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Reconnect Rochester is aiming to come up with a solution for the lack of seating at bus stops in our region.
Posted by: Mike Governale, president and co-founder of Reconnect Rochester

Anyone who has ever used public transportation in Rochester is painfully aware of two things: At some point will have to wait for your bus, and when you do, you will probably be standing. But now, Reconnect Rochester is aiming to come up with a solution…

Our bus system is the only transportation mode that requires its passengers to stand while waiting for the service. Not an ideal situation if we're trying to encourage folks to use public transit.
Why is our bus system is the only transportation mode that requires its passengers to stand while waiting for the service? This is partly due to the sheer scale of the system. There are thousands of bus stops in the RTS network, and the resources of the transit authority are spread thin. But let’s face it, this is also a matter of priorities.

For senior citizens, people with disabilities, and parents with young children, being made to stand for any length of time is not an ideal situation. Even for those passengers who are physically capable of standing, having no place to sit while waiting on the side of a busy roadway can make people feel anxious, and generally unpleasant.

If this issue could be remedied, not only would we be making the lives of current riders a little easier, but we might also encourage more people to use public transportation. This is why Reconnect Rochester has decided to make this a priority for our community.

A Design Challenge

We could just chain a plastic patio chair to a bus stop sign, but to be honest, we're not fans of plastic furniture. And we really don't think the neighbors would appreciate this look very much.
Needing a place to sit is one thing… but finding a solution would not be easy. We spent countless hours brainstorming.

We scoured the internet. And we even met with a local furniture designer, Staach external link (we really admire the way those guys balance form, function, and sustainability). But we needed something that would be relatively inexpensive and easy for regular peoples like us to build and duplicate. It would also need to be compact, sturdy, and weather resistant.

We could have simply taken a page from the guerilla bus stop seating external link playbook and chained a plastic patio chair to a bus stop sign, but to be honest, we’re not fans of plastic furniture. And we really didn’t think the neighbors would appreciate this look very much.

Then one day, almost like it happens in the movies,
the solution hit us like a lightning bolt…

Good old-fashioned children’s blocks!

Our bus stop CUBE seat was inspired by ordinary children's blocks.
It’s amazing how sometimes the best ideas are inspired by the simplest things. Children’s blocks. Durable, easy to use, easy to construct – and what could possibly be more fun? Quite fitting for Rochester, the home of the National Toy Hall of Fame external link!

Construction & Materials

We put pencil to paper and designed a simple 2’x2’x2’ cube to fit easily within areas where space is at a premium.
We put pencil to paper and designed a simple 2’x2’x2’ cube. The compact size allows the seat to fit easily within areas where space is at a premium – such as tree lawns or that little bit of space between the street curb and sidewalk.
Our prototype was constructed using pressure-treated lumber and decking materials for a total cost of about $60 per cube*. Of course, this design also has the potential to be adapted and constructed using other, longer-lasting or more durable materials such as plastic, fiberglass, or metal. But for now, we think this will do just fine.

Our prototype was constructed using pressure-treated lumber and decking materials at a cost of less than $40 per cube.
The materials list below will build TWO cubes (since one sheet of plywood is 4’x8′ this enables us to make 2 cubes with virtually no wasted material). These items can all be found at your local home center or hardware store…

  • Plywood or underlayment (x1)
  • Pressure Treated 2×4, 8ft length (x6)
  • Pressure Treated 5/4×6, 8ft length (x2)
  • 4ft Chain (x2)
  • Quick Link Chain Clip (x2)
  • 1/4×4″ Eye Bolt with Nut (x2)
  • 3″ Deck Screws (x96)
  • 1 1/4″ Deck Screws (x32)
  • Primer
  • Paint
  • Lacquer

Okay, so they look great, but how will they work?

We tested the prototypes at two locations within the city of Rochester: The PriceRite at Dewey & Driving Park external link and N. Union St. external link at the Public Market. The results were very positive. Interviews with transit riders and passersby can be viewed in this video external link.

This woman says her legs have a tendency to give out on her, and the CUBE is the perfect height for her - not to low to the ground.
These woman had just finished shopping and were waiting for their #10 bus when we offered them a seat. One of the women told us that when she’s waiting for her bus, sometimes her legs give out. And she says the bus stop cube is the perfect height for her. She said many of the standard benches throughout the city are actually too low for her to get up out of easily.

For these RIT students a 40-minute wait for their bus was made more enjoyable because they had a place to sit and talk.
These two students at the Public Market had just missed their bus back to RIT when we met them. A 40-minute wait for their next bus was made more enjoyable because they had a place to sit and talk.

Because of our small bus stop improvement, this woman felt like
And this woman said she was overjoyed when she saw the little green cube seat. Because of this small improvement, she felt like “the system” was actually thinking of her. We had to tell her we were not with the Transit Authority. But we do know RTS is listening and watching.

Moving Forward

Tell us where you'd like to see a bus stop seat by leaving a comment below, or pinning the location on this map.
Even after RTS implements its Bus Stop Optimization Study, over 2,400 stops will remain in the RTS service area – and many of will still not have seating, shelter, or other basic amenities.

Reconnect Rochester aims to work with RTS, municipalities, property-owners, and community organizations throughout Monroe County to identify bus stops where it may make sense to add seating. Tell us where you’d like to see a bus stop seat by leaving a comment below, or pinning the location on this interactive map external link.

We need YOUR help

Because we can’t do this by ourselves, we are looking for neighborhood groups, property owners or businesses owners who are interested in helping us place a cube seat at a bus stop near them.

