Your Wheels, on the Bus

Allowing strollers on transit—a mom’s report.
This post is part of the research project: Making Sustainability Legal
Photo courtesy of Alyse Nelson

Photo courtesy of Alyse Nelson

Editor’s Note: As noted in the comments below, Seattle blogger Lynn Hamilton has started a petition on the topic of strollers.

I recall vividly how embarrassed I felt the first time I waited for the bus with my baby boy—he bundled up in his stroller and me expecting the bus driver to welcome me aboard, lowering the wheelchair lift so we could roll on in style. In the stores and sidewalks of my neighborhood, people smiled as we ran errands. They made way for us—slowing so we could pass on a congested sidewalk or holding doors open while we rolled into a shop. Then the bus arrived. Instead of lowering the lift, the driver told me to fold Orion’s stroller. My cheeks burned red as I hastily unpacked—diaper bag, toys, blanket, and groceries—while holding onto my squirming bundle of joy. Then, with one hand, I attempted to fold the stroller and carry the load aboard, knowing that everyone was watching me, passengers cursing under their breaths and the driver reviewing his timetable.

For most parents, an experience like that would have eliminated any thoughts of ever again taking their wheels on the bus. But I had no real choice.

My husband and I had committed to staying in our apartment overlooking The Ave, the main street running through Seattle’s University District. Some parents trade up to a minivan or SUV, but we had sold our two-door Civic. We gained a child and shed a car.

Alyse Nelson

And, in most ways, I loved our car-free life. We explored our neighborhood together. People stopped to greet Orion on the sidewalk. I could point out interesting buildings or window displays. Outside our grocery store, the man selling the Real Change newspaper would always belt out, “Have a great day, little dude!” We soaked in the diversity of the city: new smells, sounds, and people. When we went somewhere in a car, Orion and I were both miserable. Seated in the backseat in his rear-facing car seat, he would often wail.

flickr, Vagabond Shutterbug

But King County Metro was the sore spot of my car-free life. Agency rules required me to fold Orion’s stroller. Holding all of the stroller’s contents and Orion, I then had to find a seat before the bus lurched forward. The challenge didn’t end once on board. I had to squish into a seat with all of our stuff and attempt to keep Orion from grabbing the stroller’s dirty wheels for the duration of the ride. Once we arrived at our stop, I had to reverse the whole ordeal.

Alyse Nelson

My bus-riding fiascos led to an obsession with strollers: I was known to buy and sell them on Craigslist several times a month. My goal was to find that perfect stroller that I could really fold with one hand. I had a closet full of strollers, some undergoing testing and others, having failed, pending Craigslist pickup. It took seven strollers, but I found one that worked—the Britax Preview(pictured above).

It wasn’t until my young family spent six months in Copenhagen, however, that I thought much about King County Metro’s stroller-folding rules.

Alyse Nelson

Copenhageners cart babies in enormous strollers (pictured above and below), rolling cribs that dwarf our umbrella stroller and do not fold at all.

Alyse Nelson

And guess what? They are welcome aboard Copenhagen’s public transit, unfolded and unemptied.

Alyse Nelson

Caregivers with strollers use priority seating at the front of the bus (as pictured below). While buses only fit two strollers at once, busy routes’ service is so frequent that the wait is never long.

flickr, storebukkebruse

Stroller-friendly policies extend to Copenhagen’s train system. The rapid transit system, Metro, has open areas on each train (below) that hold caregivers with strollers, riders in wheelchairs, and bicyclists.

flickr, sevensixfive

Doors that open to this area feature a bicycle icon on the train platform where riders with wheels congregate. Bold graphicson trains also orient riders.

flickr, glamismac

Car-free parenting in Copenhagen was a breeze: no more frantic stroller folding for me, and Orion loved staying in his stroller. Arriving back in Cascadia, I decided to see how other transit systems compared.

Portland’s TriMet buses are not much further along than Seattle’s King County Metro. Open strollers can be brought on board but then must be immediately folded. The only advantage to this policy is that it’s hard to forget the diaper bag at the bus stop. After deciding to be a one-car family, Portland mom Rachele wanted to take the bus to the grocery store with her son in a stroller. She timed her trip so it wouldn’t interfere with peak commuting hours. But Rachele learned that if she wanted to take the bus, she’d have to empty the stroller and hold her baby during the ride. Requesting tips from TriMet, the agency unhelpfully answered:

Dear Rachele: That is a tough one for you. Trimet’s policy is that you can leave the baby in the stroller while boarding but after boarding must take the baby out of the stroller, fold the stroller and hold the baby. I am not sure what you are going to do with your groceries. You may have to have someone go with you.

Light rail in both Portland and Seattle allow open strollers aboard low-floor cars. Sound Transit’s Central Link light rail, which connects downtown Seattle to SeaTac, opened after I had left for Copenhagen (and, more recently, a small town in Kitsap County). Local dad Brice Maryman, however, reports that Link makes car-lite parenting dreamy. He, his wife Bridgette, and their son Owen walk to the station daily, ride downtown together, and then drop Owen at daycare on their way to their offices. Before Owen, the couple commuted by bus, but Owen’s arrival changed everything. “Light Rail is just so much more kid friendly, and it’s a big reason why we decided to buy our house where we did,” says Brice. “We can leave the stroller open and sit on the seats with him between us.” Just like my son Orion, Owen prefers public transportation to driving. “Owen cries when circumstances dictate that we need to drive,” Brice says. (Pictured below, Owen watches as a tow truck clears the tracks of a vehicle whose driver tried to outrun Link.)

