Title VI intends to protect minority and low-income populations from bearing a disproportionate burden of changes to transit service. In practice, however, well-intentioned Title VI requirements sometimes create a barrier to planning service changes at resource-stretched agencies. Remix’s Title VI Engine simplifies service equity analysis by minimizing these technical barriers.
By the numbers:
Title VI is currently the industry standard for ensuring equitable public service for protected populations in the United States. And while Title VI safeguards vulnerable segments of the community from overt discrimination, it also poses a formidable technical barrier to improving service at many transit agencies.
At agencies without a dedicated Title VI specialist on staff, the onus can land on a team member with a full plate, who then must tackle the analysis part-time and with limited resources. As a result, short-staffed planning teams often delay Title VI analyses until they can free up some resources — usually after spending months, if not years, building the transit plan, conducting public outreach, and getting board approval.
This is a huge risk. Waiting until the end of the planning process can put the finalized transit plan in jeopardy if it doesn’t pass Title VI muster.
This leads to some unintended consequences. We’ve heard of smaller agencies capping their service changes just below their “Major Service Change” threshold to avoid invoking a Title VI service equity analysis. Although rare, some agencies even choose to make no service changes at all to avoid a Title VI analysis. The common refrain among these smaller agencies? “Title VI is just too hard to do.”
“Remix now offers its Title VI Engine, which boils down much of the work of a Title VI service equity analysis to a single button.”
Of course, this is not the way Title VI is intended to work. That’s why Remix is tackling this paradox head-on with its powerful Title VI engine, which boils down much of the work of Title VI service equity analysis to a single button. With one click of the mouse, the engine automatically compares a proposed service change to current service, and provides critical information on its impact on low-income and minority populations within the service area.
Remix has revolutionized the way agencies plan service changes, and the Title VI Engine is no different. Agencies have already benefited from our Title VI Engine in two main ways:
C-TRAN in Vancouver, WA, recently planned a revamp of 15 of their 28 fixed bus routes in an effort to optimize system ridership and network coverage. Roger Hanson, C-TRAN’s sole service planner, estimated the associated Title VI work to take 80 hours spread over the course of a month.
With Remix’s Title VI engine, it took 1 day.
With all the extra time, Hanson was able to spend more time actually planning service improvements. As a result, the people of Vancouver got a happy surprise in September: significantly more service improvements, making the network update even more impactful. “Without Remix, we simply would have had to tackle a smaller service change,” he says.
Vancouver doesn’t get many shots at major service updates, and now its largest service expansion in years will address community needs that otherwise would have waited for the future.
In past triennial reports, Pierce Transit in Tacoma, WA, used a conventional methodology for conducting Title VI called the “pass-through method.” The planning team used GIS to manually sum up minority or low-income households in the block groups the route passed through, then compared numbers from before and after. Max Henkle, Senior Planner at Pierce Transit, wasn’t satisfied. “Frankly, it was a crude way of putting people into bins,” he says.
With the pass-through method, Henkle knew something was missing. “It assumes you have an equal, peanut-butter-smooth distribution of stop coverage,” he says. “You’re not really getting a good grasp of who’s close to the route.”
The Remix Title VI Engine bases its analysis on people-trips, which incorporates two new parameters — route frequency and stops along the route — to create a richer picture of the actual service changes felt by protected populations. Specifically, Remix uses a buffer around the impacted stops to estimate populations, then multiplies those populations by the trips scheduled to pass through.
Now Henkle can feel comfortable with his data-driven process. Ever since Pierce Transit started using Remix’s Title VI Engine, Henkle has marveled at his team’s new firepower. “Calculating person-trips certainly wasn’t part of our methodology before,” he says. Now he can do more actual planning work as a result.
Since the launch of our Title VI Engine in 2015, dozens of agencies have used the Remix Title VI Engine to inform their Title VI service equity analyses or triennial reports, and we’re confident our methodology meets the intent of the FTA’s Title VI Circular.
And the Remix team is proud to consider the current version of the Title VI Engine as a “v1.” We believe that software should constantly evolve, so we plan to further refine our engine in the future. More flexibility in methodologies, more robust calculations for non-protected populations, and more customization for Title VI maps will all allow a higher degree of freedom for planning teams to provide better service while safeguarding vulnerable populations. Stay tuned.
Until then, planners can reap the benefits of one of the largest advancements in conducting service equity analysis in years. Planning more in less time, more proactively will help break down the paradox of Title VI all while building a better, more equitable future for transit riders.
When planned well, flexible mobility programs, like paratransit, demand response, shared on-demand, or microtransit services, can support broader city goals of increasing access and decreasing congestion.