Commuter Chronicles #9: MetroBench

This installment of Commuter Chronicles is a little different in that it isn’t about an actual experience I’ve had using public transit.  Rather, I wanted to share an interesting article I came across while reading my twitter feed over the weekend.

When I saw this little nugget shown above, I was immediately drawn to click  and find out what in the world one could do to recycle an old MetroCard.  I still have my transit pass that expired in March of this year.   It looks like a credit card and although it is issued to my company and does not identify me whatsoever, I still feel like I can’t just throw it away. So away I clicked to find out what I could do with an old transit pass and saw this:

Yeah, take it in.  No, it’s not a replica of a giant rolled up newspaper…it’s a bench!  Yes, artist Stephen Shaheen made this bench entirely out of NYC MetroCards. No really!  Take a closer look:

According to the article, artist Stephen Shaheen was inspired to used expired transit passes, described as “once very personal and expendable”  because transit is something that unifies us all.  Design Milk writer Jaime Derringer explains it better in the article, positing that:

“The Metrocard represents movement for people; Metrobench is a point of rest for people.”

Shaheen was able to accomplish the task of building this thing by recruiting transit users via Craigslist to gather MetroCards. The end result is this bench made of 5,000 transit passes.

Let me emphasize that transit passes are the sole material for this bench.  Which led me to the immediate assumption that this is just purely for show, right? I mean, a bench made out of 5,000 flimsy plastic cards can’t be strong enough for someone to actually sit on it.

Okay, so maybe one person can sit on it without the whole thing falling apart.  But just to be safe, this is the only bench of its kind and it is on exhibit at the Sloan Fine Art Gallery in NYC.  Yeah, sorry transit users.   This isn’t going to be on display at a bus stop near you.

Well, this article did nothing to help me figure out what to do with my company issued, smart card enabled yet expired transit pass. But it did make me think a little more about the chunks of time we spend getting to work everyday.

Those moments of getting from point A to point B are always with us circulating in the background of our sub-conscious. Whether driving alone or sitting on the subway, we’re always trying to re-claim a portion of that time for ourselves, to feel we’ve done something more productive than just sit and be.

One of the main advantages of public transportation is it allows you to actually do something active during this travel time without putting yourself and others  in danger. Over the years using public transportation, I’ve solved crosswords, read through those assigned chapters for a class discussion I put off the night before, and whipped up talking points for meetings I needed to facilitate all while in transit.

Then there is the increased opportunities for social interaction using public transportation. I’ve made at the very least a few acquaintances, celebrated retirements and new job opportunities and even picked up a freelance research gig all with people I only knew in 3o minute increments of trips to and from work on public transit.

Bravo Stephen Shaheen – you get it.  You get it, and I totally get your MetroBench.

Oh, and in case you are wondering, I’ll probably just use that expired transit pass as a bookmark for now.

To read the article in its entirety, which is probably shorter than this post about the article, check out MetroBench by Stephen Shaheen on Design Milk.


5 responses to “Commuter Chronicles #9: MetroBench”

    1. I thought so too! And that is was sturdy enough for at least one person to sit in it is pretty amazing. Thanks for stopping by the blog.


  1. You are right about feeling as if the long commute is a time waster. I used to listen to books on tape when I had to commute. I felt like I accomplished something with my time by finishing all these books. The Bench is wild. I wonder what other things we could do with our commuter cards. Great post! 🙂


    1. Thanks! I thought it was a remarkable piece of art. Book on tape is a great way to spend your time commuting.



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