James Warren makes bus stop benches after seeing woman waiting in dirt

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James Warren uses the public bus a lot in his hometown of Denver. Since becoming car-free in 2017, he has been using buses to get around if he cannot walk or cycle to his destination.

Many bus stops, he began to notice, are running out of seats for waiting passengers.

Then in January, Warren spotted a woman waiting for a bus along a busy road. There were no seats at the stop – and no curb – so she sat in the dirt.

“For people to have to sit in the dust waiting for a bus is just outrageous,” said Warren, 28, who works as a consultant for the Colorado Workforce Development Council.

He wanted to do something about it. He decided to build a bench.

“I just grabbed some scrap and went to town,” Warren said, adding that he hoped this woman – and others looking for a seat – wouldn’t need to rest anymore. In the ground.

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He then realized that one bench was far from enough. There are over 9,000 Regional Transportation District (RTD) bus stops in the Denver metro area, many of them without a seat or shelter.

Warren decided to contribute what he could. Perhaps, he thought, his homemade bench initiative might catch the eye of transit or city officials who saw the need for better bus stops.

“I can change the small amount that I have control over,” Warren said.

Since building his first bench in January, he’s made seven more and placed them at bus stops around Denver, each made from scrap wood he finds in construction dumpsters. As for the design, “I’m just piloting it,” Warren said.

The benches take about three hours to build, and Warren inscribes “Be Kind” on each one, either using a stencil or a woodworking tool. He keeps an eye out for bus stops around town that look barren. He discusses with passengers at stops to assess demand.

Recently at a bus stop, “I was talking to someone who said it was hard to stand for long periods of time,” Warren said. “I knew where the next bench was going.”

For Warren, the most rewarding part of his project is knowing that his benches are being used.

A dog had disappeared. The cavers found it two months later 500 feet underground.

“I get a little giddy when I see someone using a bench,” he said. “They are so grateful. They tell me how boring it is to wait, or how painful it is to wait.

“I met some ladies the other day talking about how they used the benches every day,” Warren added. “It fills me up. It’s air in my tires.

Although some of the benches were vandalized or stolen, Warren said that didn’t dampen her desire to make them.

“If people destroy or take things that I put out there, that’s not going to stop me,” he said. “I will continue to do so. For every bench they steal, I’ll put two more.

Warren said many people jumped on his bench-building bandwagon, which motivated him to build more.

“Many people reached out to me on Twitter and Reddit,” he said. “Some people wanted to come and help me.”

Aleks Haugom, 32, heard what Warren was up to and was eager to join the effort. They spent an afternoon together building a bench.

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“He showed me how he does it. It’s a pretty simple design, but it seems to work well,” Haugom said. “It was great to just get different people involved and have something to offer the community.”

“This guy has drive,” Haugom said of Warren. “Not just a normal amount, but a huge amount of motivation. I’ve never seen anyone as motivated as James to do these things. Hopefully that rubs off on me.

Others have seen Warren’s work in local news and decided to take out their tools too. People also started donating supplies.

“It puts me over the moon,” Warren said. “That’s the idea. Let’s all help our neighbours.

As news of the bench initiative spread, defenders cheered Warren – and vouched for the importance of more seating at bus stops.

“The benches provide a place to rest. Everyone needs to rest,” said Nica Cave, 26, a Denver mobility advocate.

“It’s a public good that I think is much more important than people realize,” she said. “The lack of infrastructure, shelter and seating at transit stops is part of a larger set of policies that marginalize those who rely on transit. These are people who rely on public spaces to be livable and not hostile.

She pointed out that grassroots efforts, such as Warren’s, can trigger significant change.

“People like James really encourage me to see how people in our community are willing to use their own time and resources to provide these much-needed services,” Cave said, adding that she hopes the local government will see its benches and will get involved.

This is precisely Warren’s goal. Since he started making benches in January, Warren said he’s had several conversations with city officials and transit personnel about adding benches more broadly.

Brandon Figliolino, senior community engagement specialist at RTD, spoke with Warren about his aspirations for the project – which Figliolino shared with his team.

“We really appreciate it when customers raise concerns, so we can work to address them collaboratively,” Figliolino said, adding that RTD typically coordinates with local municipalities and counties to maintain and build bus stops. . “We are looking at which partners we can work with to make sure the needs are met.

Warren – who plans to run a bench-building workshop – said he hopes his benches will make a difference in his community and beyond.

“My goal is to make people’s lives a little bit better, in any way I can,” Warren said.

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