Brice Maryman, photo used with permission

Like Copenhagen, Vancouver’s TransLink allows open strollers in the priority seating area at the front of the bus. If the area is already full or a rider with a mobility impairment boards, caregivers must fold their strollers and move back. TransLink has also committed to improving accessibility by purchasing low-floor buses since 1996. Low-floor buses and trains make it easier for all riders to board, no ramp necessary. A redesign of SkyTrain carsalso increased capacity by a third and provided more space for riders with wheels.

Beyond Cascadia, some places look better for stroller pushers. Like Vancouver and Copenhagen, the Chicago Transit Authority welcomes strollers aboard public transit. The CTA broadcasts its stroller-friendly policies with notice boards on buses and a YouTube video. While I had no clue that King County Metro required folded strollers, the CTA is making sure its policies are publicized. And I would have loved having Vancouver or Chicago’s pro-stroller policy in Seattle.

An open-stroller policy is a crucial first step that can make an immediate difference for moms, dads, and others across the Northwest who care for young children.

flickr, reinvented

After that, opportunities abound. Once strollers are legalized aboard transit, agencies can announce the improvement, like the CTA has done with notices and videos. As buses and trains need replacement, agencies have the chance to purchase low-floor vehicles, which TransLink has made a priority. Improvements to bus and train stops can make it easier for caregivers with strollers. Chicago mom Jessie Williams wanted to take the train more often, but because only every fifth train station had an elevator, she rode the bus. Copenhagen’s bus stops had electronic transit-trackers that were linked to GPS on buses. You didn’t have to own a smart phone to know when the next bus would arrive, and instead of peppering you with the frequent, “When is the bus coming?” your child can watch the bus stop tracker count down the minutes.

flickr, Harald Walker

Allowing strollers on buses may seem trivial. Only 6 percent of northwesterners are under five, the main stroller years. But all families need affordable alternatives to driving, our economy needs weaning from fossil fuels, and our whole society needs to move beyond carbon quick. With more strollers on the bus, fewer cars would clog the roads. Transit ridership would grow as caregivers transport tots to the doctor, play dates, and the grocery store. Parents could bring kids to daycare as they head to the office, building more family time into busy days. Welcoming stroller wheels onto buses and trains has long-lasting benefits—kids will grow up seeing public transit as a normal part of the daily routine.

The alternative is that we’ll raise another generation that sees driving as the norm. If we accommodate the youngest urban dwellers on transit, they will develop the skills to keep using transit as they grow. By age three, Orion could explain the differences between streetcars, light rail, and trains. When we were running errands, he would exclaim with pride, “Bus stop!” Then, he’d plant himself on the seat and ask when the bus would arrive. Now six, Orion is the member of the family responsible for pulling the cord when we near our stop. Bringing my wheels on the bus was often a challenge, but at least I know I’ve helped develop a transit habit in my son.

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  1. savemefromurkids says:

    Wow. Cry me a river. This piece doesn’t resonate at all. The space at the front of the bus is reserved for people with disabilities who need to use wheelchairs. The public does not need to be squished to the side to make special room for your whining privileged parent giant stroller issues. Parents get enough favors – maternity/paternity leave, etc. while the rest of us have to pick up the slack and listen to awful screaming kids on public transit. And please don’t act like your decision to go car-less is impressive on an environmental front – having a kid in this country as world population skyrockets is one of the most unenvironmental and selfish decisions anyone could make. No one should be expected to bend over backward to accommodate your selfishness on public transit. Move to Copenhagen.

    • Rebecca says:

      Good grief, what a mean and disrespectful comment, saveme dude. Maybe you need a kind soul to give you some earplugs…

      This article is most interesting. I always wondered why the rule to fold strollers to get on Seattle buses. It’s counterproductive, and needs to change.

      • Susan says:

        I’ve battled with this same issue, when my oldest kids were young [in Scotland]- made many complaints [and yes, even here it was heard on the bus ,once they finally introduced the low floor versions, “why mothers [caretakers] don’t walk, we used to”],by the time my youngest came along, there were low floor buses on some routes, but with the same problems, of never a guarantee of being able to board a bus [now that he’s older, I’ve decided to use the bike instead of a bus generally -at least I’m in control of where I go and how].
        This article reminded me as well, when struggling with 3 kids on and off buses.The oldest was 5 then going to school, the next 2 and used to fall asleep in the [solid] shopping tray of the [folding] buggy and the youngest at few weeks old was in the buggy [stroller] seat, which was bale to lift out of the stroller frame, so she was able to stay in her seat sleeping on a seat of the bus- but this whole senario used to take several trips in and out of bus, esp when I had shopping as well – it could take 6 or more trips on and off the bus….me remembering of a couple of times, the bus driver starting to drive off, with either a child or some shopping still needing to board the bus.

        The Copenhagen way sounds brilliant, but it’s no wonder, why as many cars are still on our roads.
        There has to become a change over to the Danish model.

    • PG says:

      Wow savemefromurkids! A response that could only be appreciated in Pottersville.

      Personally, I would ditch the mega stroller and go umbrella, plan on carrying less and bring a backpack for groceries.

    • Sarah says:

      You must be so intelligent and such a wondeful addition to society since you resort to disrespecting mothers and putting your own selfish input above logic and information. I await the day people like you stray away from ignorance and think about more than yourself…

    • CHD says:

      Dear Savemefromurkids,

      Agreed, wheelchairs should have priority. You were once a child too, no? Yes, you probably walked uphill both ways in the snow to school six days a weak. However, it appears you have forgotten all of the favors and accommodation you most likely benefited from as a small child too. I find it hard to believe you never cried in public (unless you were never taken outdoors). Are you proposing that we stop reproducing here in North America? Admittedly, it would probably do the world a heap of good, but then who’s gonna be around to subsidize your social security and public transit when you retire? And please ask yourself, who will more likely have a larger ecological footprint over a lifetime: you having grown-up in the era of big-carbon or an child born today with opportunities to (gasp) never have to use a private car in her lifetime because public transit allows equal access for all regardless of age or mobility.

