Many of the larger towns and cities of Aporue have been slowly developing their own internal transportation infrastructure for a long time. Though these efforts had been evolving naturally for centuries, it was the relatively recent arrival of the industrial age that has brought about the greatest upheavals in this field. While most of the towns and cities of the continent could only dream of advanced and systematically planned transportation infrastructure, the greatest cities of Aporue - often showcases of political, cultural and economic might - have taken eagerly to reform or expand the methods of transport available to them. Great urban areas forming city states of their own were no exception to this. Present day Melza is just one such example, but arguably one of the finest, most varied and often even most innovative on the whole continent.
Melza is well-renowned for having one of the most extensive and often one of the most modern public transport systems in all of Aporue. There are two main government-funded transport agencies in the whole city state: The Melzan Municipal Transport Authority (MMTA) is wholly state-owned and operates urban mass transit throghout the city-proper and on the most important commuter lines in the rural parts of the state. The “Melzan Baronial” (MB) brand of road, rail, naval and aerial transport companies cover international travel to and from the city state, and internal travel throughout the state's adjoining countryside. Unlike the MMTA, the MB companies are partly in private ownership and are awarded franchises to operate public transport by the government and its shareholders within the MB brand. The four companies are “MB Coaches”, “MB Rail”, “MB Waterways” and “MB Skyways”.
a.) Road-based transport
Horsetrams - Horse-drawn, roofed passenger carriages with multiple seating places, windows and plentiful room for standing passengers. Operated by the MMTA. Horsetrams service much of The City's main roads and largest streets on regular routes (horsetram lines), based on regular timetables. Though they're not fast and have to compete with privately-owned road vehicles for hire, such as cabs and taxis, the very low fares make them a fairly popular way to get around Melza. “Hurray for cheapskates !”, goes the jokey motto of many a Melzan horsetram driver.
Omnibuses - Historically speaking, a relatively new transportation service in the Melzan state, only founded a few decades ago. Omnibuses are larger roofed, enclosed carriages, with plenty of seating for a fair few passengers (some up to 15 or 20 !), and quite a plentiful storage space for typical baggage. They are also called “coaches” or “horsebuses”. In contrast to horsetrams, they operate outside The City and belong under the company Melzan Baronial Coaches. Much like the more traditional fiacres, omnibuses service the Melzan countryside or international routes to other countries. The big difference is that they travel on regular lines, based on regular timetables, and that they can transport a larger number of passengers, more similarly to a city-bound horsetram. Fares for omnibuses are pricier than for a horsetram or a private cab, but they are also cheaper than passenger train fares, or passenger boat or aircraft tickets. Depending on the distance travelled, the destination and the owner/operator, fiacre services can have fares fairly similar to omnibus fares, making for healthy competition.
b.) Rail-based transport
The “Swishtram” - state-owned urban mass transit project, owned and operated by the Melzan Municipal Transport Authority (MMTA). It is a rather ingenious modular rail-based mass transit system, originally designed by a local vehicle innovator. The cars/coaches in a swishtram set can operate on various types of tracks and lines in and around the city, switching between suspension and wheel modes according to their needs. This allows them to work as trams (or primitive light rail, if you like), underground/subway rail, hill-climbing funiculars or even as a suspension monorail (in the style of the real world's Wuppertal and Dresden lines). The Swishtram services both urban lines and local lines in the vicinity of the city. Many times, even a vehicle-less, on-foot player character will find this unusual railway to be a very useful method for faster travelling in and near the city. While it's no steampunk high speed rail, it's a reasonably fast and dependable way of getting around The City, provided that you are willing to put up with the location of stations and stops and the travelling on foot occassionally needed in between them. On a trivial note, the popular name for this transport system comes from the fact that it's tram-like coaches are rather speedy, making audible “swish” sounds while passing stations and platforms.
Melzan Baronial Rail (MBR) - state-owned railway company, part of the wider “Melzan Baronial” transport franchise. The MBR focuses primarily on passenger rail transport to and from neighbouring states. Primary connections on offer are to several regional centres and railway hubs, as well as to all the capitals of neighbouring countries. Fares and car comfort are dependent on whether one travels by first class (luxury, full service), second class (average comfort, vendor service) or third class (basic comfort, no service). The MBR also focuses on freight operations, but these are more in the background in terms of promotion, unless you're a local businessman.
c.) Water-based transport
Parts of The City lie on both banks of the Melza river, parts form de facto quarters of criss-crossing canals and urbanised river islands. Maintaining regular riverine transport of passengers and goods is therefore logical and vital in many areas of the city.
