Guerilla bus stop benches are spurring Berkeley officials to install official seating for transit passengers

  • Date: 04/09/2024

By day, Mingwei Samuel works as a software developer. Also by day — together with urbanist and writer Darrell Owens — he builds and installs benches at bus stops around the California cities of Berkeley and Oakland that have no seating.

It’s a tale as old as social media: In November, Owens tweeted a photo of his 64-year-old neighbor sitting on the curb at a bus stop to draw attention to the lack of seating for bus riders.

“Which stop?” replied Samuel. “I can put a bench there.”

A month later, he had placed a wooden bench, built based on a template from the Public Bench Project, at the bus stop in downtown Berkeley. The response — from the city and from bench enthusiasts around the world — was immediate. On Dec. 17, he installed the bench; by Dec. 28, Berkeley had removed the bench and replaced it with an official metal one.

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