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Waiting for the bus is boring 

But not for much longer, thanks to this big idea

For Tom Warshauer, who works for the city's Neighborhood and Business Services department as a community engagement manager, porch swings are awesome for kicking back. That's why when he heard about the Knight Cities Challenge, a national competition seeking ideas for ways to improve Charlotte and other cities across the U.S. — he decided to submit his own concept to install swings at transit stops as a way to enhance the bus riding experience.

As it turns out, judges liked his thought and awarded him with $28,000 for the swing installations, which are slated to debut in early 2016. Warshauer was one of three Charlotteans whose entries were selected, along with 29 others across the country.

The swings will be placed at stops in East Charlotte, along Central Avenue, where there is high transit ridership. Warshauer hopes they will increase community engagement, bringing Plaza Midwood's diverse international and millennial residents together for much more than just a ride.

We chatted with Warshauer about his award-winning idea and the benefits that adding amenities to transit stops can have on the community at large.

ON THE IMPORTANCE OF PUBLIC AMENITIES.

One of the stories we talk about is how in the '90s everyone sort of fenced in their backyard and had big great rooms opening into the back and in this decade people are all building front porches. I think people are moving to areas where the amenity isn't the garden apartment with the pool inside. The amenity is being able to walk around to the restaurants in South End or NoDa or Plaza Midwood. People want to be a part of a community, and they want to decorate the community the way they would be by putting a fountain in their backyard. They want to make the community that they are a part of a place that they really enjoy. I think we're seeing a lot more interest in public art and amenities in the public because people are much more interested in being a part of a public realm. That is being expressed in the architecture with front porches and in the way buildings are in relationship to one another and where people are choosing to live in the city.

ON HOW RIDERS DESERVE PERKS.

We see all these wonderful amenities at light rail stations, but you don't see very many amenities at transit stops. I think that people who are riding transit are really smart and we should learn by those and think 'Gosh, I wish I were riding transit and waiting there. That looks like a fun thing to do.' I feel like we haven't invested sufficiently in honoring the transit rider and creating stops that are pleasant experiences for them.

We were also looking to see if the stops could be combined with little free libraries and make transit riders into transit readers. The idea is to help people really enjoy the experience of reading something and talking to each other while kicking back and relaxing.

We have a lot of places in the city where people have put water fountains out for joggers. Why couldn't we put water fountains next to transit stops for transit riders?

We did some really beautiful trash containers with The Arts and Science Council on Central Avenue, so people have good-looking trash containers, but I think there's more amenities we can do that will make those great places to be while you're waiting to get around.

ON WHAT'S NEXT ON THE AGENDA.

Some of the stops have a lot of riders and not that much room and some of the stops have more room, so we're trying to look at where there are a lot of people and ridership. We're also looking at some of the school bus pickup stops because we know that a lot of parents come back to wait for their kids. So we're trying to see if there are other locations where people might be standing around and needing a place to sit.

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