King County Metro’s long-range plan will add 2.5 million new service hours in the greater Seattle area by 2040. In the past, it could’ve taken as many as two years to get sign-off from stakeholders. With Remix, it took one-third of the time.
By the numbers:
By 2040, Seattle’s King County is projected to grow by over half a million people, and despite the influx of people, their road network is projected to stay largely unchanged. To mitigate this massive growth, King County is looking to its bus network as a vital part of the public’s mobility, especially as development puts greater pressure on its road system. In 2015, leadership tasked King County Metro with a 2040 long-range transit plan in an effort to alleviate the threat of traffic congestion, rising emissions levels, and general wear and tear on their roadways.
The 25-year plan is called METRO CONNECTS. The long-range plan adds nearly 600 new miles of frequent service on 20 new bus lines and increases frequency on 26 existing lines, amounting to roughly 2.5 million new service hours.
But before they could call the long-term plan done, King County Metro needed sign-off from 39 different municipalities. Andrew Brick, Transportation Planner at King County Metro, knew clear communication would be crucial to avoiding the resource-intensive back and forth they’d faced in the past. Luckily, Metro’s long-range planning team had Remix in its toolbox. “Remix’s real benefit to the long-range planning effort was its power to communicate with people outside the agency,” says Brick.
Existing planning tools in King County Metro’s toolbox — primarily ArcMap — could generate maps of individual bus routes, but they fell short when it came to showing rider mobility within the entire system. Before using Remix, King County Metro relied mostly on paper or static online maps to represent the intricate system of transfers and bus-to-rail connections. And Brick knew from past experience that a thick packet of maps would get buried in the desks of city officials. “You can’t blame them. Even when I’ve seen these types of proposals in the past, I’ve found similar service changes difficult to understand,” Brick admits.
“When it came time to finalize the plan, getting buy-in was easier because they actually understood it.”
“All we needed was a laptop, projector, and wifi.”
Metro’s planning team lead turned to Remix to bring the plans to life during meetings with stakeholders and city councils. Instantaneously and in person, Metro staff could zoom into a neighborhood, click on the most relevant routes, and explain how each of these routes interacted with each other. “We didn’t necessarily have to have all of the details in our heads,” Brick recalls. “All we needed was a laptop, projector, and wifi. We found ourselves on a journey of discovery alongside our partners when we presented each iteration of the system.”
With such intuitive visualizations and dynamic conversations during council meetings, stakeholders were rapt. “When it came time to finalize the plan, getting buy-in was easier because they actually understood it,” Brick explains.
Using Remix’s isochrone feature called Jane, the King County Metro planning team wowed many stakeholders with how much farther riders could go in 15, 30, 45, and 60 minutes under the METRO CONNECTS plan. “With the information presented in such an accessible way, it made it very easy for stakeholders to provide feedback,” Brick explains.
At meetings, Brick could see the “aha moment” written across the faces of elected officials and stakeholders as they immediately grasped the mobility residents would gain under the METRO CONNECTS plan. Incorporating the actionable input from these discussions made for better, more robust transit plans.
More than just enriching feedback and plans, Remix also lightened King County’s bottom line. A review period that would have taken years was cut to 9 months. Time per iteration of feedback dropped from about 70 hours down to 36. “We would have needed 2 or 3 extra people to get the same level of detail we got within that amount of time,” Brick says.
“We can show how fluid the draft still is by moving this or that line a couple of blocks over. You can’t do that with a paper map. But you can do that with Remix.”
Beyond the tangible benefits the agency experienced during the long-range planning effort, Brick also noticed a shift in the way external stakeholders perceived the new feedback process. In the past, city officials tended to view the lines on physical paper with a level of permanency that wasn’t warranted during the early stages of the planning process. “Of course, even if lines are on a paper map, they’re not written in stone,” Brick says.
Despite King County Metro’s best efforts to convey that feedback would be taken very seriously, preconceptions blocked the collaborative dynamic that the team needed for actionable feedback. “There was a certain hesitancy to put these types of draft networks in front of city staffs without having them go through an extensive internal review process first,” he explains.
Presenting with Remix added fluidity to the process that paper maps couldn’t. “We were able to overcome the anxiety of sharing drafts with cities because, with Remix, it’s more obvious that the plans are not final,” Brick says. “We can show how fluid the draft still is by moving this or that line a couple of blocks over. You can’t do that with a paper map. But you can do that with Remix. And it demonstrates instantaneous incorporation of feedback, which helps build trust.”
Today, Metro staff look forward to working with the King County Council to approve METRO CONNECTS. The level of city engagement with the plan has put the plan on a firm footing and has positioned Metro to transition quickly from the planning phase to the implementation phase.
By using Remix, King County Metro is now one step closer to a new era of more extensive bus service, more frequent headways, and a more accessible tomorrow.