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This urban design tool helps planners understand the entire street network

A new program prototype by Remix lets designers play SimCity at street level

A new street design tool created by Remix aims to help planners better understand and improve street design
All images courtesy Remix

For planners and transportation officials, the road to transit improvements often hits speed bumps when it comes to data sharing and visualizations. A new online tool wants to solve those misunderstandings with a shared platform that makes improving the streetscape easier and more efficient.

Remix, an San Francisco-based startup that designed a route-planning tool used by hundreds of city transit agencies, is developing a new program to help cities improve and redesign their streets. In an announcement this morning, the company unveiled its latest product prototype, developed with insight from the National Association of City Transit Officials (NACTO).

According to Remix founder Tiffany Chu, a former Curbed Young Guns winner, while collaborating with various planners, the city found that within local governments, different agencies often weren’t on the same page when it came to ongoing streetscaping projects. Data was spread across different agencies, personnel, and programs, holding back coordination and collaboration.

“Cities kept telling us stories about having trouble creating a shared, manifest reality to operate in,” says Chu. “This kind of shared picture is a huge deal. You can’t make anything new unless you have an understanding of what’s already out there.”

This new Remix tool creates a shared visualization of what’s happening in a city, block-by-block, with an interface allows different team to collaborate without overriding each other. For instance, one team working on a complete streets overhaul can make sure to keep curbs far enough apart so as not to cut off the turning radius of the local bus route, or a planner who just inventoried the entire city’s parking spots can share that data in a more appealing, accessible, and most importantly, actionable, way with other agencies.

The tool also uses NACTO’s SharedStreets, an effort to create a common data collection standard for urban transportation and curb usage. By sharing a common vocabulary, terminology, and visuals, and creating a means of making sense of the vast amount of transit data being generated in cities by public and private sources, Remix hopes to make the planning process more seamless.

“To be able to zoom in on a single intersection and see the movement that goes through that intersection is fairly new,” says Michal Migurski, a project manager at Remix. “This tool makes faster planning possible.”

The pilot project will initially partner with Oakland, California, as well as a number of other cities, to help Remix obtain a more balanced pictures of what features municipalities need and want. It’s not a turnkey tool just yet, says Chu, but she hopes to get to that point in the future.

Eventually, she says, this visualization tool can help improve citizen engagement, by presenting clear visions of how proposed changes may alter a streetscape. It could be a tool for better tactical urbanism, making it simpler to showcase the value of small changes. Ideally, better information and coordination will also make government more efficient, saving money and making it easier to explain the benefits of good design.

“Our hypothesis is that we’ve hit on a lot of common pain points between cities, so we’re prototyping solutions,” Chu says.