don't make the vehicle move quicker around the world. Thanks for bringing this essential detail to my attention :)

Offline gauthier

Re: Understanding and overcoming maintenance costs
« Reply #8 on: September 27, 2017, 04:11:30 PM »
Quote
As far as my save goes, I ironically started with 120km rails then downgraded to 80km ones once I saw the maintenance cost ;D
You should not, there's a speed bonus and it's very high for passengers so you should always transport them at the highest speed possible regarding the distance between stations and the general roughness of the path.

Offline el_slapper

Re: Understanding and overcoming maintenance costs
« Reply #9 on: September 27, 2017, 07:49:31 PM »
You should not, there's a speed bonus and it's very high for passengers so you should always transport them at the highest speed possible regarding the distance between stations and the general roughness of the path.

Well, I always had problems with trains running faster than 200km/h, in PAK128. It naver made me good money. Up to 200, the quicker, the better, in my experience.

For planes, no, no speed problem, obviously. The reason why you should not start planes too early is that early very small planes are overwhelming your airport's capacity very quickly, while you need a lot of thel to pay for the airport infrastructure. They are very difficult to balance. Later in the game, demand is usually bigger, and capacity skyrockets, so flying planes is almost like cheating. The Constellation is already good, but once the 707 arrives, waaaaaah, no more money problems. Those babies pay their purchasing price within one year, when properly used(i.e. long distance between 2 hubs). You'll replace them within 5 years, because of increased costs, but you are already swimming into money at this stage of the game.

Isaac is right, you decide yourself what is cheating. Plainly using planes may very well be understood as cheating, but it can also save a plummetting rail system from bankrupcy. They are less impressive in the later stages of the game, but still good. The trick is : you can't begin by planes. You need 2 good networks on each sides of the flight for big airplanes to be full. A 707 is gushing cash at 100% load factor, but is at balance when 70% full, and bleds impressive amounts of money when below. So it's cheating that you have to deserve through mastery of ground networks.

I am a big proponent of tram systems. I tend to begin in 1910, when bus options in PAK128 are limited to addons(the reason I initiated the cretion of the Schneider-Brillié P2, that you can find on the SNFOS website, a bus Gwalch massively improved). And in this era, any town with more than 10k inhabitants is big enough to sustain a comprehensive tram system. It's a lot of work to make everything work. I tend to do circular lines, turning in opposite directions. For a town up to 12/14k inhabitants, I will have 2 lines, that share a central line(that comes back to the depot), and that go wide from the depot on each side of the town. It usually pays 7% (i.e. 35k per year for investing the whole 500k available in the beginning).

This yield is not impressive, but once you have 2 or 3 towns with a comprehensive internal transit system, joining them is where real money is made. Just avoid the temptation of planes that early in the game. It will make you money... until it's going to traffick jam the airports. Something not nice at all. Trains at this time are not very good yet, so the big pack of buses can do the job. In the 40s, there are plenty of fun train options arriving, and planes are beginning to be usable. DC3s are too small for very big lines, but good enough for anything else. Constellations are excellent, and 707s.... I already covered. So I'm building a maximum number of local networks during the first decades, and once I've got good vehicles, I'm joining them. And there is no need to look for money anymore.

Offline Fifty

Re: Understanding and overcoming maintenance costs
« Reply #10 on: September 28, 2017, 04:12:20 AM »
...Right now you can't even see which roads are yours, and you need to look closely to spot your vehicles behind trees and buildings...

You can actually see what you own in two ways. First, Shift-O in the game will color everything you own with your player color. In the minimap, you can see ownership also by clicking Selections at the top and then Ownership.

I'd say that you would do better on a larger map with a few mid-size cities spread some distance apart. Cover each city with a bus network about 75%. Then set up a bus line or a tram line between the cities. In Pak128 Stations are your most expensive thing, so use the smallest cheapest bus stops at first.

For industries, in 128 the secondary goods are generally more profitable than the basic grain, oil, coal. I would hook the bakery up to the grain mill and double track the entire grain supply line -- track is cheap compared to stations so if you can get 3-4x as many trains using the platforms then that's mostly profit. I find pak64 to be a little more friendly to beginners from an economic perspective; simple freight hauls like Coal and Oil make crazy good money.
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Offline MirceaKitsune

Re: Understanding and overcoming maintenance costs
« Reply #11 on: September 28, 2017, 12:32:56 PM »
You can actually see what you own in two ways. First, Shift-O in the game will color everything you own with your player color. In the minimap, you can see ownership also by clicking Selections at the top and then Ownership.

That's a very useful shortcut to keep in mind, thank you!

I was thinking of a view that worked exactly the same way as that... only instead of the player's color it shows how much money you gain or lose thanks to that vehicle or road (operational profit): Yellow means the maintenance / operational cost is equal to the operational income, red means you pay more for it than you earn, green means you earn more from it than you pay.

Anyway there is good news: I seem to have finally gotten to the point where I'm making much more money than I'm spending! It is in Beginner Mode, but even so that's an achievement :D Here is my save now, with a lot of new things built or upgraded.