Stroller Ban on Buses and Possibly Trains?

It appears that the Metropolitan Boston Transit Authority is considering banning open strollers on buses, and is even considering future expansion of this ban to subway trains.

This is problematic for any parent who uses public transportation, and especially so for parents and other caregivers who rely on public transportation to get around. According to this Herald article, MBTA general manager Richard Davey says that “The number-one complaint that I have received since I have been here is strollers.” People hate strollers on buses and subways. To some extent, we’re sympathetic. People sometimes take very large strollers on crowded subways (or even on buses) and that does produce problems for everyone. Even compact umbrella strollers can be a nuisance, but then so can luggage, backpacks, and, frankly, people. If fewer people were clogging up the buses and subway cars, I could stretch out a little.

But it is unrealistic to expect parents to always fold strollers, particularly on the subway. On a crowded bus, I can understand a driver asking a passenger to fold a stroller in order to accommodate more passengers getting on (which drivers currently do). Some other cities do have this requirement. But it can be extremely difficult for parents, especially those of us with multiple children, to juggle an infant or toddler, a backpack or bag, and an older child along with a folded stroller. It would certainly be disruptive to other passengers (toddlers who are strapped in are much easier to deal with), require much more time for boarding and exiting, and be potentially dangerous if seats were not available (although I have found that passengers will almost always offer me a seat if I have children with me).

The fact of the matter is that what is really inconvenient and annoying is having children on trains and buses at all. They are noisy, come with too much gear, pick their noses openly, and smell bad. It would be easier and more pleasant for many if children were simply banned from public transportation. Or better yet, from public. But sorry folks, I’m a parent and I have a need to ride on trains and buses with my kids, so I’m going to keep bringing them with me. And it’s better for all of us for me not to buy an SUV. Many thanks to the vast majority of you who smile at my kids when they are cute and tolerate them when they are not. If you want to be a voice in support of having family-friendly transit, let the MBTA general manager know that even if a stroller ban may be popular, it’s not OK to throw parents under the bus. You can leave a comment for the MBTA at this link or tweet the general manager at @mbtagm.

Update: The MBTA has a one-question survey up about this, simply asking if parents should be required to fold strollers before boarding a bus. I wish they were doing something a bit more nuanced than a yes/no popularity contest, but I left some of my thoughts in the comments.

(Photo credit)

About Angela

Angela is an associate professor of mathematics and enjoys writing, reading, and talking to people about her bike. She's the proud mother of two cute kids, H and R.
This entry was posted in Cambridge and Boston area, Child-related issues, Public transportation. Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to Stroller Ban on Buses and Possibly Trains?

  1. Cindy says:

    I just submitted a comment. Thanks for alerting me to this ridiculous situation!

  2. Leigh says:

    I live in Chicago now and they can ask you to fold the stroller on the bus. It only happens to me on the tourist routes when they are getting busy, but it is still annoying, particularly if you did not know about it and have a full stroller.
    They also ban them across the system for the fourth of July, but give you lots of notice, which I think is totally fair.

  3. Susan says:

    Thanks for the alert. I just left a “grandma with two grandkids and no car” tirade for the MBTA.

  4. Patrick M says:

    Thanks for posting this. I grew up in Braintree riding the red line and just sent in my comments in support of adopting a “preferred stroller” size and functionality for use on MBTA vehicles. There’s got to be a better way to handle this than a ban.

  5. Erik G. says:

    If a kid can’t walk yet, or even when they can, cannot reliably stand safely on a train or bus (remember, it’s “crowded”), can anyone explain to me why strollers are not protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act?

  6. AGH! here in nyc, everyone leaves strollers open on the trains, but there are these posters about how you shouldn’t, because of Safety! and even seeing the posters, even before i had a kid, makes/made me Super Stabby.

    the posters show one alert, not-too-little baby being held by one parent while the other parent — bc you’re always together, right? — holds the stroller. they have no stuff, and there are no other people.

    in real life, no one has said boo to me, even on crowded trains, but there’s not much of a culture of obeying transit rules here.

  7. J says:

    “But sorry folks, I’m a parent and I have a need to ride on trains and buses with my kids”

    Sorry folks? Having kids was a CHOICE. If you’re in a wheelchair, then yes, we’ll accommodate you, because you absolutely did not chose that.

