Here’s The Thing About Strollers on Buses

By , January 23, 2013 4:48 am

“There are too many strollers on buses.” “These mothers today and their SUV strollers.” “That kid shouldn’t even be in a stroller.” There’s been a lot of that kind of sentiment going around since a citizen issued a complaint at a Toronto Transit Commission meeting on Monday about strollers obstructing the aisle on TTC buses. Transit staff will look into the issue and report on whether there is, indeed, a need for guidelines. (Note that TTC CEO Andy Byford says they have no plans to start charging an extra fare for strollers.)

Here’s the thing.

Sure, it’s a pain to fit a stroller on a bus. The newer (I guess they’re not even that new anymore, are they? I’m showing my age again!) wheelchair accessible buses that ride closer to the ground make it much easier to get a stroller onto a bus than ever before. Once you are on the bus, however, seats need to fit around the protruding wheel humps. (I’m quite sure that’s the official word for them: wheel humps.) This causes a bit of a bottleneck about one third into the vehicle that’s annoying during rush hour even without any strollers. Throw a couple Gracos into the mix and your transit commute becomes a live action Tetris game. I get that. Do you know who else gets that? The parents or caregivers who are trying to take up as little space as possible while placating a baby or toddler on a crowded bus ride and apologizing to every person squeezing past, that’s who.

That brings me to my next point. Nobody brings a stroller on the TTC during rush hour unless they have to. I live in the city and have three children under seven years old. We didn’t own a car at all until the second baby was born. I know what I’m talking about. For the most part, parents do try to coordinate their travel to avoid rush hour. We’re not all masochists! But sometimes you have no choice. Child care is hard to come by in this city and some people do need to lug their kids to and from daycare on buses and streetcars. Is that not punishment enough? Or you could bring a five year old and two year old downtown for a rally supporting pay equity for midwives when you are heavily pregnant with a third baby and accidentally find yourself boarding the subway with a giant belly and a sit-and-stand stroller in the heart of rush hour and have to contend with scowls and sideways glances because how dare you impinge on that guys right to a child-free commute!? Ahem, you know, for example.

If there’s a stroller on a bus during rush hour, basically, it’s because it has to be there. More commonly, you will get a stroller traffic jam mid-morning or mid-afternoon. That can also be a hassle for anyone else trying to squeeze by, but it usually works itself out. In those cases, there is plenty of room on the bus if you don’t mind moving back a bit.

And I’d just like to point out that the so-called SUV strollers people like to complain about tend to be economy models. It’s actually quite expensive to buy a nice, sleek, light-weight and transit-friendly stroller. Contrary to popular belief, the SUV models are not a sign of exorbitant indulgence. They’re simply the only affordable options for many people until their kid is big enough for a $15 umbrella stroller (but that’s another story).

But why do these kids need to be in strollers anyway, you ask. Babies, for one, can’t walk and while some sort of baby carrier is always an option it’s not always the best choice for everyone. (If I was going to be out all day, I would want both a stroller and a carrier, for example.) The thing that most people seem to be completely unaware of is that while toddlers can walk, they really do need to be strapped down for their own safety. Children under 3 or even 4 years old have the impulse control of Rob Ford at a football game and I would never feel safe taking the TTC unless they were harnessed into a stroller, especially if I have more than one child with me.

Just remember that it’s public transportation, people. That means you’ll occasionally have to squeeze past a stroller or two and I’ll have to bite my tongue when I miss my connection because there’s an old lady taking her sweet time on the stairs. I’ll try not to begrudge the perfectly able-bodied person who took my stroller’s spot on the elevator and we will all pretend we can’t smell that guy over there.

Can we all just agree to leave young families alone and instead focus on that pervert masturbating over there? Because that still happens.



“Here’s The Thing About Strollers on Buses”

  1. Amen. I’m beyond the stroller stage (and out here in the cornfield, the TTC stage, for that matter), but both the stroller and the TTC were a necessity for getting around with my kids. I would have loved to have stayed off the busses, but as there were no elevators in the subway stations on almost the entirety of my line, I was forced to take busses and streetcars to get where I was going. This is not a stroller issue or a parenting issue; this is a TTC issue. Oh, and by the way, we had the smallest double on the market at the time, and we paid heftily for it. But never mind me – it’s nice to see that others are so bloody quick to discriminate against the people that this would affect the most – single, low-income mothers, a marginalized group whose needs are already largely ignored by the Toronto populace in general.

    • Andrea says:

      I agree. I’d hazard a guess for the most part, the parents on the TTC with strollers aren’t usually doing it because it’s the “better way” — it’s the “only way” to get where they need to be. (When I lived in the city with a baby and no car, the subway near me had an elevator–but it was never working…)

  2. The unfortunate thing when this issues came up in Ottawa is that it wasn’t entitled able-bodied child free adults that were complaining about the strollers. The complaints were from people with disabilities and seniors who felt that the strollers were creating an accessibility barrier, making it impossible for them to get on or move through the bus. It was really unfortunate because the people who need to be working together to create a more accessible transit system were battling it out against each other.

    I think a big part of the solution to this problem needs to be better design of buses, street cars, subways and trains so that they are more flexible. In Europe, some of the trains/subways we used only had seats that you pull down to sit on. So during rush hour, people could be packed in. There was no issue fitting strollers and wheelchairs because it was a big open space. But the seats were there to be pulled down from the side walls for those who needed them.

