Public Life Program

The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) believes that streets and sidewalks full of social and commercial activity have the power to improve the city’s health, prosperity, and happiness. Without data collected to document the prevalence of these activities, SDOT has no way of knowing if our 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 SDOT with people-centered data to make investment decisions, evaluate designs and interventions, and understand what makes a successful public space. We encourage you to explore our interactive dashboard, which compiles the public life data collected across Seattle.

Preview of the dashboard

2018 Citywide Study

In the summer of 2018, SDOT 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.

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.


Questions? Or interested in conducting a study in your neighborhood? For more information about this work, email us at

We look forward to hearing from you!