A bus is just a large vehicle sitting in a barn until a driver takes it out on on a daily route to your stop. Once on board, it is transformed into a gateway to the rest of your day.
The business of transportation is dependent on a large labor force to operate the systems that get us to work, to school and to places beyond. The men and women that transport New Yorkers in particular also have the unfortunate burden of navigating through constant congestion and waves of public scrutiny. To acknowledge the important service that these overlooked drivers of the M15 bus route provide, Lizzy Showman and Kathleen Fiztgerald recently launched ‘I <3 M15 Bus Drivers‘, a social network for the bus community in NYC.
The M15 bus route is one of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Select-Bus Service route in Manhattan. The bus provides service from East Harlem to the South Ferry Terminal in Lower Manhattan with stops along First and Second Avenue and is the second busiest bus route in the U.S., serving 16.5 million riders a year. Fitzgerald and Showman, MFA students at the School of Visual Arts came up with the concept for I <3 M15 as part of an assignment in their course, “Can Design Touch Someone’s Heart?”.
As for whether or not the design touched someone’s heart, I’m not entirely sure. The ‘ I <3 M15 Bus Drivers’ team had a sample cushion for display at Short Talks, Big Ideas: Transportation at the Tech Frontier, a panel discussion hosted by the NYU Rudin Center for Transportation, Policy & Management on April 9th. The bright blue and while color scheme was uplifting against the black background and it was lightweight for easy carrying. The color choices may even be inspired by the ones used to identify Select Bus Service routes, but that is unclear/unconfirmed. No one likes a poorly-designed [insert anything here] – so it’s safe to assume that efforts in custom designing the cushions had an added effect to an already charitable gesture.
Currently, initiatives are in the works to move the idea beyond a simple one-time gift campaign by taking the next steps to enhance the “social community” aspect of the campaign. The site has a Twitter-esque “Feed” where M15 fans and drivers can continue to share their appreciation for drivers, post photos of interest or share an experience on the route.
This idea has promise, considering such initiatives are slowly getting attention from transit agencies, with DDOT in Washington D.C. being a good example. As highlighted in a earlier post about the use of social media within transportation agencies, DDOT has made strides by using Twitter to both communicate and receive feedback from riders. It will be interesting to see how the ‘I <3 M15′ social network may evolve into over time, who ends up participating and (ultimately) what a social network for buses could contribute to improving bus operations.
Until then, Happy Busing!