Warren saw a woman sitting in the dirt while waiting for a bus and that's when he decided to take action.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on August 22, 2022. It has since been updated.
It can be annoying waiting for public transport, especially if there's no place to sit while you wait. James Warren is making a difference in Denver, helping the public by installing benches at bus stops. It all started after Warren saw a woman sitting in the dirt while waiting for a bus because there was no place to sit at the bus stop. "I thought, oh, that's simply undignified," recalled Warren, reported CBC. He felt he had to do something to help people waiting at bus stops, especially considering people sometimes have to wait a long time for a bus. Warren gave up his car a few years ago and started using public transport regularly and that's when he started noticing that many stops didn't have any seating arrangements, inconveniencing the public.
The 28-year-old is also a mobility and transit advocate and decided to gather wood for the project. He scavenged around town for wood and then used what he found to build the benches. "There's a lot of construction in my neighborhood. They end up throwing out, you know, materials that are perfectly good," he said. "So I just take some of those materials and put them together in whatever way will work." Denver's Regional Transportation District (RTD) has more than 9,700 bus stops but only manages 300 of them, which means there is no investment into facilities or amenities in the stops.
Every bench he has made has the words "Be Kind" etched onto it and that's something that drives him. "It's a good message. It's a message anyone can do," said Warren. "Spread a little bit more kindness in the world and be a little kinder to your neighbor and just try to be a little bit more thoughtful and cognizant of the needs of others." One of the main obstacles to installing benches is the transportation of the benches to the stops. He installs the benches in stops close to his home because it's easier to carry the benches to the stops. As he has no car, he struggles to take them to other locations but is never deterred to continue.
Warren says sometimes it's a conversation with a tired stranger at the bus stop that pushes him to craft a bench. "It just makes me realize, oh, man, this person's life could be way better if I put a bench here," he said. After news of Warren's kind act spread, many in the community have come forward to offer materials to Warren with some providing their services to help him. "I've gotten probably a dozen people who say they want to work on one with me or, you know, they have a truck and they're excited to maybe help me move a bench to a further location," he said, before adding that people have donated wood, among other supplies. One person even offered to donate money. "I said, 'Do not do that.' You know, all the materials come to me freely,'" he said.
Warren says he feels vindicated and happy when he sees someone sitting on the bench that he has made. "I was talking to a couple of women who said, 'Oh, we use this bus stop every single day to go to work. And this has just been so much better every morning waiting for the bus,'" he said. It has also sparked a push to provide better amenities to the public. Brandon Figliolino, a senior specialist for community engagement at RTD, has been in discussions with Warren on how to request amenities at bus stops. "When our customers come to us with concerns about bus stops and the lack of infrastructure at some of them, we appreciate having that dialogue with our customers and then with the municipalities so we can come together to find a solution," he said.