Making transportation data sexy

Most people wouldn’t consider compiling transportation data the sexiest job in the world, but Remix Chief Design Officer Tiffany Chu knows it has to be done. During her Friday morning session, “Designing tools for designing cities,” Chu discussed how her transit mapping company, Remix, is changing the civic tech world.

A self proclaimed “jack of all trades, master of none,” Chu is using her diverse experiences and academic background to flip unsexy government data in an alluring interface to revamp their communities.

Remix, the transit-mapping platform co-founded by Chu, allows users to visualize the transportation needs of a community and make recommended changes based on real data–all without a degree in Urban Planning.

While working as a Fellow for Code for America, a non-profit organization whose goal Chu said was to “drag government technology into the 21st Century,” she worked closely with local governments to push for the importance of using data to create major government programs.

“I noticed that most decisions that should be based on data were not,” said Chu. “Instead, they were based on the opinions of those in office and the most vocal constituents may not have been representative of the entire community.”

However, breaking through the barriers of bureaucracy and the status quo in government policy implementation proved to be more difficult than she originally imagined. Local officials’ distrust of new technology, as well as skepticism as to how the data would be used and other factors, made the push for more transparency and efficient data management by government a challenge.

With the disastrous launch of HealthCare.gov in 2014, Chu said that municipalities across the United States got a stark wake up call—government is really bad at technology.

Remix is Chu’s solution to making governments better at “doing” technology by assisting officials in planning efficient local transportation initiatives.

One small way for the community to understand how governments see transportation planning versus how communities actually move is paying attention to the occurrences of “cow paths”—aka the man-made dirt path that forms in the ground when people take the shorter route and walk in the grass instead of on the paved sidewalk.

These cow paths can provide powerful insights into how a community moves to create transportation that communities can use, Chu said.

Today, over 100 cities across the country use Remix as their main source of city planning research because it allows users to overlay several layers of map information such as demographic, economic and road databases into one user-friendly interface. The design takes complicated data and streamlines it – Chu said it’s one of Remix’s top priorities. While Chu said wrangling government data is not usually seen as the “sexiest” profession in the world, it is one of the most influential and creates change at the civic level.

Remix is currently hiring enthusiastic individuals to join their team. For more information, contact Tiffany Chu at [email protected] or follow her on social media at @tchu88.