    • Lena says:

      Saveme you’re rhetoric is pathetic. When the next generations are saving you from cancer and cleaning your dirty bed pans I’m sure you’ll remember that you hate the fact that anyone bothered to reproduce. What a heavy burden the children of this world are for you to personally bear with your cold chip laden shoulders.

    • Barry O'Hare says:

      Well, you obviously don’t have any clue what its like to have young children, do you? You think its bad to have to hear screaming kids on public transit? Puh-leeez! Try toting a screaming kid all through town, now that’s rough! Parents don’t like it when their kids scream either, the only difference is that most parents aren’t pissy little children in grown up bodies like yourself. And not all parents with kids do it for the environment, there is also a sizable amount of the population that is poor, and their only option is the bus. Please don’t pull some crap like saying “Well they could just stay home”, because sometimes they can’t. Single parents exist, and can’t leave toddlers home alone, but they must buy groceries. Occasionally parents must take kids out for something fun for the kid who has a basic human right to do stuff out in the world, and yes, ride your precious buses that you’re so damn uppity about keeping silent. Also, if everyone abided by your genius plan of not having kids, the human race would die out. Nice thought Einstein, but if you had used your brain just a tad, you would have come up with an idea that didn’t bite. And I do in fact believe that spoiled hipsters and yuppies (people like you, evidently) should move for a struggling mom or dad on the bus, because even though we are not necessarily elderly or disabled, we are a lot more encumbered than some 20 something traveling alone, who are often times the ones who come up with asstastic opinions like yours. Creating new life is in no way selfish, however what you’ve said here is the most self serving idiocy I’ve had the mispleasure of stumbling upon since the last random ass uneducated hipster comment I saw on an article like this. Why don’t you cry us a river next time you are uncomfortable on the city bus (as if even an entitled tool like you couldn’t have predicted that happening once and again). Thank you for sharing, your thoughts all blow, have a day.

    • brandy solon says:

      i have 2 kids at this time 1 an 2 i think they should be in the stroller on the bus for thees reasons
      1 some places have a stoller seating area but its with the bikes you are treating our kids like lugeg
      2 its like you saying YOU GOT TAKE YOUR KIDS OUT OF THE CAR SEATS SO WE CAN HAVE ROOM FOR PEOPLE THAT CAN SPEEK FOR THEM SELVES since they cant stand up for them self’s they dont get the same rights
      3 when people have more then one kid on the bus one will get a way an bug people or messes will happen even spills on the floor that will cus slips an falls cus the mom cant clean it an hold on to the child an the stroller dipper bag an thats with one kid i got 2 an there are more that have more
      4thos screaming baby would be a alot better when ther seated in there own space that they feal safe
      5 an when the stroller is up an babys in it mom can find something to help the screaming baby cus its organized an when its not you sruge to hold the dipper bag the toys the stroller or dubble for 2 babys or more at this young age you cant even think where a toy yet there fav one that will get them to stop crying is


      an its safer

  2. Sian Wu says:

    As a working mom who lives on the South End, I do take public transport, esp. light rail, with my toddler quite often–he loves it, so much so that taking the bus is an alternative amusement activity to going to the gym, playground or museum. However, I don’t use it to run errands where I’ll be carrying lots of stuff. I don’t think it’s the bus’s policies that stop me, it’s just sheer efficiency. Folding up a stroller and putting it under the seat is just not that big of a deal. Here’s a tip: carriers are a mom’s best friend for infants. Backpacks and quick release strollers for when they’re older. I think it’s a bit unrealistic to adopt Copenhagen’s frequent service to accommodate more strollers, given Metro’s budget situation.

    • brandy solon says:

      that would work but i got 2 an even the youngest would be crying the hole time an id be trying to make him happy as my other would trip when hes trying to get away an spill his drink that was keeping happy all over your lap or the foor so what shold i do then with 2 crying babys an a duble stroller toys dipper bag an the mess while every ones waching an im trying my best but its not heping cus if i get up an clean it my kids will be in your face sceaming not cus hes bad cus he thinks its a game

  3. al m says:

    This is really a great post!
    Well researched, well written, you make a very good case for the rules to be changed at Trimet and Metro.

    • John says:

      Its not just strollers, there’s food carts, wheelchairs, luggage and big bags all trying to be on the bus at the same time. People trying to squeeze by all this stuff tripping and falling over stuff. People want to bring on other large items on as well. The all sit where the handicap and elderly seats are and wont move for them. So they end up squeezing past all the junk. This happens all the time especially the busier lines. Its time to say enough is enough and enforce rules on the bus and stop all this nuttiness once and for all.

      • Matt the Engineer says:

        I’m jealous. None of the buses I’ve been on had food carts. That would be really convenient.

      • Adam Parast says:

        I think the real problem is our bus design and seat layout, how people trying to make a good faith effort to use transit for every day needs.

        Don’t blame the users of transit for poor bus design.

      • brandy solon says:

        it can be pushed to the side an you can get past

  4. Olderandwiser says:

    Savemefromurkids, spare me the disrespect. As far as how people choose to transport their kids, they deserve to be heard if they use public transportation. Choosing to share ideas is important–choosing to do it venomously doesn’t help.

