Adaptive Streets

Overview

The Adaptive Streets Program is a cost-effective way to experiment with new public spaces and street improvements. Focused on creating inexpensive, temporary solutions, the Adaptive Streets Program includes two types of projects:

  • Pavement to Parks projects, which create opportunities for public spaces in underutilized roadway space, and
  • Tactical Urbanism projects, which enhance safety and mobility with low-cost, easy-to-install materials.

The Adaptive Streets Program demonstrates an institutionalized effort to implement quick and economical treatments that enhance the function of streets. Seattle's approach is characterized by four features:

  • Short-term - Construct projects quickly and allow community stakeholders to provide feedback before permanent improvements are made
  • Low-cost - Use simple, temporary materials to reduce design and labor costs and to expand the reach of the program
  • Adaptable - Design improvements to be scalable and temporary so that changes can be made based on performance evaluations and community feedback
  • Community-oriented - Ensure that projects address community needs and are universally-accessible, regardless of age or ability

Pavement to Parks

Pavement to Parks projects create new public spaces by reclaiming underused street space for pedestrian-oriented uses. The most successful Pavement to Parks projects:

  • Provide useful and active neighborhood public space
  • Allow communities to test out new ideas
  • Enhance safety for all road users

Seattle welcomed 50,000 new residents between 2010 and 2015. As the city grows denser, the need for livable, vibrant public spaces increases. Pavement to Parks projects use short-term strategies to deliver new public spaces that will serve as front yards, playgrounds, social spaces, and active zones.  These adaptive strategies foster partnerships and community stewardship.

University St, E Union St, and Boylston Ave in First Hill

University St, E Union St, and Boylston Ave in First Hill

 Community-designed street mural at Pavement to Parks project in Rainier Vista
Community-designed street mural at Pavement to Parks project in Rainier Vista

Maintenance Agreements

To ensure that Pavement to Parks projects are full of activity and stay clean and safe for everyone, community hosts will partner with the City on a maintenance agreement that is customized to each site. Maintenance agreements will address cleanliness, vegetation, amenities, and activation at each of the Pavement to Parks sites.

Project Evaluation

We carefully evaluate Pavement to Parks projects to make sure they are meeting their intended goals and serving as valuable community assets.

These projects are evaluated based on traffic data, observations, and surveys, but some projects may require other evaluation criteria as well.

Tactical Urbanism

School colors in painted curb bulb where parking isn't permitted. Safety and pride at school crosswalk in SE SeattleTactical Urbanism projects employ the same low-cost, temporary street treatments as Pavement to Parks, but primarily focus on improving safety and mobility in the public right of way, rather than providing placemaking opportunities.

A wide range of infrastructure can be constructed as Tactical Urbanism projects, including sidewalks, curb bulbs, medians, crossing islands, traffic circles, and intersection diverters. Tactical Urbanism improvements typically use paint, flexible bollards, and planters to increase safety and enhance the function of streets. While these projects often tie in with future SDOT capital projects, Tactical Urbanism treatments can be implemented anywhere street improvements are needed. If you have an idea for a Tactical Urbanism project in your neighborhood, contact Susan.McLaughlin@Seattle.gov or 206-733-9649.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Adaptive Streets Program?

The Adaptive Streets Program is SDOT's program that repurposes underused roadway space for safety, mobility, and public space improvements using low-cost, temporary solutions. Two types of projects are implemented under the Adaptive Streets Program: Pavement to Parks projects and Tactical Urbanism projects.

What is a Pavement to Parks project?

A Pavement to Parks project creates new temporary public spaces by reallocating underused street space for pedestrian-oriented uses. These projects allow communities to test out new public space ideas before permanent street improvements are made.

What is a Tactical Urbanism project?

A Tactical Urbanism project develops temporary street improvements that enhance mobility and safety in Seattle's right-of-way. Tactical Urbanism projects use similar treatments as Pavement to Parks projects, but are focused more on improving safety and mobility than creating public spaces.

How much does it cost to install a Pavement to Parks project and who is responsible for maintenance?

The average Pavement to Parks project costs around $70,000, although each Pavement to Parks project will have a different budget depending on its size, the materials used, its fiscal partnerships, and the maintenance required. In partnership with community organizations, SDOT funds the design and construction of the projects, but relies on neighborhood groups to assist with the maintenance and programming of the spaces on an ongoing basis.

How are Pavement to Parks and Tactical Urbanism projects selected?

SDOT has developed a set of prioritization criteria to determine the best locations to install Pavement to Parks and Tactical Urbanism projects. These criteria consider gaps in public open space, safety needs, race and social justice factors, as well as coordination with future capital projects.

How are the projects evaluated?

SDOT will be measuring the performance of each of the installed Pavement to Parks projects to ensure they are serving as valuable community gathering spaces. Certain criteria may vary depending on the specific circumstances of each project, but most performance evaluations will include six basic metrics:

  • User and pedestrian surveys
  • Observations of user activity
  • Traffic data 
  • Reporting from the neighborhood partners 
  • Business feedback
  • Public and internal feedback