    In addition to better design, I think there needs to be a lot more empathy, patience and cooperation among users of public transit. That same old “why can’t we just get along?” that applies to almost every other issues where people butt heads.

    • P.S. Not really relevant to the real point I wanted to make, but when I think of SUV strollers, I am thinking of the expensive ones. I’m thinking of the double chariots that so many parents in Ottawa buy so that they can use the same $725 device to transport their two children on their commute, on their run, on their bike ride, and on their showshoeing or cross country skiing in the winter. They are very convenient for their versatility, but don’t fit that well on a bus.

      • Andrea says:

        I agree they don’t, but very often, the ones that do fit have wheels that are no good in the snow (in which a parent might have to push the stroller to get to the bus stop!)

      • rebecca says:

        I don’t think that is what most people in Toronto have in mind, Annie. I think they mostly mean the big, bulky Gracos and other “travel systems” sold at most department stores. I have never seen anyone try to squeeze a chariot on a Toronto bus.

  3. karyn says:

    “Children under 3 or even 4 years old have the impulse control of Rob Ford at a football game” <— Best. Line. Ever. Thank you for a concise and well-written post. I have been extremely fortunate to not have needed to travel the TTC with my young kids but I still remember the dirty looks I received as a teenager trying to take up as little room as possible while carrying a backpack, violin, and viola. People need to remember that we're all just doing the best we can.

  4. JJ says:

    Thank you for this!!! Yesterday I was home for the 6th day in a row with sick kids and the stroller issue kept coming up on the radio and on Facebook, and I was losing my mind with no one to talk to about it. I wanted to lay it all out for my childless friends, but I knew I’d end up turning into The Hulk.
    One point that my husband made was that when we were kids (I keep hearing that “our parents got by just fine without huge strollers”) most families with children had cars. My family had precious little money when I was growing up, but we always had a (sh*tbox) car. Don’t get me wrong, we used transit all the time, but we also had a car.

  5. Matt says:

    I think the main issue here is that some narrow minded individuals are ranting because the TTC ride is a little uncomfortable. I, for one, am glad that the most cold susceptible people (babies and pregnant mothers) are out of the cold and on the bus. These able bodied complainers should just wait for the next bus.

  6. Ellie says:

    I took the TTC to work every day with my son for a year and a half during rush hour.

    You know what? People were extremely accommodating. And helpful. Don’t let a few grousers spoil the experience. I am glad the TTC rep basically said that and that they’re not going to charge extra.

  7. e says:

    “I’ll try not to begrudge the perfectly able-bodied person who took my stroller’s spot on the elevator”

    Not everyone’s disability is visible. I have chronic pain issues that sometimes require me to use an elevator but not a cane or other mobility device, and I’m sick to death of people with strollers glaring at me because they think I’m just being lazy. Sometimes I’ve even brought a cane with me, even though I don’t need it, just to cut down on the side-eye. I understand that many people who do squeeze out strollers are just being jerks, but having a stroller is not the same thing as having a disability, and not all disabilities or impairments are seen by the naked eye.

    • rebecca says:

      Point very well taken. In fact, someone could just be ill and have barely enough energy to get home, let alone deal with the stairs.

  8. Frank BC says:

    It’s unfortunate that this has devolved into a stridently two-sided issue, and Rebecca is as much to blame for this as are people who complain about strollers. Statements such as accusing complainers for wanting a “child-free commute” and Matt’s “narrow minded individuals” are really disingenuous and do nothing to further dialogue.

    In a city where space is tight, people will push and push back. Parents with strollers need to be accommodated on public transit. And people without children taking transit need to be made aware that theirs is a shared space.

    At the same time, I am struck by the tone of niggling entitlement often attendant upon those with children (with or without strollers), that everyone else needs to be aware that their children are Special. What I often see is not that people with strollers and the like are struggling when on transit (and they shouldn’t have to struggle, if they are — as I have said, they need to be accommodated) but that it is somehow so transparent that the child is the Centre Of My World And Should Be The Centre Of Yours Too. I think that it is this sensed attitude that lead people to turn their backs, so to speak, on accommodation.

    Regardless, it’s a shared space. Don’t expect people to automatically understand that it’s tough having three kids. Your choices are not my concern. Yet at the same time, I will do my best to accommodate your immediate needs.

  9. Sarah says:

    Forget strollers, can we do something about the people who stand right at the very front of the bus, blocking the aisle and the door, or those who stand beside the backdoor making it impossible to get off the bus? They should be charged more for taking up extra space. It’s those people, not strollers, who drive me crazy during my rush hour commute.

  10. Lorena says:

    I live in Toronto for years and avoided rush hour like the plague, I would get out extra early if I had to compensate. And since everyone seems to think that carriers are the solution…Can you tell people to please not bump into my baby….cause yes that has happened ALOT…during rush hour I tried not to use my stroller, but I wear a carrier and literally act like smeagle hovering over my “precious” child so that some idiot wouldn’t bump into her, cause of course NO ONE would actually let me sit in their precious seat! then again they never got up while i was pregnant….! I eventually gave up and preferred to go with my stroller, at least that way I felt my child was less likely to get hurt.

  11. lee says:

    sorry james people are too busy with their own lives to cater to the mommy brigade-get a small car as buses are first come first serve

  12. Ted Bundy says:

    They should run special buses just for adults.
    Problem solved!!!

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