Future bus advocate; current bus hassle.
Future bus advocate; current bus handful.

[UPDATE: Metro changed their policy about a week ago, it just hasn’t made it’s way down to all employees or their website. Read the new operator bulletin here. Thanks to STB reader Kimberly for this tip.]

As reported by PubliCola, the topic of strollers on the bus reemerged at a recent SDOT hosted public forum:

“[O]ne audience member complained that buses weren’t user friendly for moms with strollers: ‘Your boss [the woman had identified herself as working for King County Metro] buys a lot of buses. Part of the problem is on Metro.'”

The topic is nothing new to the area. Seattle Transit Blog covered it here and here. What is new is that I’m now the father of a young child so have some personal experience with it.

I’ll be blunt. Any long outing with a small child involving buses in this city sucks. The current official policy is:

Baby buggies and strollers must be emptied and collapsed, while on the bus.  If a customer requests the lift or ramp, the drivers are instructed to deploy the lift as long as the zone is accessible. An adult must ride the lift to control the stroller. Once the child and stroller have boarded, the child must be removed from the stroller and the stroller collapsed and stowed.
Metro Customer Service email – Friday March 27, 2015

The reality is that many Metro drivers take pity on us poor souls and use common sense. If it’s not in use they’ll let you park a stroller in the wheelchair area and ask you to lock the wheels. But you never know until he or she waves you on or holds you up. I call it Metro roulette.

A parent has two options. One, you risk it. There is a 50/50 shot the only disruption will be the use of the ramp or lift, and you hope no one who can’t or won’t move is sitting in the wheelchair space so you can park out of the way. Or if you don’t want to risk disrupting everyone you prep at the stop. This means unhooking your diaper bag and any other bags, removing the child, and then holding on the child while you break the stroller down and wait. So you not only have a folded up stroller and a couple bags (hopefully you didn’t pick up much of anything at City Target while downtown) you’re trying to hold on to, but a small child that is NOT tied down (and is upset at not getting to explore now that they are ‘free’). Lots of fun waiting on 3rd like that.

It sucks either way and is why I cut back on taking Isaac on any long outing that involves Metro. If we can’t get there by Link or Link + Streetcar, we don’t go by transit. Now that he can walk at a decent pace and doesn’t require 30 lbs of gear, we’ll jump on a 7 or 8 for quick trips within the valley but that is about it.

Not everyone has the benefit of living on a rail line or a spouse that drives. For their sake (and my convenience) it’d be nice if Metro had a more family friendly policy when it came to strollers.

86 Replies to “Strollers III – Now It’s Personal”

  1. Have noticed same thing for a long time, Matthew. Glad you called attention to this, because up to now, situation has only publicly involved wheelchairs.

    What are some of your own suggestions for what needs to be done?

    Also, might be good to keep in mind that above accessibility took both a political and a legal fight.

    With increasingly large number of younger parents trying to travel as they should, on transit, there should already be enough votes and resources to follow the example.

    Especially as many of these people work for IT companies friendly to transit. And others are attorneys who know how powerful precedent is in matters of law.

    Mark Dublin

  2. Some other transit policies:

    MTA buses (NYC): When traveling with an infant and a baby stroller, the stroller should be folded before entering the bus and should remain folded for the duration of the trip.

    The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority: “During crowded conditions or peak hours, remove children from strollers and materials from carts, and collapse, or wait for the next Metro vehicle that has room for the cart or stroller.”

    Chicago: “Children in open strollers are welcome on CTA, however we encourage parents to be considerate of other customers and adhere to these rules when traveling with a stroller.”

    Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority: “Fold strollers* and carts before the vehicle arrives (*except wheelchair strollers)”

    1. Sounds like L. A. and Chicago have the right idea. Just use common sense and be prepared to take the next bus or fold up your stroller (if it is too crowded).