  5. madree says:

    I am a parent who does not think the rules need to be changed. 14 years ago I had no option but to use public transportation with a 2 year old and infant twins. I kept the 2 year old on a leash, one baby in a snugli carrier and the other in an infant car seat. To work, doctors appts or where ever else necessary. No one got lost, I was in great shape and we all lived. Buses are small, space is limited. There just isn’t the room to keep a stroller opened on board. Not to mention it’s not safe. Sure it’s a hassle, but no way would I want my child in a stroller and the bus have to stop suddenly, or worse have an accident. Then people would be crying about why a child was allowed to be in that situation in the first place. I drive now for working and errands, but when we go out to have fun we still use public transportation mostly. I no longer use a stroller as my older kids are teenagers now, and the youngest is 6. Still, when he did need a stroller it was always folded and we were ready to board prior to the bus arriving. No big deal. As long as their legs work let them use them sometimes. Lets not blame fast food for our fat children.

    • Adam Parast says:

      Buses don’t have to be cramped. Link is roughly the same width of our buses and its much easier to move around in. Check out this post on the topic.

    • Adam Parast says:

      This is a great photo from Stockholm, showing how buses can be designed to with better internal circulation and areas for wheelchairs and strollers. I believe this bus has 3 doors, with wheeled users using the middle door.

    • pragmatic says:

      You lost me at “leash”

    • Susan says:

      Fair enough- but let’s face it children don’t walk until they’re around 1 year old, and then it takes a while until they’re steady enough on their feet.
      Using a snugli carrier is ok, but can become very uncomfortable when carrying a child this way [once getting heavier] for a while.
      It very much depends as well on how much sleep a mum get’s- if a child doesn’t sleep well, and this happens over several years/children, then mum will have much less energy than someone, who has got their children sleeping all through the night.

      • Alyse says:

        We used carriers for Orion, too. But as he got bigger, it was a challenge for me to carry him. I’m petite, and by 18 months, it seemed that Orion’s legs were near my knees when I used our carrier. That made walking a challenge. I think carriers work great, particularly for infants. But it’s nice to have the option to take a stroller. When you’re out all day, it becomes a great place to stow the day’s goods and I wasn’t hauling 20+ extra pounds for hours. As far as having children walk, that is a great option too. But sometimes it’s nice to have the stroller when they’re ready for a break or need an impromptu nap. It all depends on the day’s plans.

  6. Just_In_Seattle says:

    Thanks for the article… As the parent of a 1.5 year old, I have definitely shared your frustrations with Metro’s stroller policies. Why can people cart huge suitcases or other baggage on (and I’m not arguing against it – we take Metro and now LINK to airport many times we travel) but we have to fold and stow the strollers? It works ok for my wife and I together, but the stroller policy, along with unpredictable and sometimes infrequent schedules have led my wife (primary caregiver) to drive much more often than take the bus around town. Maybe the lame commenter at top doesn’t notice, but the vast majority of parents don’t take transit – many of our parent friends are surprised that we take the bus as often as we do – in no small part because of dumb rules like the need to fold stroller. Actually we had a couple rides where the driver didn’t require us to do that before we got the slap in the face and met with the “rule”, and those times worked just fine. Anyway, this seems to be a whole segment of the population that Metro could do a much better job at attracting as customers, thus increasing ridership in our and future generations (as will eventually be a necessity for most), and generating revenue to increase and improve their service.

    • BUSdriverfor Metro says:

      Does anyone realize that the rule is for safety of the child and others on the bus? What if you just put a stroller on the bus and didn’t fold it or take out your child and the bus made a sudden stop….well you child could go flying and get seriously hurt. Please think about your child next time you ride the bus.

      • BUSdriverfor Metro says:

        PS, I’ll always wait for the people to take out their child, no matter how late we are.

      • Adhiamba says:

        There is great debate in my city currently about whether strollers should continue to be allowed on buses, but those arguing safety are the ones who want to keep the strollers open. Stroller wheels lock. Of course I hold onto my stroller as well, but it has never tried to budge, even when the bus comes to a sudden stop. My stroller is much more secure than I am on my feet, holding a folded up stroller and two kids!

  7. Single Dad Max says:

    I think “PG” has it exactly right – ‘ditch the mega stroller and go umbrella, plan on carrying less and bring a backpack for groceries.’

    My son and I ride the bus to work, which ends in a 1/2 mile walk (and in Portland that means also carrying an umbrella in the winter). For 0 to ?? I would simply carry him in my arms (kid/umbrella in arms, stuff in backpack). Then from ?? to +/- 2 he was in a fancy Maclaren umbrella stroller* (backpack hung off the handle bars). After that he ran. I agree it’s a pain, but I think it’s workable.

    Still, if it were my decision the policy would probably look like this:

    1) Open strollers are OK (bus & train)
    2) Kid has to be removed from the stroller on buses
    3) You have to fold/move/get off if it’s crowded or a senior/disabled person gets on.
    4) No wheelchair ramp (too much time; especially with high-floor buses!), but kneeling is OK.

    * Their most expensive model was the only umbrella stroller I could find that had extendable handles — you know, for those of us who aren’t 5’6″ women. Now if only their engineers could figure out how to make a stroller that didn’t look like a giant advertisement.

  8. Matt the Engineer says:

    Part of the solution, for city buses, would be to remove seats. How many times have I had to squeeze down that middle isle on a packed bus? Suburb-distances probably require seats, but you could fit many more people (and strollers) in city buses if they removed many of the seats.

