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District Department of Transportation

Public Realm Design Manual

DDOT Public Realm Design Manual - manual cover showing a summer DC streetscape

The public realm is a vital aspect of the built environment that helps to give a city its identity. It primarily consists of the roadways, sidewalks, parks, plazas, and other open spaces that comprise the arteries and focal points of the urban framework. It is the main space where civic interaction occurs and is often defined in contrast to private property.

A well designed public realm balances the mobility and access needs for all users and contributes to the efficient functioning of a city and its sense of place. The quality of our public realm is at the heart of how we experience and relate to the surrounding environment. Therefore, it is important that the public realm is safe, sustainable, and enriching.


To design a public realm that balances the mobility and access needs for all users.