  3. As a parent, we tried the bus once when our kid was a teeny tiny little guy. That’s when your stroller is often a car seat that quick-detaches from the car seat base mounted in your vehicle, and then in turn mounts into a sort of buggy-like stroller contraption. That’s also the age when you often need to carry around a ton of baby related supplies, as they’re still basically constant poop and vomit factories.

    It was such a pain in the ass to be a ‘good citizen’ and break down everything that we simply decided to not do the bus with him again until he was much older and could sit in a lap with a collapsed stroller or similar. Now he adores bus, train, and monorail rides, and it’s not some bad experience for us anymore either. Well, as long as he’s in a good mood, which as any parent knows is as mercurial as New England weather with a three year old.

    Many parents do not have the luxury of choice we had there, being able to afford a car in this city.

    So yes, I’ll say it first – this is a social justice and equity issue for parents who lack the money for dedicated transport of their own, especially with kids of a certain age, and who need to use strollers on the bus. Especially if your little one is sleeping, it’s arbitrary and pointless to breakdown the stroller to wake them, if you’re going to piss off the kid and all the bus riders, because, hey, well done, Metro!

    Per policy, you now have an irate screaming baby distracting the driver. Did you know that humans are adapted to unconsciously respond to shrill baby and child screams – there’s actual research on it. A policy making the other bus riders miserable and possibly distracting the bus operator is also a safety issue for all passengers.

    The policy needs to be reviewed and adjusted based upon public feedback. If you have a kid, and the kid is less than x years old, you should be able to leave the kid in the stroller IF there is no conflict on the front end handicapped space or the nooks and crannies on the Rapid Ride buses (which make fantastic little stroller alcoves).

    A blanket policy is malicious toward parents without the means of dedicated transportation, and could disproportionately impact communities of color, who statistically can be less likely to have their own dedicated vehicles for transportation.

  4. I take issue with the gargantuan strollers that people use here in Scandinavia, but I commend Helsinki’s handling of them on public transport. Anyone with a baby rides free on buses, so they can board through the middle door. There’s a space in the middle of the bus that can fit two Finnish strollers (or four normal ones), so the driver just opens the middle door and the stroller can be pushed right on quickly and easily.

    1. Yeah, a lot of it depends on the stroller. The cheap flimsy ones (with wheels that wobble like old shopping carts) tend to be really small, and fold up tiny (easy to grab with one hand). The modern strollers (that some people push while jogging) are a different story. They are much harder to squeeze onto a bus. Something to think about for you parents out there.

    1. The third door was one of two good things about the Breda fleet. The other being the electric motors.

      The RapidRide fleet now has three doors, as well as passive wheelchair restraints. Don’t usually ride RapidRide, so don’t remember- but think Swift has more fold-up seats than any of our regular buses.

      Good action plan to deal with child-carrying in general might start with work group including transit operators, mechanical engineers, tech school mechanical design programs, and pediatricians.

      To see what new equipment can be bought, designed or improved in-house- until future fleets of buses can be specked out with child transportation question in mind. Group might also work out set of procedures to let parents and drivers cooperate to use what we have.

      Good spirit and great bumper-sticker, Chris G. You’ll make first candidate for this group- because the dynamics of a dynamic world are indeed here, and by everybody with gadget skill and an active mind loved.

      Because a comfortably solved problem is never a hard thing to get used to.

      Mark Dublin

      Meantime, common sense and courtesy on everyone’s part would undoubtedly make present situation a lot easier to handle. And would likely itself prevent a great many lawsuits, which are often motivated as much by resentment at ill-treatment as by actual injury.

  5. If this post were written yesterday, I’d suspect it was a joke. Describing the folding of a stroller as if it’s as complicated as a shuttle launch? Avoiding all bus transit because of a what … 20 seconds of extra effort? [OT]

    1. I assume you’ve never had a sleeping infant in a stroller, while carrying a diaper bag and your work bag? Maybe add an umbrella and a second child to the mix.