    I have a feeling KC Metro is afraid of lawsuits from rolling strollers on the bus more than taking leg room. That said, it doesn’t mean that fear is worth chasing off potential lifetime riders.

    (I wish I had spent the time to find Max’s umbrella stroller – I bought the smallest, cheapest garage sale stroller I could find. Very easy to carry around and on the bus, but it was terrible on my back.)

    • Jeff Welch says:

      Lawsuits are a concern certainly, however as a chicken-and-egg issue, the primary concern is people getting hurt. No driver wants to be behind the wheel when someone is injured – less because we are concerned about employment consenqences than because we are human beings with children of our own who care about our fellow human beings.


      • Matt the Engineer says:

        And that’s a fine reason not to allow it. But I’d have to be convinced that it’s a statistically large danger. If they’re allowing it throughout Europe, perhaps it’s not.

        We allow dogs on buses. And hot coffee. Arguably there’s more benefit to bringing strollers on than hot coffee.

      • Alan Durning says:

        There is some evidence — can’t remember where I saw it — that a child in a stroller is safer than a child in adult arms. Or at least, as safe. Locking stroller wheels help. Tie downs, as for wheelchairs, would help more. But I don’t see a reason to fret much about this issue.

    • Alyse says:

      In Montreal, transit agency rules require parents to buckle strollers and set the brakes. The rules also require strollers to face the rear of the bus. Where open strollers are allowed, there can be rules put in place to reduce safety risks.

  9. Sarah says:

    Savemefromurkids is the selfish one, self obsorbed and must live a miserable life. This post was just lovely and much appreciated. Keep on writhing I look forward to future posts.

  10. Dara says:

    Great article Alyse! My husband and I commuted with our daughter on the bus in Seattle starting when she was 4 months. We always used a carrier – first a baby bjorn and then an ergo when she got bigger. What was great about the carrier was that she could stay in it the entire time if she fell asleep and it was easy to get her out if she wanted to read books, look out the window, etc. I think I took the stroller on the bus one time and vowed never to do it again – it was just too much of a pain! I too have been to Copenhagen and loved how accomodating their transit system was of prams.

    We recently moved and now commute to work by car and I really miss that quality time on the bus with my daughter – reading books, singing songs, and snuggling!

  11. Jeff Welch says:

    As a driver, I try and be patient with parents struglling with children and other bundles, waiting for them to get settled before moving the bus. That isn’t a mere matter of courtesy – it’s about safety, and safety is our #1 concern.

    The reason for the stroller policy (strollers which are adapted for the use of a child with disabilities are welcome and can be secured much as wheelchairs are) is that they’re bulky and unlike the bus seats – have wheels on them. That stroller – along with the child riding in it – can become a missile flying down the aisle and into the front of the bus, damaging the stroller and probably not doing your child any good either.

    Particularly in the downtown core, pedestrians jaywalking (or even deliberately stepping in front of the bus to get you to stop) are a primary reason for having to “hard brake”. Allowing that stroller to remain unfolded with a child sitting in it is just plain unsafe.

    Although it’s inconvenient and often frustrating – it kind of goes with the territory when you’re travelling downtown with a child and a stroller running errands. The good news: the need for the stroller does eventually pass.


    • Susan says:

      I’ve done it both ways and can assure you, that a child in a buggy/stroller is much safer than held.
      They generally sit still- often indeed sleep – in the buggy,unlike when being held.
      I have never seen a child in a buggy/stroller “become a missile flying down the aisle and into the front of the bus, damaging the stroller and probably not doing your child any good either.”
      The stroller/buggy has got safe brakes,which work! just as those of a wheel chair and children are safely harnessed into their buggy’s/strollers – so, no safety issue!

      • Jeff Welch says:

        I haven’t seen this happen either – maybe because strollers must be folded on the bus. I have seen lots of other things become missiles – from grocery bags to human beings – when a hard stop happened.

        Not sure about the wheelchair comparison – for one thing wheelchairs get strapped in. For another – they are a lot heavier and tend to stay put due to the mere force of gravity.

      • brandy solon says:

        i agree it is much safer an better for everyone else around so they dont have to deal with a baby getting a way for a moment an bugging people

  12. Rob Harrison AIA says:

    Great post Alyse! And *mostly* good comments. :) In broad terms “accessibility” means making it not only possible but convenient for everyone to use transit, including people on one end of the mobility curve–the youngest among us.

    It won’t work for everyone (people with two kids, for example!), but a sling is fabulous for bus (and air) travel. We tried a number of them, but the Didymos was the fave. It worked really well up until our son was about one and a half.

  13. iamnotacyclist says:

    It would be truly horrible if we were forced to fold our pram every time e get on a bus here i’m London or in the tube. Before we got the bakfiets we used p.t. quite often and enjoyed the special place reserved for buggies and wheelchairs.
    It’s always interesting to see how people always seem to react to new things with “this can’t be done here, there’s not enough room” while it’s perfectly doable in many places all over the world. At the same time it’s infuriating to see such attitude when you’ve experienced the better solution first hand and saw how great it worked. E have a similar situation with cycle roads here in UK.

  14. Richard Masoner says:

    You knew “everyone was watching me, passengers cursing under their breaths and the driver reviewing his timetable“? I’m a daily bus rider, and pauses from strollers, inexperienced bus riders, and others who need some assistance or extra time to board are just part of how it works. There might be one or two haters who mumble something under their breaths, but who cares about their opinions?

    Santa Clara Valley (CA) light rail are all low floor roll on with easy stroller access. On Caltrain (commuter rail between San Francisco and San Jose), it depends on the equipment — there are low floor sets and older sets with stairs, but regardless there’s generally *some* room on the bike cars and luggage cars, though during busy times you might get dirty looks from a cyclist or two in the bike car. I don’t often see parents with strollers during commute times; fairly common on the weekends.

