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Family-friendly transit

Family-friendly transit

A dad taking his daughter in a stroller on a bus

Before I became a parent, I didn’t think about the logistics of moving myself and my child around. When my little one was little, it was easy: Put the little squirt into some sort of carrying device that makes them hug your stomach, then throw everything else you want to bring with you into a backpack. If you have a car, plunk them in a car seat, and you’re good to go. But using transit with a child isn’t as simple, especially if you use a stroller (which you’ll want to do, especially as your child gets bigger).

Like the first time I put my bike on the bus, I was a little nervous about taking my child and my bulky stroller on transit. If the bus is not full it’s usually a pretty easy experience. Bus operators lower the bus ramp if it’s safe to do so and ask passengers to make room at the front for you and your stroller. Since 1996, TransLink has made an concerted effort to only buy solely low-floor buses (except for highway coaches) that are accessible to people using wheelchairs, scooters, walkers and strollers. If the bus is full, that’s another matter.

Despite operators and most customers usually making it easy to ride on transit with a stroller, there are challenges. This Seattle area blogger wrote an interesting piece on the challenges she’s faced on transit on different Northwest transit systems and in Denmark. She makes reference to TransLink’s rules around strollers (see below) and how the roomier MKII SkyTrain series have ample room for devices with wheels. Canada Line is  roomier than the MKI and MKII’s, so getting your stroller on these trains is usually the easiest.

Strollers may use this area [accessible areas]; however, when demand dictates, the stroller must give way to people with mobility devices, including walkers. In this case, children in strollers should be removed and the strollers collapsed if possible.

*It’s important to note that if a bus operator deems your stroller or scooter a safety concern due to size and inability to collapse (the concern is if devices will block the aisle), they have the right to ask you not to bring your stroller or scooter on the bus.  The maximum ‘footprint’ of a stroller is usually 2 feet by 4 feet.*

Even though there is room available for strollers at the front of the bus, if the bus is full or there are already strollers taking that space, you’ll have to wait for another bus to take you. I find that the smaller the stroller, the easier time you’ll have on transit. If I know I’m going to use the bus and my stroller, I’ll often take my umbrella stroller since it folds up easily, and I can carry it with one hand. The larger (usually three-wheels) strollers take up a lot of room, and during peek hours, it’s more difficult to find a bus to accommodate you. Also, if you have a stroller, be prepared to not find a seat for yourself. In the newer Nova buses, there are usually three seats on either side at the front of the bus that can be flipped up. In the older New Flyer buses, sometime only one side of the bus has seats you can flip up. A stroller will typically take the space of two of the seats leaving one or non left over. Even if this third seat is available, I usually leave it for someone who needs it more than me. Remember that It’s not necessary to use the wheelchair restraints, but the parent, or person in charge should hold the stroller in place and use the stroller brakes. Finally, there’s the fact that people with mobility devices like walkers usually have priority over strollers. So while you might find room for you and your little one for part of the trip, you’ll need to be prepared to fold up your stroller and pick up your child and move to the back of the bus. You can then store the stroller between the seats, or in the wheel-well. In these cases, I suggest bringing a backpack and possibly a carrying device for your child if you have one.

There’s a lot to talk about on this subject matter, so I’d love to hear about your experiences with your stroller, your child and your transit system.