      1. Matt, first world problems. What I’m saying is the problem isn’t with the buses or policy, regardless of what riders with kids say or think. The problem is with us and our unreasonable and impatient expectations. These days, the slightest inconvenience is intolerable. I believe that WE are the problem. In my day, we didn’t whine so much about every little thing. I believe it’s our attitudes that need correcting, not Metro’s policies.

      2. These are only “first world problems” in the sense that many “developing countries” are presently creating far more effective transit than we have, and those places have no interest in hobbling their transit with asinine policies.

        Not what you meant, I presume.

    2. Sam endorses a bad policy that doesn’t directly affect him in the way the bad policies he normally whines about do.


    3. Good chance an efficient and easy-to-handle child carrier might very well be designed with hardware inspired by our space exploration program. Wasn’t velcro?

      But would bet Metro shops and some motivated community college students could beat them to it. Hey, Sam. Cut and paste this comment into your comment, and it won’t be [OT] anymore!


  6. Denver was actually sued over this issue last year, and tightened their stroller rules considerably. They even went as far as to make the disembodied bus voice say to collapse all strollers every time the bus stops. Personally I think it’s overkill—there’s almost always room for a stroller without folding.

    1. It sounds like Denver buses have far too little in the way of flexible space, thus pitting equally valid needs against one another and degrading the convenience of the customer base as a whole.

      Seattle would never double down on similarly bad interior spatial arrangements, would it?

  7. I remember a particularly awful evening when our daughter had finally fallen asleep in her stroller and the bus driver insisted we take her out to board (on an empty, late-evening bus no less). My wife refused and after a brief stand-off, she pushed the stroller all the way home. After that, we avoided riding buses with the kids until they were old enough not to be napping in the stroller. Why a transit agency would be so harsh about small children is a mystery…perhaps a legacy of the old days when families were expected to move away to the suburbs.

    1. I believe this policy was adopted pretty much everywhere in the USA as the result of a lawsuit or two originating from collisions and the resulting injuries.

      I’m not saying it is right, but it’s unfortunately how these things tend to happen.

    2. Until an accident happens, the kid gets hurt, parent declares “driver did not demand that the baby be removed from stroller” a giant award is given to the parents and the driver loses his job. Frankly, parents with strollers can be far worse to deal with than drunks. I get tired of asking these self-centered parent to remove the child from the stroller and getting a sh*tload of flack just because I’m asked to follow the policy.Try carrying on like that on a plane regarding a stroller and see what that will get you. So, the driver decides to say “f*ck it” and let them leave the kid in the stroller and they lock the wheels and park it in the isle. All we ask of passengers is that if there is a policy, either good or bad, don’t hassle the driver about, but rather call in and take it up with management. We don’t care that it’s such a struggle because you have “twins” or other such things, but we care about getting EVERYONE to their destination safely and on schedule.

  8. The stroller policy is being changed! I’ve been talking with Metro (first just customer service, then chief of customer service, who sent things up to the operations manager, who made the decision). I don’t know the wording of the new rules, but we talked about Chicago Transit Authority’s policy as a model. I’m the mother of twin toddlers. We ride busses. It really is nearly impossible to hold two toddlers plus stroller plus diaper bag plus a hand on preschooler.

    1. Good for you. Unfortunately, drivers have little to NO discretionary powers when Metro makes a hard fast rule such as this. Most drivers worry more about being written up for violating the policy than about showing some compassion and common sense in the matter. I suspect the rule was handed down by the legal department after reading in a journal that xyz Transit got sued over a runaway stroller and baby going down the isle when the bus braked hard.

      1. Mic, if I am reading Kimberly’s comment correctly, a policy change on Metro’s part towards the sensible means that drivers will no longer have to choose between sense and adhering to the rules.

        Of course it remains to be seen what the official change is.