    Props to the Euros for making it work, I guess, but unsecured strollers on buses doesn’t seem like a good idea to me.

    • Susan says:

      Strollers wouldn’t [aren’t ] unsecured, their brakes are on and mum[or dad] is holding the handle -perfectly safe!

  15. Richard says:

    When my first child was young, only some of the buses had low floors (this is Oxford UK). Now they all do. Some even have space for two pushchairs (most just let you get on anyway, and leave the passengers to sort it out amongst themselves).

    If a low floor bus had room and you asked me to fold the pushchair, I’d just look at you in disbelief. Why?

  16. X-Single Dad says:

    When I was single and still had two kids in tow, I used a sling for one and a hand for the other. The sling worked until the kids were 4 as it helped me keep on on the hip. In addition I sometimes brought my two german shepherds along for the ride. While handling dogs and kids can be a pain, both dogs were extremely well behaved. Plus they would lead and with their noses open a path for us through any crowd. And somehow people in the back always got up and gave us a seat.

    Strollers, beh! I used one for a while but they are mostly in the way for a family on the move in a city.

    I had one umbrella version but it couldn’t hold anything but one kid, that left me with the other kid in the sling and a diaper bag. Better to have the backpack, a sling and a kid on each hip, and a leash with the dogs in one hand. That leaves one hand for change and opening doors.

  17. Matt the Engineer says:

    Someone on Seattle Transit Blog noted that Sound Transit allows strollers on their buses, though they don’t want you to “store” your stroller in the wheelchair area (presumably it’s ok if your child is using it). So it’s not even a societal difference – it’s an agency-specific issue.

    • VeloBusDriver says:

      While not in direct conflict with Metro’s policy, Sound Transit’s web site doesn’t make it clear that the stroller needs to be stowed – at least on Metro operated service.

      I am sure most drivers would welcome a policy based on reasonably securing the child and describe ways this can be done rather than the current one-size fits all policy. I’ve seen strollers that I’m sure could be secured in the wheelchair area and that would likely be safer than the existing fold and hold policy. Either way, there is a lot of confusion out there among parents and drivers.

      • Jeff Welch says:

        Yes and it’s also frustrating for drivers when policies that are made clear to us are not also made clear to members of the riding public. This puts drivers in the untenable position of presenting the customer with an unpleasant surprise, and to be barked at by angry moms for relaying a policy not of our making.

  18. Todd Edelmane says:

    Trams in communist Prague had a large space for strollers since the 1970s or earlier. They were not low-floor but someone always helped a parent take the stroller on or off the steps.

  19. Jeff Welch says:

    Another question I have is why the surprise? Did you not check Metro policy before taking the bus with a stroller?

    • Alyse says:

      At the time, my thought was that strollers would be allowed on board just like wheelchairs, as long as there was space. I had never seen a specific “stroller policy” at a bus stop or on the bus. While I knew it wasn’t OK to eat a hamburger on the bus, the stroller policies are a bit tricker to find. Once I knew about it, though, I always willingly complied, including purchasing the smallest umbrella stroller I could find that still had some of what I think of as “essentials” — a reclining seat, a basket, and a sun shade/rain cover.

  20. Matthew 'Anc' Johnson says:

    As the author has pointed out agencies in other areas have found a way to make this work, and as Velobusdriver has pointed out an agency in our own area (Sound Transit) can as well. So safety is really no excuse.

    As to the space issue, to again reference Velobusdriver, we ALREADY need to remove some seats from some incity routes. The more standing room and the easier to move about the better. Aren’t we ordering a whole load of new Electric Trolley Buses? People need to speak up and ask for a better layout.

    On that, meanmugging the bus driver when he tells you the rule on strollers isn’t going to fix anything. How many people have bothered to contact Metro over the policy, or their King County Councilperson?

    • Matt the Engineer says:

      Done. “Please allow a minimum of 15 business days for a response.” That’s the customer service attitude I expect from Metro. Notice there’s no maximum response time.

  21. mjd says:

    Regarding removing seats, I wouldn’t mind standing if my inner-city ride wasn’t so unnecessarily long (buses stuck in traffic!), or if the drivers weren’t having to throw their brakes on suddenly (again, because of other traffic). Get our transit OUT of the street and grade-separated and then the rides would take like half the time and be much more smooth!

    • Allison says:

      Or, you know, have light rail service criss-crossing the city. BRT is nice. LRT is better.

  22. Ruben says:

    As you noted, the Metro Vancouver (BC) transit system allows strollers to roll on, and the number of buses that are not low-floor gets smaller all the time. It is very unusual for me to ride a bus that is not low-floor, with a wheelchair ramp.

    I love that you are stroller obsessed, and think it would be very valuable if you did an in-depth post on your experience with different stroller brands.

    There is reason to hate some strollers, like the giant “baby tractors”. I have never understood how it was justifiable that a 30 pound baby needed to ride around in a vehicle nearly the size of a smart car. I think most (note careful qualifier there) baby tractors are outrageously out-of-scale for the task–moving a small child and their supplies. That does make life for pedestrians on the sidewalk, shoppers at the grocery, and riders on the bus more difficult than it needs to be–and needlessly difficult, since the same job can be done in much less space.

    I guess for me the baby tractors have the same flavour as SUVs–they feel self-centred, like there is no concern with how it impacts the world around them.

    Please do post on all the strollers you tested.

