James Warren, 28, sits on a ...

Faces of the Front Range: This Denver man wants you to take a seat

When James Warren spotted a woman sitting in the dirt — the only seating option available — while she waited for a bus near Sheridan Boulevard and West Eighth Avenue in Denver, he saw a problem ripe for fixing.

“I thought it was really undignified she had to sit in the dirt to wait for the bus,” Warren said. “Already, our society doesn’t think highly of buses as a way to get around, and this just added to that perception.”

With that in mind, Warren collected wood he found abandoned around his neighborhood and built a bench emblazoned with the phrase “Be Kind” on the seat. The 28-year-old Denverite carried his creation to the bus stop and plopped it down, creating a spot to take a load off where there previously wasn’t.

“You walk around, and you’ll see so many bus stops in our city that are not serviced by something as simple as a bench, and it can make a big impact,” he said. “People need to sit down.”

As of March, the Regional Transportation District maintained 9,720 active bus stops across its eight-county region, said Brandon Figliolino, RTD community engagement specialist. He could not say how many of those stops have shelters or benches.

“The benches and shelters at bus stops are mostly owned by advertising agencies contracted by the municipalities or the cities/counties themselves,” Figliolino said. “The municipalities in which RTD bus stops are located all require permits to install shelters and benches. RTD does not install amenities at bus stops that are not located on RTD property.”

Warren dabbled in woodwork for most of his life as a hobby, but it took on new meaning during the pandemic as he began researching what elements impacted cities positively and negatively. As someone without a car, Warren was hyper-focused on improving city transportation and began to notice accessibility and infrastructure issues on his daily commutes.

Around the beginning of the year, Warren read about the Charlotte Urbanists, a North Carolina group of activists who work on improving their urban environment. Warren was inspired after learning about their group’s building of benches to put at bus stops, and he decided he could do the same in Denver.

Since January, Warren built three benches, dropping one at the Sheridan Station bridge, another near Sheridan and West Colfax Avenue and the third at Sheridan and West Eighth. Last week, Warren planned to drop another at West First Avenue and Knox Court.

The bench at the Sheridan Station bridge has since gone missing — Warren doesn’t know who scooped it up — but he’s not deterred.

Figliolino said RTD would not remove a non-permitted bench from a bus stop and that the responsibility to remove it would be on an adjacent property owner.

Anyone who would like to request a “bus stop amenity” like a bench or shelter can contact the city or county where they live to request one, Figliolino said. Denver residents can contact 311 or visit PocketGov.com.

James Warren, 28, sits on a ...

Jintak Han, The Denver Post

James Warren, 28, sits on a homemade wooden bench that he installed at a bus stop in Denver on Thursday, July 14, 2022.

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