Public Life Program

What’s happening now?

Public Life in Seattle During COVID-19

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) has explored ways to bring activity vital for local business districts into the right-of-way to allow for safe operation. SDOT developed a variety of temporary permits to meet the urgent needs of the pandemic, including commercial street closures, merchandise display, vending, and restaurant seating. In the fall of 2020, SDOT staff visited some of the business districts using these permits to gain an understanding of public life during COVID-19.

Image of Public Life COVID-19 Report

Check out our report here for more details and findings from the study.

We believe that streets and sidewalks full of social and commercial activity have the power to improve the city’s health, prosperity, and happiness. Collecting data about these activities allows us to measure how the city is fulfilling its goal of having vibrant, active, and well-used public spaces. A specific type of research—called a public life study—does exactly this by measuring the number of people using our public spaces and the types of activities they are engaged in. The results of a public life study provide us with people-centered data to make investment decisions, evaluate designs and interventions, and understand what makes a successful public space.

2019 Yesler Crescent Public Life Action Plan

The public spaces of Yesler Crescent-a sub-area of the Pioneer Square neighborhood that includes City Hall Park, Prefontaine Place, Fortson Square, and several block faces along 2nd Ave Ext S-are a dynamic string of historic park spaces and connection points that are vital to downtown Seattle. In 2019, a variety of government agencies and neighborhood stakeholders identified the opportunity to improve these public spaces to enhance user experience. Together with Seattle Parks and Recreation, we observed the social environment and public realm, collected feedback from the many people who use the spaces, and convened local stakeholders to discuss potential design interventions. This effort culminated in the Yesler Crescent Public Life Action Plan, which outlines our study findings and recommendations, and provides strategies for coordinating investment decisions in the years to come, including implementing key design improvements.

Yesler Crescent plan cover

Public Life Action Plan: Yesler Crescent Full Report

Read the report
Yesler Crescent plan cover

Public Life Action Plan: Yesler Crescent Executive Summary

Read the summary

Click here for a printer-friendly version of the Public Life Action Plan: Yesler Crescent 

To further explore the public life data, view our Interactive dashboard

2018 Citywide Study

In the summer of 2018, we collected data on our streets and sidewalks across the city to develop baseline indicators of public life and vibrancy. We encourage you to read our report and explore our interactive dashboard, which compiles the public life data we collected across Seattle.

Public Life Study 2018 Summary Report cover
Public Life Study:
2018 Summary Report

Public Life Study 2018 Executive Summary cover
Public Life Study:
2018 Executive Summary

In 2018, Urban Design 4 Health was contracted by the City of Seattle and provided full data collection and development of the electronic data collection and entry process.

More Resources and Other Public Life Efforts


Greg Spotts, Director
Address: 700 5th Ave, Suite 3800, Seattle, WA, 98104
Mailing Address: PO Box 34996, Seattle, WA, 98124-4996
Phone: (206) 684-7623

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The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) is on a mission to deliver a transportation system that provides safe and affordable access to places and opportunities for everyone as we work to achieve our vision of Seattle as a thriving, equitable community powered by dependable transportation.