Sewing Cushions for Bus Stop Benches

Making it More Comfortable to Sleep on a Bench

As you may have noticed, I was with the kids at Disneyland last month.

While we were walking back to the hotel one night, we walked past two bus stops. Most of the bus benches had ironwork installed to prevent anyone from laying down across it to sleep.  

One had no benches at all.

Of course, I’ve seen this all over California, but there in Anaheim, it struck me. We were surrounded by thousands of hotel rooms, filled top to bottom with beds, but the local government here purposely crafted these benches to prevent homeless people from having a place to lie down.

I hear their message, "Poor people please leave the area. This is a middle-class place."

Last Friday I was driving down Fulton Avenue with my daughter and we drove past a bus stop with a guy laying down on the bench. The benches here are made of concrete with wooden slats across the seating area. They are not comfortable. He was not comfortable.

While some might think it is wise to make it more difficult to sleep on a park bench, I thought, what if it were more comfortable to sleep on a park bench? What if I made some nice cushions for these benches?

So I tried it.

Bus benches in Scramento are generally of two varieties, steel mesh and wood planks.

I wanted to make cushions that fit the benches nicely and blended in visually.

The wooden plank benches use three 2x6s and make a 17" deep bench. They are seven feet long.

I had some experience sewing with vinyl, making cushions and furniture.  

The Papasan Flower Chair



The Stunt Ottoman


 And I already had a slab of second-hand foam sitting on my back patio. It wasn't in great shape, but the condition didn't matter, it would be covered in new fabric soon.

I cut the slab into three long strips. They were each about 17 inches wide.

No foam scraps remained.

It is usually cheaper to buy fabric online, but I couldn't resist browsing at a fabric store. Shazam! I found a thin green vinyl which matched the color of the bus benches perfectly! It was 54" wide and $9 a yard.

My first pattern was cut completely from vinyl, but I ran a little short on vinyl and gave two cushions an underside made from an old cotton tablecloth.

Here's the first cover, all sewn up!

And here it is right-side out. I have the exact same smile in both of these pictures. I wrestled a slab of foam into the cover.

I added some ties to the back, so that I could secure the cushions to the bus benches. They looked great! They were thick for seat cushions, but thin for a mattress... somewhere between prison cell and ikea couch.

It was easy to sew the covers, and I was really happy with how soft and comfortable they were!

The next morning I brought them out into the world and fastened them to some benches near my house.

I was thrilled with the color match! They looked like they had always been part of the bench.

The ties wouldn't prevent someone from stealing the cushion if they really wanted it.

I am fine with a homeless person, who doesn't already have bed roll, taking the cushion to use under the freeway, or wherever they find a place to lay down at night.

I hate the idea of people sleeping on concrete or wet grass in the winter. I also hate the idea of people sleeping out, totally exposed without any physical protection from the elements or crimes.

It took less than an hour to install all three and to take some photos. This was a really fun, easy project!

A cushioned bench is much better to sleep on. It is a little narrow, but I could definitely fall asleep on a cushioned bench.

I have been driving by the cushions obsessively since I installed them! They are holding up well, despite wet weather. I haven't seen anyone sleeping on one, but I have seen people sitting on them!