A City for All

by Civic Technology Program, City of Seattle
22 September 2017

Improving Service Access for All



GOAL: Help program directors, city planners, resource advocates, and other stakeholders better allocate resources for the aging where they are needed most.

IMPLEMENTATION: Make open-source access measures easier to use for non-technical users so they can address questions about amenity access and resource allocation for the aging with open data.

MOTIVATION: "The City's Aging and Disability Services (ADS) addresses the environmental, economic, and social factors that influence the health and well-being of older adults. In an effort to ensure all older adults experience stable health and can age in place, the Human Services Department invests in a combination of direct services and in funding agencies that serve our older adults. ADS supports older individuals, those living with a disability, and their families?" (Source).

Aging populations have a large demand for these human services. Additionally, they are often limited in their mobility, as they may not have access to a car and often cannot walk large distances. It?s therefore important that such populations live in close proximity to a variety of human service providers.

Using open data and metrics, we can build a tool that helps people seeking to improve service access for the aging. Seattle's Department of Human Services recently released data about these services, in time for the hackathon.

Using these data, we can address questions like:

  • Where are organizations located in Seattle that provide services for the aging? (funded by the Area Agency on Aging for Seattle and King County)
    • DATA: HSD Contracts 2016 (original) and geocoded (filter ADS Area Agency on Agency and ADS Self-Sufficiency)
    • Note: Organizations' headquarter addresses might differ from the locations where their services are delivered
  • Where do clients of these services live?
  • Where are concentrations of seniors?
    • DATA: 2010 Census Data
  • Where do seniors live in relation to where organizations are?
    • access metrics
    • Note: Do not use results for decision making before they have been validated by ADS (especially check re. the headquarter vs service delivery address issue for the access score results).


Together we'll develop methods for analyzing and presenting accessibility to public services throughout a city. You can build on these existing metrics:

  1. Spatial gap visualization. Calculate and visualize spatial disparities between allocation of funds for human services and the demand for these services.
  2. Visualizing proximity. Create interactive plots enable insightful and user-friendly visualization of accessibility to services within a city.

Spatial gap visualization

This team will develop methods to investigate the existence of spatial gaps in human service funding in Seattle. Analysis will relate the locations of elderly populations to both the location and funding levels of various relevant service providers. The direction of the project will be driven by the team, but some potential avenues of analysis are outlined below (based on research by Nicole Marwell and Julia Koschinsky).

Visualizing Proximity

A complementary type of visualization is analyzing raw proximity and identifying residents with long travel times (based on research by Tom Logan and Tim Williams). A figure showing the percentage of people with walking time less than the x-axis can be coupled with a interactive map, lighting up city blocks of residents with travel times greater than the selected time. These figures can be subset to include demographic variables - does proximity change much between different age, income, or racial groups? This could show how proximity changes with percentage of people over the age of 65. Creative people with an eye for design will find themselves at home here!

More information and examples about this type of proximity representation can be found here.

Browser-based Front End

Help us develop a visualization platform allowing users to select destinations of interest and integrate the visualizations created:

This is all integrated by the browser-based (potentially) user interface. This UI could allow users to select or upload destinations and demographics of interest and then display the interactive visualizations created by the other teams. There is a SQL database of walking times between blocks within Seattle city. This database can be quickly access if users upload new destinations of interest. The data will then be passed to the visualization components and the resulting interactive plot will be embedded into the UI.

This allows decision makers and other interested parties the ability to explore the data and the city to really see who and where requires investment into particular services. It is an important step towards creating a city for all.


This project is based on ongoing research projects by two teams:

Visualizing Proximity: Tom Logan and Tim Williams, University of Michigan @ Ann Arbor (Mentors on site)

Contracts-Based Service Research: Nicole Marwell, School of Social Service Administration, and Julia Koschinsky (with Logan Noel), Center for Spatial Data Science at the University of Chicago. .