  23. Allison says:

    I’ve been nannying and car free in Seattle a couple of years now. I hate strollers. Strollers + Seattle is a *terrible* mix and not just because of Metro. The hills, the stairs, the street surface, the beat up sidewalks, the sporadic ramp cuts at the curb… if I had my way (and unfortunately when it’s not your kid, this isn’t always possible), I’d be transporting the child by bike. Skip the bus entirely and never need to worry about excess cargo.

  24. Rebecca says:

    If bums and transients are allowed to take up valuable aisle space with their carts and big backpacks, then riders with strollers should be allowed to use the wheelchair spots for their Graco strollers and bundles of children. There shouldn’t have to be double standards on this argument….Although many could understand why drivers would want you to fold your stroller on busier routes like the 7, 15, 41, 120, and 358 (usually 2 wheelchairs and one walker on every run).

  25. Ian Fisher says:

    Stroller size is a key point. Alyse’s post mentions the Copenhagen strollers as being “enormous” but the photos show them to have a small footprint, which is all that matters. Does Copenhagen handle the massive, sidewalk-clearing, tandem side-by-side or back-to-back strollers that show up here at times with such aplomb? Reasonable accommodation is a lot easier with reasoanbly sized strollers.

    The Germanic countries often offer superb transit lessons (as always) with their treatment of strollers – designated areas on vehicles; high-capacity, low-floor buses where the entire curb side of the bus lowers to support all-door access and egress by wheeled accessories and typically enough interior space to avoid the kind of crowding that makes everyone uncomfortable; often all-door boarding to avoid cumbersome manoeuvring (along with wheelchair access at the second door for the same reason) etc…

    Here’s an example interior image of a Swiss-built bus, note the clear space opposite the door:

  26. Kisai says:

    Hi, I use Translink (Vancouver)

    I’m someone who is somewhat vocal against the SUVstrollers on transit. In my opinion, if the stroller can’t be folded (in the state it’s in waiting for the bus) you can’t expect the bus will have room through the entire trip. If it takes up more floor area than a wheelchair, please leave it at home.

    However this is one part safety, two parts etiquette. If the Bus were to have an accident, a stroller becomes a flying object, and anything in it. There are numerous times where I’ve seen women with strollers that are just filled with groceries, but their child isn’t in it (and wasn’t when they got on.) A stroller is not a shopping cart(unfolded they take up 2-3 spaces of an adult.)

    There are much more compact shopping carts (that are mainly used by elderly people) that take up less space than an adult.

    The other thing is that the Translink policy is the front area of the bus is for mobility aids (wheel chairs, and the electric scooter version.) Some people fold up the seats (which can seat three or four people) for their oversized stroller, and that I know makes people frown. Translink spends a lot of time taking into consideration of people with disabilities, and yes they do get priority over everyone.

    At any rate some of the ire over strollers is directly a result of crush crowding. If the bus wasn’t crowded, most people couldn’t care less about unfolded strollers. The buses are at crush capacity frequently. The Canada Line and the Skytrain are rarely at crush capacity except during rush hours (8am and 5pm) and have many more areas that strollers can be left unfolded since the area is also used for Bikes. The Canada Line itself is designed with specific bike space, that could also be used for a SUVstroller if there’s no wheelchairs since there are no seat spaces taken up unlike the bus.

    The one bus route I’d warn against ever taking a stroller on, is the route that goes to/from the Tsawwassen Ferry terminal. This route is always at crush capacity because of luggage. The first 3 people with luggage can put their bags at the luggage space at the front, everyone else has to obstruct the aisle or hold on to their bags.

    Personally I always sit away from the front of the bus so I don’t have to deal with riders with poor manners.

    One observation, I have noticed an explosion in stroller population between October and December. It seems like the start of the fall and more people take transit because of the climate, and then after New Years people don’t go out as much.

  27. Carla D. says:

    Interesting article but not quite sure why this is “news”. New Yorkers have been negotiating strollers and everything else on public transport for decades as most new Yorkers don’t own cars.I certainly remeber encountering this 20 years ago when my daughter was an infant. I specifically shopped for a “transit-friendly” stroller, as I had the expectation of folding/carrying it up/down stairs to the subway (and my apartment0. Strollers also didn’t resemble SUV’s complete w/cupholders/cell phone holders back then.
    Nasty/rude comments aside, the issue re: access for wheelchairs is significant: Europe is not at all impressive regarding their treatment of people with disabilities on public transit.

  28. Lynn Hamilton says:

    This is such a great campaign. Thank you, Alyse for drawing this issue to our attention. I’ve written a petition asking King County Metro to rethink its stroller policy which I hope some of you will sign and share with friends:

  29. Jim Watkins says:


    If people want room for ‘Baby Strollers’ on Public Transportation, Please advocate the Federal Government mandate such an area on public transit be made available. Til then please consider everyone else…