    Want to have kids in the city and not own a car? Fantastic. Take a cab. Plenty of space for all your needs.

    If you can’t afford a cab, then why on earth do you have a kid?

  8. Angela says:

    Lots of great comments, thanks, and note that the MBTA has a poll now ( re strollers on buses only.

    @Patrick I like your idea about suggested stroller sizes for transit. I think lots of parents and especially parents-to-be would find it quite useful.

    And thanks to @J for the proof-of-concept comment that this stroller hullabaloo is anti-parent and anti-family.

  9. Lo says:

    In our city, we do have to fold up strollers on buses, and the drivers are pretty strict about it (even on an empty bus!)….it *seriously* discourages/hampers bus travel for me, as you might imagine. Good luck with the MBTA.

  10. J says:

    Not anti-parent, anti-entitled parent.

    Having a kid does not grant you a free path in life. Ironically, the MBTA does grant your kid free rides.

    Pets are banned during rush hours, even though a small dog takes up less space than a kid. Many consider their pet family. I guess the MBTA has been anti-family all along?

    • df says:

      Anti-child comments like these are ridiculous. You must be one of those amazing humans that sprouted fully grown – lucky you. Have you considered moving to another planet?

      Addressing only the rest of the sensible folks here now: I can understand frustration with big strollers and parents/caregivers who don’t try to fit in more reasonably to public transit, but an outright ban seems ridiculous in the extreme. Good luck with your battle in Boston.

  11. Rockie says:

    J, as a taypaying Boston resident in a 1-car family I’m “entitled” for expecting to be able to ride the bus? That’s just silly. Honestly, could our society get any more child-unfriendly? Kids are people, not pets, dude.

    Since I moved to Boston I’ve been wondering why the buses are designed so poorly.Before I had kids, the biggest issue was rolling suitcases. Why are the buses so narrow you can only stand with your suitcase in the front or the back by the rear doors? Now that I have 2 kids (and only 2 hands, yes), I have been wondering who designed buses where strollers can’t fit down the aisle? If it’s off-peak and there’s enough space or the physically fit folks taking up the fold-up seat area in the front of the bus kindly move aside, you can fold up those seats & stash the stroller, which is what I try to do so people can get past me to the rows of seats where I can’t fit due to 2 kids & a (small as they come) stroller.

    I think folks have to be a bit more tolerant. We live in a city. All the parents I know do their best to stay out of everyone’s way in public but sometimes it’s just not possible, like when you’re on a bus that was not designed for you.

  12. I just discovered your great blog after blogging today about this possible MBTA ban. I agree with you wholeheartedly that this ban is a bad idea which will only serve to discourage mass transit. Let’s encourage investment in more buses and trains if over-crowding is an issue, instead of banning open strollers. – Kerry McDonald

  13. Jesse Edsell-Vetter says:

    I am quite concerned about the disproportionate impact this stroller ban will have on the parts of the region that do not have train access. These are largely low-income, communities of color.

    As for J – you are trolling for a fight and I feel for your kids should you ever have them.

  14. J says:

    Rockie, I agree, the buses are badly designed. The old buses, with 2-1 seating were better for everyone.

    The thing is, kids are optional, and strollers are optional. Having lived in various countries, strollers are only popular in the US, UK and in theme parks around the world. Go ahead and find a stroller on a bus or subway in Mexico. You wont.

    And yet, all those kids make it through life.

    A stroller is a convenience which inconveniences everyone else.

    Jesse, I dont think it’s the low income families that purchase the enormous strollers that people hate.

    The thing about kids, is that they’re a choice. I dont plan on having kids, they’re enormously expensive and lower one’s quality of life. I rather take the cash I save and give it to charity.

  15. V says:

    @j I don’t think you know strollers. Some of the cheaper strollers are actually huge. Particularly for infants. High end strollers are streamlined actually. The rich own multiple strollers, ie use the smallest for forays into city land. So…. Yeah why are you here other than to be annoying?

    I’ve always folded the strollers to get onto the green line and it kept me from using pub transportation a lot. Although it’s true NYC no one unfolds, I didn’t either it was just how it was done. It’s true I used to munch on lunch beneath a no eating sign too But I found NYC people were always kind and overly helpful to help one up and down the stairs with the stroller and baby all in. Taking the subway was never a deterrent.