      2. Yes, z7. The idea is that Metro is changing their policy to something sensible (but yes, we still have to see the wording). Right now when I bring twins and double stroller on the bus, different drivers do different things. I think they can all see that it’s impossible for me to hold two babies and a stroller, so some say nothing and I just leave the babies in the stroller. I’ve also been told to hold just one baby (weird), that I can’t get on the bus at all, and some drivers put the wheelchair securement strap on the stroller. A new policy will be better not just for parents, but drivers too.

    2. The new policy bulletin came out March 25th. It basically gets a lot closer to common sense which is that we don’t want stollers or children to turn into missiles when we stop suddenly. Children can remain in a stroller that allows them to be “strapped in”, provided the stroller is secured or the brake set. I often ask that the stoller be placed in the passive restraint area with the brake set which seems very safe.

      I’m unaware of any PRs being written for violating stroller policy. The concern from the driver’s perspective is safety and preventing injury.

      I can email the policy bulletin PDF if that would be useful.

      1. That’s interesting because I was turned away from metro bus last Sunday when I showed up with my two year old twins in a double stoller. The bus driver said I had to take them out and fold the stroller up – has this policy been share effectively with all metro drivers?

      2. yes I’d also like to see the policy statement so I can print it out and take it with me the next time I attempt to ride a metro bus with my kids.

    3. I also have toddler twins, and mostly don’t take the bus anymore. I’ve done it a few times recently. I wear them both (19mo, 40-45 lb of baby) and bring a rolling suitcase for our gear and library books, but tandem wearing toddlers is rough for an entire bus expedition. It’s too bad, because we all love the bus. We have choices – both a family bike and a car – but not everybody does.

  9. My wife and I have not had any problems simply rolling our stroller onto the 550 during off-peak times. We hold our daughter in our laps, and park the stroller in one of the wheelchair spots. People have had to move too, but nobody complained. Maybe it is because we avoid requesting the ramp. We have not had occasion to ride on a high floor bus yet.

    But there is no way my wife, on her own, could hoist the diaper bag, hold our daughter, fold the stroller up, and then hang on to all that stuff prior to or after boarding.

    My daughter loves riding the bus; so many people and things to look at! In the car she’s fussy at best, screaming at worst.

  10. Make the bike racks compatible with strollers. Babies must be stowed in strollers on the front of the bus. It’s a win-win for bus riders/drivers and “me first” parents!

  11. Coast Mountain Bus (Translink) allows strollers to board without child removed. Wheels must be
    locked. Subject to space availibilty.

  12. I feel like this is one of those policies that came about because two different groups with specific needs pushed and one of them has the backing of law where the other doesn’t. Sound Transit’s policy, for instance, specifically says to not store strollers in a wheelchair area. I’ve been on an ST Express (operated by Metro) where one person with a wheelchair was already onboard and a parent boarded with a stroller and put it in the other wheelchair area. At the next stop, a second person with a wheelchair wanted to board. The parent wound up collapsing the stroller and putting it under a seat, but not without a lot of huffing and puffing about the situation.

    In this case, I suspect that the passenger with the wheelchair “wins” because the ADA requires it and safety prevents having the stroller anywhere else. I also can’t think of a solution, especially with the rather large strollers in use.

    1. I’ve seen large strollers block disabled access to the bus and confrontations between drivers and people with strollers and other large items that were blocking the wheelchair area or the aisle further back on the bus.

      If you are going to ride transit with a stroller, please use the most compact stroller you possibly can, preferably one that folds to a fairly compact shape.

      Why some parents think taking strollers the size of a small car into crowded public spaces is a good idea I will never understand. Bonus points if you stop to talk to another parent using an SUV stroller at a narrow pedestrian chokepoint so people can’t easily get around you.

      1. I see you point but I also think Metro could do a lot to improve the circulation spaces of buses by removing some seats, especially in the front of the bus.

      2. I agree about circulation on the buses and would like to see metro open up more standing and circulation space on the buses.

