Public Life Program

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. Our Guide for Data Collectors provides complete details on how the study was conducted. We encourage you to read our report and explore our interactive dashboard, which compiles the public life data we collected across Seattle.

Guide for Data Collectors cover
Guide for Data Collectors

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

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

Complete datasets are published by SDOT through the City's Open Data Portal and can be accessed from the following links:

The data collected is consistent with the Public Life Data Protocol developed in a partnership with the Gehl Institute, the City of San Francisco, the City of Copenhagen and SDOT, which establishes a common format and structure for public life data to better facilitate comparisons across different cities and regions. You can find information about public life study methods on the Gehl Institute’s website.

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.


Are you interested in conducting a public life study in your neighborhood? Would you like more information? Do you have any questions? Please let us know at

We look forward to hearing from you!