We’re also looking for sponsors/donors who can help pay for materials or donate work space and/or helping hands to build cubes.

If you would like to help, please contact us at info@ReconnectRochester.org. You can also call 585-354-6232 (leave a brief message and your contact info).

Or make a tax-deductible contribution to Reconnect Rochester today, and help us move this idea (and others) forward in 2015.

• • •

Update

After this story dropped, many individuals and organizations have contacted us about teaming up to bring cubes to their neighborhoods! Rochester Transit Service (RTS) has officially thrown their support behind the cubes. We’ve also worked with Rochester School for the Deaf, Charles House Neighbors in Action, 19th Ward Community Association, Joseph Avenue Business Association, Genesee Corridor Business Association, Corn Hill Neighborhood Association and The Strong National Museum of Play. Read more here: Bus Stop Cubes Are Winning Community Support

 

*$60 per cube only reflects our cost of materials at the time this article was posted. The cost per cube will vary depending on the deals you can find at your local lumber yard today and how many cubes are built at one time. We’ve also made improvements to our cube design by upgrading some of the materials we use. Today’s cost may be somewhere between $65-$75. Contact us or leave a comment below and we can work with you on your specific project.

— 11 Comments —

  1. With all the problems with Rochester’s public transit, I’m appalled that “making waiting the bus more whimsical!” would be where anyone puts any effort. It’s an insult to anyone who must suffer the indignity of waiting for the bus—especially since “waiting” is what one does most of when attempting to use it.

  2. Hi Jason,
    I totally understand what you’re saying about the wait times. It wasn’t our intention to make light of that fact. Increasing the level of overall transit service is something that Reconnect Rochester urges of RTS and our political leaders constantly (in fact they’re probably getting sick of hearing from us). And in a perfect world we’d also like to have full transit shelters at more bus stops – as opportunities arise (i.e. with streetscape improvements and city/town planning) we ask for these things as well.

    Unfortunately, our group doesn’t have as much pull (or resources) as we’d like. So at the same time we try to work on smaller improvements that we can make ourselves (like bus stop seating) that can make our transit experience a little better. And our hope is that RTS and those who control the purse-strings will take notice and help us work toward bigger and more permanent improvements.

    Again though, I sincerely apologize if it seemed like we were taking a serious issue and making it “whimsical”. We aren’t. We are trying to strike a balance between giving people a place to rest their legs, and doing it in a way that doesn’t involve cheap plastic patio furniture on the side of the road. If you have suggestions, or would like to help us tackle this or other transit-related issues, please let us know. We could use your help.

  3. Go Reconnect!! My volunteer hours spent painting these cubes feels well worth it. It’s great to hear user’s feedback and appreciation. It would be awesome if we did not have to wait for the bus, but even where wait times are short, I know I always appreciate a place to rest or put down my bags. Adding seating to bus stops is a solid step in the right direction for improving our community’s transit experience. Thanks!

  4. What a great idea! I’m not a regular rider, but when I did take the bus on RocTransit day, I found myself sitting on the ground while I waited. As a fit 69 year-old my legs needed to rest, and I’m grateful I was able to get myself to and from the ground – but so many people need a more accessible place to rest! I love your commitment to make mass transit more comfortable and accessible in our community. And yes, you may not be able to make the big changes you’d like, but these small steps ARE important!! And thanks to all the volunteers who painted the cubes!!

  5. These are an excellent idea, and the kind of incremental improvement that actually brings some dignity to riding the bus. I contend that even if the bus came every 3 minutes, being forced to stand in a pile of mud would still weigh on the soul. Would more frequent service be better? Of course. In a town that is so overbuilt, where there is so little traffic you can drive anywhere in 15 minutes. being part of the motoring elite de facto removes you from a bus service that you have to wait on average 10 minutes for. That doesn’t mean that the people who can’t afford a car should be made to stand around anyway. I don’t know the budget of these boxes, but something tells me one could be put at every single bus stop in the city for less than it would cost to increase even a single bus line to 10 minute headways all day long.

  6. I’m super excited about these cubes! There are so many stops all over the metro area that do not have benches, so people sit on the curb.

    Regarding the wait times: We’ve been using the RTS app, which is super helpful. It doesn’t speed up the wait time, but it does tell me when I should walk out of my office to catch the bus rather than waiting for a long time at the stop. Not everyone has a smartphone, so the app isn’t an option for all people. But if you have a smartphone, use the app!

  7. I like the general idea especially the use of color There is a but, however. I saw something similar recently in NYC. They were generally grey or dark color. They were made more of a synthetic material possibly the material used for outdoor furniture and some decorative objects that can endure the weather. I think that they have to be solid enough so they would not be removed or easily deteriorate. The other issue is how many would be needed at each of the bus stops given the fact that at many stops there are large numbers of riders waiting. You would not want those riders waiting to view this as available for only one or tow people. My comments come from using the buses as my only means of transportation. Bonnie

  8. This is a great idea. I see the one negative comment which honestly doesn’t make sense as mass transit is a choice for some and a reality for others. Really if that’s what you call it, then what do you call riding a bike in snow sleet and rain? Yes the stops may not be the best which is the point in what you guys are trying to achieve here.

    So beyond that, super thought providing a place for people to rest their legs while taking mass transit. Keep it simple and practical, and adds color to our gray winters!

  9. Lynne, yes. The cube is large enough to fit two people if they sit on opposite corners. Or even three if you guys know each other real well.

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