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Remix Announces Tool to Expedite Transportation Scenario Planning

The San Francisco-based startup launched a new tool today to give city planners faster access to data on who will be affected by road closures, route changes, reduced service hours and other transit decisions.

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As cities take drastic steps to control the coronavirus pandemic, micro-mobility providers such as Lime and others have curtailed operations.
All 50 states have plans to begin reopening their economies, and their success will depend in part on how well people will be able to move around while keeping their distance from each other. Remix, a San Francisco-based startup whose software-as-a-service platform helps cities plan transit projects, says it’s seeing a spike in the need for quick-turnaround projects and planning for citizen mobility, and the company has a new data tool to make those happen.

Described in a news release today as a faster way to research ground conditions and map out community impacts of proposals, Remix Explore is a statistical mapping and analysis tool with nationwide data from the U.S. Census and the American Community Survey coded into it. Remix CEO Tiffany Chu said, for example, the city of Seattle wanted to figure out how its short-term road closures related to COVID-19 might factor into a longer-term bike master plan. Remix gives planners an interactive map in which they can turn certain data sets on and off, and see the proximity of certain routes or plans to schools, or what percentage of residents in the vicinity live below the poverty line, or how many belong to a minority demographic.

She said that where it might have taken planners several days of making maps to analyze that information, with Explore they could do it in an hour.

“Typically what happens is, a planner or data analyst would have to dive deep into the U.S. Census website and extract specific data … all that would have to be pulled manually from different parts of the Census website, and then there might also be local data that city has housed in their GIS database, or in IT,” Chu said. “We took the American Community Survey, which comes out every year, but there’s a major update every five years … and all of that very specific data, sometimes even at the block level, and built a simple API … where you can hover over an area on a map and immediately see those demographics. And that’s not possible today, because typically the American Community Survey and Census data is delivered in an Excel file.”

This level of expediency is essential to Remix’s sales pitch. Chu said the company works with more than 325 cities in 20 countries across four continents, and her staff has already seen hundreds of customers on the platform working on projects with titles like “contingency planning,” “emergency planning” or “reduction of routes.” She said planners are doing quadruple the amount of scenario planning they were used to before COVID-19, and many of them don’t have weeks or months to do it.

“Prior [to COVID-19], they would maybe do a short-range plan every three to five years and a long-range plan every five to 10 years. Now, due to the unprecedented nature of COVID, plans are changing every day and week,” she said. “It was such a rapid change in the way that cities are moving in order to provide more space for people in this insane time.”

Remix Explore was announced today, but it’s been beta-tested in several cities around the world, including Evansville, Ind., transportation planner Matt Schriefer, who works at the Evansville Metropolitan Planning Organization, attested to the software’s ability to fast-track projects.

“Remix Explore gives us a quick glimpse of relevant data,” Schriefer said in a public statement. “It's easy to look at Explore and get the information needed. And that saves us time."

The changing landscape of mobility options in cities is making transit-optimization SaaS its own niche in the gov tech space, with competitors like Optibus developing similar software tools for scheduling and project planning. For Remix, Explore addresses a need which the company foresaw in a blog post more than a year ago: to be prepared for infrastructure changes on the fly given so many unknowns, which at the time meant self-driving vehicles, ride sharing and alternative mobility options like bikes and scooters.

Andrew Westrope is managing editor of the Center for Digital Education. Before that, he was a staff writer for Government Technology, and previously was a reporter and editor at community newspapers. He has a bachelor’s degree in physiology from Michigan State University and lives in Northern California.