        But parents need to be more aware of how much space their stroller takes up both in-use and folded if they are going anywhere crowded.

      3. Good design does tend to make it feel less like a fight for scarce resources, though, Chris.

  13. In my personal experience life with a young one is much easier with a baby wearing wrap or sling. I have a ring sling and love it. My daughter can sleep in it…we can go on the bus no problem…it takes up no space at all. I understand that this isn’t possible for everyone (maybe you have a bad back or something else). We do own a stroller but never use it. My wife had a pretty bad experience a while back on metro where the bus driver made her take our daughter out of the car seat for some strange reason. My daughter has been on the bus in a wrap/sling from her first week of life through today at 14 months.

    I 100% agree that metro has a lot of room for improvement regarding strollers. That being said, I encourage any parent to consider baby wearing, not just for being easier on the bus but also navigating crappy sidewalks and busy restaurants/stores as well. There are other reasons too but i’m trying not to be too preachy. :)

    1. Yes. I strongly advise a minimum of gear and wearing your baby when using transit. That said, there are a dozen reasons this isn’t for everyone.

    2. That’s great if you just have one kid on the bus, but like Kimberly I have infant twins. Wearing them isn’t an option. There’s room for improvement and maybe just a little empathy from other transit riders. I frequently take them by myself on the bus and it does require a lot of extra stuff be brought along. Otherwise we’d just throw in the towel and take the van.

    3. I had the same thought as Jordon. My son has ridden the bus 8+ times per week since he was four months old (he’s 2.5 now). As an infant, he slept comfortably in the baby bjorn / ergo throughout the whole ride, and I carry the gear in a backpack. People are generally good about giving us a seat, and if they don’t, a polite request to the most able-bodied person sitting in the front seats does the trick. The system works so well that we still prefer to take our son around town by bus rather than wrestle with the car seat.

      I think a lot of people could make their lives easier by using a child carrier, and that would reduce the number of strollers on crowded buses. But that doesn’t eliminate the fact that sometimes you are out and about with the stroller, needs for people with twins or multiple small children, people with bad backs, etc. who need a reasonable way to board with a stroller.

    4. Agreed, and I wore a baby on the bus a lot with my singletons. But now I have twins, which means if I wear one I still need a stroller, or I wear two. Even my healthy, strong (because I’ve spent 18mo carrying two babies around) back can’t tandem wear for all that long. If I’m out by car or bike I bring an umbrella stroller and wear one, so I’m as compact as possible, but I haven’t figured out the logistics for safely getting a stroller and four kids under 7 onto the bus.

  14. I’ve lived in Seattle, Portland, and now in Kraków Poland. I never understood why in SEA and PDX you have to fold a stroller up, drives me crazy. It seems far more safe to have the child in the stroller/buggy restrained, rather than on my lap while I attempt to hold the stroller in my other hand.

    Here in Europe no one does that, and they use full size strollers/buggies, granted there tends to be more “standing” space on the busses here (and all of them have at least three doors, front, middle, and rear, and the middle entrance is always a low floor section, and often all of them are).

    1. Europe isn’t nearly so lawsuit happy. I imagine one reason so many US transit agencies require children not ride transit in strollers is a liability issue in case the vehicle stops suddenly.

      1. Europe also tends to have systems in place for taking care of people that get injured, so that accidents from injuries don’t wind up in huge, complicated, expensive lawsuits.

  15. This does sound like a nightmare. I don’t really understand what the proposed solution is though. It will always be a pain to try to get a wheeled cart onto a raised platform. The ramps are sooooo sloooooowwww…

    1. Most (all?) newer buses kneel instead of having the old slow loading ramp.

  16. Even with more reasonable stroller policy, taking very young children on the bus is difficult. The issue highlights the import of TOD. From the riders’ perspective, if the majority of trips are on foot, it’s OK if the occasional trip requiring metro is difficult. From metro’s perspective, if the majority of parents aren’t riding on the majority of days, the strollers, babies, and bags, with more reasonable policy, are manageable.