However, until relatively recently, there was something of a bitter tug-of-war over riverine and canal transport between the city's government authorities and the established local private providers. Though resolved now, it took a while to clear up via various back-and-forth negotiations and deals. The current Melzan government is adamant about avoiding another ordeal like this in the future. Well, as it currently stands, public water transport in the hands of the government includes…
Commuter boats - Smaller, usually unmotorised boats for shuttling small numbers of passengers on a few regular lines of the busiest city waterways of Melza. MB Waterways commuter boats tend to be quite cheap, and their favourable fares often make them compete with some privately-operated punt services (“watercabs”). However, as commuter boats service generally smaller areas of The City than their private competition, they are more rigid in terms of their route offerings and timetables, and thus a bit less flexible.
Waterbuses - Roofed and motorised larger boats or small ships, used for transporting bigger, moderately-sized amounts of passengers. Functionally, they are almost identical to the commuter boat concept, but they can take quite a lot more passengers aboard in one go, tend to be relatively faster, and venture onto the Melza river itself more often than their smaller cousins. Waterbuses are also rarer in numbers than commuter boats and service less lines. Usually, they focus on the most passenger-intensive lines of the city's waterways. The most common method of propulsion for waterbuses is a high-performance steam engine. MB Waterways has recently dabbled in testing petrol-powered waterbus prototypes, but this is still just an experiment.
Ferries - Something of a specialised boat type. As their name implies, they play a crucial role in shuttling people, smaller vehicles and goods from one bank of the river Melza to the other, since several parts of The City lie on both banks. This makes ferries an invaluable vehicle for hauling varied larger loads across the river in places where bridges would be harder to build, or where there isn't enough clamouring and finances to build a bridge across the river. Due to the simple role the ferries fulfill, they have short and predictable routes from one bank of the river to the other, usually along a straight line.
d.) Aerial transport
Blimp services - in the ownership of the Melzan government, via the Melzan Baronial Skyways company (part of the “Melzan Baronial” transport franchise). Mostly chartered passenger flights, more rarely chartered cargo flights or regular passenger/cargo flights. The blimps available are the Stargazer, North Star, Eclipse and Canopy of the Heavens. Booking orders and tickets for flights on these blimps is quite easy and fairly affordable. But be warned, this is an expensive endeavour to sink one's money in.
The Looking Glass - state-owned aeronav in the ownership of the Melzan government, operated via the Melzan Baronial Skyways company (part of the “Melzan Baronial” transport franchise). It's a comfortable, well-furnished passenger airliner, and carries out flights on regular lines. Booking tickets for flights on The Looking Glass is easy and fairly affordable. But be warned, this is an expensive endeavour to sink one's money in.
Adsehteb - state-owned aeronav in the ownership of the Melzan government, operated via the Melzan Baronial Skyways company (part of the “Melzan Baronial” transport franchise). It's a commercial hauler and freighter, and can be ordered for chartered cargo flights, once an appropriate fee is payed and the customs police thoroughly checks the cargo. But be warned, this is an expensive endeavour to sink one's money in. And if the customs police discover your attempt to smuggle something on a state-owned freighter, you can get into big trouble.
The Arcane - state-owned aeronav in the ownership of Melza's government and aeroforce. Effectively the city state's VIP/governmental aircraft. Completely off limits to everyone who is not a trusted government employee. Outside of sneaking aboard, don't even think you might be able to hitch a ride on this vehicle in any legal way.
The City itself and its contracted transport companies aren't the only ones who offer a way to get around, out of or into Melza without needing to walk. If you find privately owned methods of transportation more appealing, you can always use them as an alternative to state-owned transport services.
a.) Ground-based transport
Cabs - Enclosed and horse-drawn buggies or petite carriages, for hire. Fairly slow, but ever-dependable and with reasonably cheap fares. They are the most common privately-owned urban road transport in Melza. Some of the cab services in The City are truly veteran businesses, the oldest currently still in existence going back a century and more. While a common sight on the roads of the city and favoured by many, there are also plenty of citizens that find cabs annoying due to the unpredictable behaviour of the horses, the waste they leave behind, and the cabs themselves often getting stuck in certain places and blocking traffic. Everything has its downsides, even long-established methods of transport.
