The new light rail line, or the next generation intermodal hub are always exciting steps toward public transportation growth in our American cities. But advances like these are few and far between in our midsized cities like my hometown of Rochester, New York. Instead, small gains with regard to comfort and convenience are vital to maintaining regular transit ridership and even welcoming new prospective passengers.
In the final months of 2020, the transit advocacy organization Reconnect Rochester finalized a collaborative effort with local government to place “bus stop cubes” at stops on three city streets: Monroe, Parsells and Lyell Avenues. The durable and colorful 2′ x 2′ x 2′ fiberglass seats give riders a place to rest while waiting for the bus. The also brighten the landscape, drawing attention to transit stops in each of the respective corridors.
Waiting for a bus can be a very uncomfortable experience for any transit rider. Standing, waiting, often in the elements or in the brutal heat next to a busy roadway with fast moving cars… it’s a feeling only a regular bus rider knows. And this discomfort is heavily magnified for riders with disabilities, elderly passengers and parents with young children. Simply having a place to sit can be anything from a welcomed comfort and source of dignity to an essential bridge to greater community mobility.
The project began in 2014 from the mind of Reconnect Rochester co-founder Mike Governale. The idea was to design and test bright, iconic seating for bus riders that could be easily constructed for a low price tag. The first bus cubes were made from pressure-treated lumber to the tune of $100 each. Early feedback was extremely positive, and the support from The City of Rochester, Flower City Habitat for Humanity, and Regional Transit Services (RTS) led to the eventual creation of over 30 cubes.
But in a city that features some of the most brutal winters in the U.S., the wooden cubes had to be removed and stored during the long snowy season. This became a challenge for Reconnect Rochester and its volunteers, not to mention the fact that riders lost their resting spot for nearly half of the year. In 2017, Reconnect Rochester set out to design and construct a permanent, year round solution, this time out of weatherproof fiberglass. While the logistics of this seemingly simple project took several years to finalize, September 2020 saw the fruits of labor and collaboration realized when 15 of these year-round cubes were installed in three transit-reliant neighborhoods.
The Power Of Incrementalism
When I became a board member for Reconnect Rochester in 2020, I had the pleasure of seeing the final stages of this simple yet practical effort come into focus. But this was the tip of the iceberg… as those who worked to see the project through will tell you, taking the simplest steps may require a lot of time and effort… and funding. But the incremental growth of the bus cube from a sketch on a page to construction, implementation, feedback, fundraising, community outreach, redesign and installation, highlights the best form of organic neighborhood improvement. These bus cubes represent the merging of practical, approachable and sustainable ingenuity with community engagement and collaboration with local government and neighborhood organizations.
Cubes for Your Community
I truly believe that this practical additive can be a valuable addition to any transit network. If you believe your community could benefit from the installation of these durable and iconic bus cubes, contact Reconnect Rochester today!