    There needs to be more trains. They get overly crowded so fast that the idea of taking the kids home on one after 4 is impossible. I watched 3-4 trains go by one time before I guts it and jammed the three of us one. My 4 yr old was freaked out and my 2 year old was in a carrier against my chest for safety, it sucked.

  16. Reina says:

    Thanks for posting this. sometime you have to take something to it’s extreme for people to see how ridiculous it is. Strollers can be pain, but like you said, so can the individual riders themselves. Some of us depend on public transpo, I will be sure to vote my thoughts on this. Thanks again Angela!

  17. Elisabeth says:

    J-Strollers are used on public transit in Scandinavia.

  18. dr2chase says:

    @J – I agree that you don’t know much about strollers. I’m not sure why we made this particular decision, but our second stroller (after wearing out the first one) was a Combi Savvy, and it was Not Cheap, and it was wonderful. It was also tough as nails, and would fold up fast, small enough to fit into an airline overhead. Poor people don’t buy this stroller.

    In addition, babies are NOT optional (*). Someone has to have them, and I’d rather have them transported in public transit, than in minivans or taxicabs. Because, you know, I ride a bike much more often than I take mass transit, and the “choice” to transport children in great armored chariots, inconveniences me. And it IS all about me, isn’t it?

    (*) there’s a big difference between “zero population growth” and “zero population”.

  19. Fat Chick says:

    I get pretty miffed about policy suggestions like this, too. I’ve been asked (once got into a bit of an altercation) to fold the stroller, and I flatly refuse. Mostly it’s because I have a loaner stroller that doesn’t really fold anymore, but also because I believe, with the way drivers drive, it would be dangerous for me to hold my baby while the bus barrels through traffic like a bat out of hell.

    Having said that, these kinds of decisions worry me in a social justice kind of way. I think that this kind of policy would affect low income families more than those SUV drivers who take pub trans because it’s convenient to get downtown, and every time someone has gotten nasty with me, it has become a small class war on the bus. (I’m not exxagerating here.)

  20. Erin says:

    I don’t know if the controversy is over – last I heard, the MBTA had decided against the stroller ban. So my comment may be irrelevant.
    The fact of the matter is, it is very inconvenient for everyone boarding and getting off the train when an oversized, SUV-of-the-stroller-world stroller is clogging the whole entranceway. For example, I once got on a green line train at rush hour and momentarily leaned my hand on a stroller because I couldn’t get past the first step of the subway car (stroller in the way) and wanted to steady myself. I was very careful not to pull or push the stroller (because I would never, ever endanger a child), and had my hand off in only a few seconds, but that was long enough for the mother to start yelling and swearing violently about how I was trying to pull her baby off the train.
    This is the sort of thing that turns people against strollers in the subway. And I do think it makes it less safe for the child to be in a wheeled vehicle that everyone has to jostle past.
    I lived for several years in Minneapolis where they require strollers to be folded. Yes, people sometimes didn’t fold them when the bus wasn’t crowded. When it was, here was the solution: there was ample priority seating in the front of the bus where people would GIVE UP their seats for parents, who would hold their baby and folded stroller, or have their child sit in the seat while they held the stroller. It worked so much better for everyone. So I definitely support a rule requiring strollers to be folded, at least during rush hours.

    • Dorea says:

      Thanks Erin. I’ve got an extensive post in the queue about how parents can be more courteous with our strollers. I’m with you that the giant ones should be avoided, but still think an absolute requirement for all strollers to be folded goes too far (and you’re right, the MBTA has tabled the proposal for now).

  21. Pingback: CFWK “rules” for strollers on transit — Carfree with Kids

  22. Melody Estes says:

    Why are the buses so narrow you can only stand with your suitcase in the front or the back by the rear doors? the posters show one alert, not-too-little baby being held by one parent while the other parent — bc you’re always together, right? Addressing only the rest of the sensible folks here now: I can understand frustration with big strollers and parents/caregivers who don’t try to fit in more reasonably to public transit, but an outright ban seems ridiculous in the extreme. In addition, babies are NOT optional (*).

  23. E says:

    Also, just one problem with taking a can instead… car seats. Because those can be lifted by one person holding a baby and lugged around everywhere. It is true we could opt not to have children, but then who would pay for your social security when you’ve retired, J?

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