Taxis - Motor vehicles still being a fairly recent and wonky innovation, taxi services are not very numerous yet, whether in Melza or in other developed metropolises of Aporue. Cars used as taxis form a motorised counterpart to the tried-and-true horse-drawn cab. While some of the newest taxi cars have been slowly gaining the advantage of speed over cabs, and don't require easily spooked horses for propulsion, they have a tendency to break down quite often (like the vast majority of Aporue's motorcars). There's also the added issue that plenty of Melzan taxi drivers like to be cheeky with their prices. They positively love to abuse desperate people in a hurry for some quick and hard cash, especially people hurrying to the train station…
Fiacres - Best described as a countryside iteration of the cab concept, “fiacres” are really a loose umbrella term that encompasses a variety of four-wheeled, horse-drawn carriages. A fiacre is thus more of a business model concept, rather than a specific type of carriage. Individuals and small companies offering fiacre services can be described as the privately-owned counterparts to the public-funded omnibus services. Outside of the more varying fares and each fiacre operator bringing his own touches to his services, fiacres are functionally not much different from omnibuses. However, they do tend to be smaller and cosier, sticking closer to the more traditional image of the long-distance carriage or stagecoach. Like cabs, fiacres have also been around for a lot longer than the government-sponsored omnibuses.
Bike couriers -
Horseback and motorbike couriers -
b.) Water-based transport
Punts - Locals also refer to them by the popular moniker “Watercabs”. Small and fairly narrow canal and river boats, they can't carry much in the way of passengers or any actual cargo, but they're good enough if one wants a reasonably fast and especially cheap ride on the available waterways of The City. Watercabs are generally quite analogous to their wheeled, street-bound cousins, really.
Delivery boats - Small, but robust shuttle boats used by various businesses and commercial operations to deliver smaller amounts of cargo from one end of The City to the next, provided there's a waterway for that. Melza being Melza, a lot of delivery boats tend to be used for secret smuggling activities and other cunning criminal malarkey.
Freight barges - Self-propelled or tug-propelled barges used for commercial ferrying of various cargo on the Melza river, from near or far. Most barges fall under the second type, being little more than simple floating storage areas, requiring steam-powered tugs. As with delivery boats, expect a fair few of the privately-owned freight barges to be used in smuggling by various groups of the local criminal underworld.
Pleasure barges - Fairly fancy and fairly pricy passenger boats for the fancy-minded and well-paying clientele. They're usually chartered transports, rather than boats servicing a regular line, and tend to focus on taking their passengers on local sightseeing cruises on the river. “Pleasure barge” is something of a misnomer, as not all ships with this function and business model are barges in the classic sense. Nevertheless, this has become the common term for these smaller vessels in mundane parlance. (Probably because the earliest pleasure barges of centuries ago were reserved almost solely for Melza's ruling family and assorted aristocrats, before the rise of the state's more well-off bourgeoisie citizens allowed easier public access to pastimes like this.) With many pleasure barges being used as places for business meetings or private rendezvous of wealthy personalities, a thief can find them good sources of intel or potentially priceless loot.
Steamboat riverliners - Larger passenger steamships operated on the river by all sorts of privately-owned transport ventures, some local, some foreign. Despite the lofty-sounding term for these ships, not all of them are particularly cozy or luxurious. Some of them are bargain-priced and fairly austere in terms of accomodation and onboard services, the cheapest being little more than a rudimentary cabin with a bed and a wash basin. In contrast, the more upscale riverliners offer quite a degree of ritz and comfort to their hard-paying customers. With plenty of the more luxurious riverliners being used as places for business meetings or private rendezvous of wealthy personalities, a thief can find them good sources of intel or potentially priceless loot.
c.) Aerial transport
Ornithopter owners - Buy a chartered 'thopter flight that suits your needs (or convince a 'thopter's owner to strike a deal with you about giving you one). Be warned, this is an expensive endeavour to sink one's money in.
Blimp services and airlines - Buy a ticket for a flight on a regular blimp line, or buy a chartered blimp flight that suits your needs. Be warned, this is an expensive endeavour to sink one's money in.
Troika - private aeronav in the ownership of Melzan industralist and scholar Bosvak Zosikan. You might hitch a ride aboard it if you gain old Zosikan's trust and if he decides to gather a crew for a particular journey or expedition.
Smok - aeronav owned by a band of stateless smugglers-privateers under the leadership of Kirill Aľman. You might hitch a ride aboard it if you gain the crew's trust and they set off for a particular mission/journey.