More Transit Agencies Allow Open Strollers on Buses

Photo:  DCcirculator.com
Photo: DCcirculator.com

Babies and moms are welcome on buses in Washington, D.C. — but strollers still must be folded up.

You do the math: breaking down a stroller takes two hands, and that leaves none to hold the baby. That’s why Olga Cano, a 38-year-old mother, has been circulating a petition, signed by 18,000, that would allow D.C. parents to bring their strollers aboard Metrobuses. The need for change is obvious: WAMU followed Cano on a recent commute as she struggled with her two daughters, ages 3 and nine-months.

In the video, the trio boards the local bus, with the kids piled into a double stroller. The driver lowers the ramp, but then the driver instructs Cano to break down the stroller.

“Because I have two kids I can’t, you know, manage,” she tells the driver, as she leaves the bus for a 15-minute hike to the Metro station.

Last year, a mom told the Washington Post about standing on the curb crying, after a Metro bus refused to let her board with her 3-month-old son.

Stories like that, and Cano’s petition drive, have forced D.C. Metro officials to say they’re rethinking the policy, WAMU reported. The agency allows them already aboard its circulator routes, which run limited service in the city center.

More and more transit agencies are reconsidering bans on open strollers these days. Seattle’s King County Metro changed its policy in 2015 to allow children in open strollers in the securement area, provided there isn’t a person with disabilities using it. Chicago’s CTA began allowing open strollers in 2003 in the area reserved for passengers with disabilities, if the space is available.

The transition hasn’t been without its hiccups, however. People complain about having to give up their seats in Chicago, especially at rush hour. And parents complain about being asked to fold their strollers at rush hour.

But making transit more family friendly is good policy, says Ben Fried, a former Streetsblog editor who is now with TransitCenter.

“We recommend that agencies allow strollers on buses without folding and that they designate open stroller areas on buses that don’t subtract from space for seniors and people with disabilities,” he said. “If buses are so crowded that an open stroller area feels like an impossibly tight squeeze, you need to run more buses.”

Some other countries do a much better job accommodating parents with young children. Sightline’s Alyse Nelson pointed out years ago that in Copenhagen parents use ultra-wide strollers that don’t even fold and everyone’s welcome aboard the bus, for example. According to a report by TransitCenter, in Canada and Germany, for example, families tend to ride transit about the same or even more than before they had kids. (This is also the case in Minneapolis, TransitCenter says.) But in the U.S., having children is often accompanied by an increase in driving.

Policies that treat parents with children, primarily moms with babies, like they don’t belong on buses and are an inconvenience to other riders can help lock in driving for generations, since transit riding seems to be a learned behavior, TransitCenter says.

To help win over families and convert kids into lifetime transit riders, TransitCenter recommends [PDF] including accessible stations with alternatives to stairs and a fare system that doesn’t make boarding a bus with children more expensive than driving.

11 thoughts on More Transit Agencies Allow Open Strollers on Buses

  1. OMG this has got to be one of the most ridiculous articles to come out of this site ever.

    Folding your freakin’ stroller is out of courtesy and safety to ALL riders to minimize obstruction of aisles. The same reason why scooters are folded.

    Newsflash, Angie. Transit systems aren’t going to run more buses to accommodate strollers blocking the aisles.

  2. Re: Ben Fried’s comment:

    Fine in theory; difficult in practice. As a retired bus service planner, I often couldn’t
    add service because of (choose one or all) no buses, no operating funds, no bus operators.

    And on many routes, crowding is somewhat unpredictable.

    While I appreciate the need to accommodate strollers and also the difficulty of the parent in folding them when dealing with their young children, there is simply no easy, affordable answer to this issue.

  3. Is there no one on the bus who could fold the stroller while the mom holds the child or children?

  4. I didn’t realize that some transit agencies don’t allow occupied strollers on their buses. Just about every bus I get on in the San Francisco East Bay Area has one or more strollers, shopping carts and/or wheelchairs. I thought that’s what the flip-up seats were for.

  5. If a transit agency is going to make this allowance, it needs to be coupled with all-door boarding so those boarding after people with strollers/carts/walkers aren’t unnecessarily impeded from getting to seating in the back.

  6. How can this possibly be controversial? It’s clear a lot of you don’t have kids. Let the strollers on, and sure, if its possible to fold them, do so, but the reality is that it’s not easy or sometimes even possible with a sleeping or very small child.

    Transit needs to be better.

  7. Do you people realize how hard it is to get around with kids? Uber will not allow them without a car seat, busses giving people with strollers crap? And you wonder why people feel forced to drive. This is NOT how transit is supposed to work. MAKE IT WORK OR WE ALL SUFFER

  8. I totally agree with this policy – and open strollers are fine on my local agency.

    But some people lack common sense to go with it. Our buses have an elevated section in the rear. One day I was sitting in the front half of the bus and I saw an unattended stroller. It was rolling all over the place and everyone sitting in the front had to deal with the stroller. Dad and daughter were sitting on the elevated section – no where near the stroller. And everyone else had to deal with it for the whole ride.

    I ended up moving seats as I was tired of having to dodge the stroller…. and I was on the bus for at least 15 minutes. Eventually the dad came down the stairs and retrieved the stroller. It was so frustrating.

  9. Indeed, in the SF Bay Area. there often are 1 or more strollers, walkers, carts, and wheelchairs–as it should be. However, many riders seem oblivious of others as they park the stroller or walker blocking the aisle. This is exacerbated by the giant wheel wells of the newer low floor buses which take up too much floor space at the front. Secondly, both strollers and wheelchairs have evolved ‘SUV’ oversized models which in some cases are too large to easily maneuver into the designated areas.

  10. Transit should be for all users. Yes, strollers can take up space. And yes, a few stroller users are oblivious to common sense maneuvers like engaging wheel locks (note: open strollers are to accommodate small children who are using them—not to be unoccupied!). Common sense should prevail. But allowing parents to ditch the car in favor of public transit is a *win*, not a hardship. Stop being judgemental and start helping that mom who’s struggling with an infant, a toddler and her groceries. Offer up your seat to grandma who’s babysitting. Show some compassion and empathy.

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