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Public Life Initiatives

Public life is what people create when they connect with each other in public spaces—the streets, plazas, parks, and city spaces between buildings. Public life is about the everyday activities that people naturally take part in when they spend time with each other outside their homes, workplaces, and cars. Public life studies analyze observed human behavior in shared spaces to inform policy, regulations, and public space design.

The District of Columbia is fortunate to have a wealth of park spaces, squares, and pedestrian-friendly streets that provide opportunities for a vibrant and rich public life. As the District grows, ensuring that all groups and people can enjoy public life in our shared spaces is an important part of achieving an inclusive city.

Public life is a driver of:

  • Physical and mental health
  • Sustainable mobility
  • Social benefits
  • Culture, identity, and sense of place
  • Safety
  • Economic Development

View this Public Life in DC Storymap to learn how the Office of Planning is working toward a vibrant public life to promote health, safety, civic engagement, economic opportunity, and connected communities.

Public Life Studies

The methodology for studying public life applies techniques developed by the Gehl Institute as adapted by the DC Office of Planning. Analysis can consist of assessing:

  • quality of space in terms of its protection, accessibility, comfort, and enjoyment,
  • pedestrian and bicycle movements through public space,
  • stationary activities of individuals and groups who are staying or lingering in public space, and
  • surveys that capture perceptions and desires of the people using public space.
Check out A Guide to Public Life Studies in DC for a brief overview of how to design, manage, and communicate the results of a public life study within the unique context of Washington, DC’s public realm. 
For inquiries or comments on OP's public life initiatives, contact [email protected]