The Annual 2012

School of Visual Arts
Newsmakers

Cushioning the Ride

Kathleen Fitzgerald and Lizzy Showman

For their answer to the provocative question posed by the name of faculty member Stefan Sagmeister’s class Can Design Touch Someone’s Heart? MFA Design students Kathleen Fitzgerald and Lizzy Showman came up with the I Heart M15 project. The object of their affection was the M15 bus, the Manhattan transportation line that forms part of their daily commute; the duo’s products—a customized seat cushion and blog—were gifts for the M15’s hardworking drivers.

Writing about the project in the New York Post, reporter Kate Briquelet said:

Two Manhattan women are so enamored with the M15, they’ve created the first known social network dedicated to a New York City bus. Kathleen Fitzgerald and Lizzy Showman launched iheartm15.com to give fellow riders a place to give props to their favorite drivers. ‘The bus, especially the M15, isn’t for tourists,’ said Showman, 26, who lives in Turtle Bay. ‘It’s a little New York community that’s here all the time.’

The transit fans came up with the idea last fall, when they took the class Can Design Touch Someone’s Heart? at the School of Visual Arts. One day in November, they hopped on buses at 52nd Street and Second Avenue and surprised 50 drivers with squishy, custom-made cushions to soften their bumpy rides.

Showman and Fitzgerald say the M15 is so special not only because of its faithful wheelmen, but also the sheer number of riders—which are slowly but surely becoming familiar faces. Fitzgerald, 25, of the Lower East Side, had her ‘Eureka!’ moment one day while taking the bus instead of the subway. ‘When I first moved here, I’d take the F train and be cramped underground,’ she said. ‘Then I discovered the M15. I could see the sunshine and the liveliness in the streets and just zone out.’

The M15 runs eight miles from East Harlem to South Ferry and carries 17.5 million riders a year. Even as buses citywide lost 5.1 percent of their weekly ridership last year, the M15’s load surged 7.7 percent—making it the most traveled route in the city.

This Bus Drives Us Wild