  30. Liliana says:

    wow… amazing… that’s good story and chalenge. thank for sharing…

  31. Kamellia73 says:

    Reading this brought up so many memories and difficult emotions for me. I have always been a bus commuter… until my second pregnancy and I just couldn’t take it anymore. I had taken my daughter on the TriMet bus with me to work from the time she was 9 months old until she was almost five. When I was pregnant with her, I chose the lightest weight stroller I could find and easily fold up, thinking ahead to my daily bus ride. I had no idea how difficult it would be. I abandoned the stroller after my first attempt with it. Luckily, she was still small enough and the walking portions of my daily commute were short enough, that a sling was feasible, if very uncomfortable. I continued to bus commute through a divorce, single-parenthood, and several moves. It was awful. I didn’t have a car, so I did everything by bus. It’s laughable to think that a mom can carry several days’ worth of groceries and a wiggly–sometimes violently so–toddler or preschooler and deal with the bus. Sometimes, people were gracious and gave me their seat. We often commuted during peak times–since I was working full-time. I’m shocked and disappointed when people like the first commenter seem to think extra hassles are just the price you must pay for choosing to be a parent. They certainly don’t seem to look at pregnancy like a disability and yield the front seats to you–not knowing that your pelvis is shifting apart causing shooting pain, your blood pressure has sky-rocketed, you’re often faint or dizzy, and your feet are swollen up to the next full shoe-size. During my second pregnancy, my fiancé bought a minivan so I could drive to work with my intractable four-year-old. Have you ever tried to put a four-year-old into time-out while on a bus because she’s just tried to hit you, or pull off your glasses? It’s not easy! I still feel a bit guilty about the minivan, but I feel like I’ve done my part for the environment these past 25 years and deserve a little break. However, if TriMet were more family-friendly, there’d be one less car on the road.

  32. Lana says:

    I am with Savemefromurkids. I can’t feel sorry for mothers with strollers when they insist on using giant SUV strollers. I’ve seen countless moms that had umbrella strollers that they folded up once they boarded the bus and carried a bag full of the necessities. Problem solved.

    When I see two women board a bus with a giant SUV sized stroller and then block the entire aisle and then have the audacity to get angry at people for moving the stroller so they can get by, any sympathy I have for moms disappears.

    And I also feel that those with wheelchairs get first priority over those seats. There is no where else they can sit.

    If we are expected to be decent and considerate, the least you could do is use an umbrella stroller and carry a bag for your necessities. We have become such a spoiled society to feel that we can’t do what women did for decades before these kinds of strollers came along.

  33. Alethea says:

    I am a single Mom. I can’t yet afford a car. I HAVE to take the bus to get groceries and run errands. This law concerning strollers has made me getting anything done extremely difficult, especially things like transporting a bunch of groceries along with my kids. This really does need to be changed. It would make my year if I just didn’t have to fold my stroller. I could leave my bags on the stroller and hold my kids. I’d gladly give up my spot to a disabled person, but often those spots are vacant. Is it so bad to let a child who can’t walk either (yet) sit in her seat there? How do we get this changed?

  34. Christina says:

    It’s pretty selfish and ignorant for moms or anyone to assume that they are being victimized because they are being asked to fold their strollers.
    Yes, you do need to get groceries and yes sometimes the disabled wheelchair portion of the bus is clear. But here’s the thing, Buses are not and have never been designed to carry open strollers, and especially busy routes and lines it becomes a huge inconvenience and safety issue.
    strollers block the path for other passengers and the svu mommy hot to trot strollers are totally obnoxious and have no business on transit period.
    There’s no way to know when the disabled section will be truly needed by disabled or elderly ppl who “need” that space, not just whinny mommys with strollers that they are doubling as a shopping cart. Strollers are meant to stroll, meaning if you can’t find a store local then you do the only reasonable thing, you taxi. My mum had to do it. She also had fold up her stroller and make multiple trips to and from grocery stores during the week in order to get required groceries.
    Stroller moms are far too lazy and feel entitled to space on public transit and it’s totally inappropriate and annoying. Bus lines can’t accommodate strollers and if they do it for one, then they have to do it for all. Well what happens then, the buses become over run by mommies running errands? Suddenly three or four strollers are allowed on a bus on at a time? That might sound crazy but if you let one stroller on open then you can’t deny others right? And there’s no way that would be safe.
    Buses just aren’t designed for it and neither are strollers. Strollers are designed for strolling… not riding on buses. Sky trains and subways are more accommodating and workable.
    And sometimes there is room for one stroller but there’s no way to know for how long and it’s a serious safety hazard. Not to mention the countless times I’ve seen bimbo moms chatting on their cell phones with suv strollers, giving dirty looks at the ppl who are forced to uncomfortably squeeze by to get on or off the bus, while she makes no attempt to reposition her jumbo shopping contraption even when she has room while her screaming bundle of joy tosses it’s rattle at other people. I say ban all strollers on buses but allow them on skytrains where it’s reasonable. Period.

    • Clark Williams-Derry says:

      Whining about whiners. Glass houses, ma’am.

  35. Codie says:

    Yes! It is now 2014, and I find myself very perplexed by this rule! I live walking distance to 5 major bus routes. The image of you packing up all your stuff and baby and stroller is the exact anxiety filled moment I can picture myself having. This is why I have yet to be brave enough to even try the stroller on the bus. I have been straping her to me in the Baby Bjorn. But this can noy continue, I am going to have to come up with a way to get over the fact that everybody is watching and waiting on me to get my s#%* together!

  36. Ais says:

    I don’t have any children yet, but as a woman who lives in Copenhagen and uses the public transportation system almost daily (I walk a lot, too), I have to say that prams on the metro or buses don’t bother me in the least and they’re huge. The only thing I don’t like is when there are two of them, side by side, taking up literally the entire sidewalk while I’m carrying two bags of groceries and there’s nowhere for me to go but in the bike path. I think, in that case, one of them falling back behind the other, would be nice, as I don’t want to be hit by a speeding cyclist who’s not paying attention.

    The truth is, I like kids. They’re adorable, even when they’re fussy or crying, maybe that’s because I want children of my own. And, you know, sometimes when mom is struggling to calm the kid a smile or a “can I help you?” can go a long way to making her feel less stressed about the inconvenience she’s probably worried about causing those around her. She’s just a person, after all, and there’s no “evil agenda” to her needing to take public transportation.

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