    The notion that transit isn’t meant for family is common in Seattle. Parents aren’t an insignificant portion of the traffic. I we want to obviate the need for all these parent car trips, the whole development paradigm will need to shift. Currently most buildings going up in walkable areas are not family focused, not in cost, size, or amenities.

    So while the current obviously asinine stroller policy needs to change, without changes in development and culture, cars will remain a necessity for parents.

    1. “The notion that transit isn’t meant for family is common in Seattle. Parents aren’t an insignificant portion of the traffic.”

      I’d love to know the actual numbers on this. On first glance/though, my assumption is that parents (with babies and strollers) ARE in fact a pretty small minority of the transit users.

  17. A decade ago I would bring my 4 young children downtown on the then 54 (West Seattle)by myself. Two walking, two strolling. I’d collapsed the double stroller and placed it in the handicap area. Never harassed, but certainly a lot of work. Kids are just a lot of work. We loved our bus adventures.

  18. I was on a southbound 101 and at International District two women got on with about three kids and a stroller. I think they were carring two of the kids and the third walked. The driver said they had to fold up the stroller or they couldn’t take it aboard. The woman with the stroller said it wasn’t collapsable. After a couple minutes with the driver insisting and the woman angrily pleading, she left the stroller behind on the platform and the bus left. She angrily phoned her relatives and said she’d had to leave the stroller so it would be a long walk home from the bus stop (which was somewhere on Renton MLK). Clearly they were low income, probably paid cash fares, had probably gotten the stroller as a gift or at a discount store, and didn’t have a car. She was rather loud and foulmouthed which exasperated the situation, but part of that was because she herself was under stress as a working-class woman trying to take care of her kids and making ends meet, and the stroller situation was just one more problem she had to deal with.

    1. Sometimes the driver needs to bend a little. There are plenty of rules that drivers ignore. It really depends on the situation. If the bus wasn’t completely packed, he should have let her on. If it was, he should have said “Sorry, you need to fold up the stroller or catch the next bus — I just can’t you on with that big stroller”. My guess is she probably could have caught the next bus (she just got a bad driver) which makes his “rules are rules” explanation worse. Meanwhile, everyone on the bus is delayed (because of the squabble) and feels uncomfortable. Nice going buddy.

      Nathan (http://www.theurbanist.org/category/the-view-from-nathans-bus/) would have let her on.

    2. The bus was not packed full; the driver just didn’t want something jutting into the aisle. The next bus was half an hour later. So they were supposed to wait a half hour and hope the next bus wouldn’t be fuller or delayed or have a similar driver?

      1. Wow, that’s terrible. I know I wouldn’t have waited a half hour if I was the family. That is just a rude, inconsiderate bus driver.

        The scenario I’m talking about is different. A fully packed bus that is almost at the “skipping stops” stage might end up telling the family that they should just take the next one (that is likely to be along in a few minutes). To me that is quite reasonable, and not that much different than what happens if you just happen to be at one of those stops that gets skipped. That is the official stroller policy of L. A. (listed above) and sounds reasonable to me.

    3. Though I totally disagree with rudeness/yelling, it makes me frustrated to read about this stroller incident. The Metro website says that non-collapsible strollers are allowed. The bus wasn’t crowded. Was the stroller so big it wouldn’t fit in the wheelchair area? My double fits with room to spare and some might call it an SUV stroller. There needs to be publicity and discussion from all sides about strollers on buses. Seriously. I want strollers on buses, but I want to do it in a way that works for drivers, wheelchair users, everyone.

    4. That’s the craziest story I’ve ever read.

      Someone please remind me why infrequent one-seats, paper transfers, and blind adherence to outdated ways of running a transit system are the presumed “social justice” stands.

      1. Because somehow those who advocate for supposed disadvantaged populations are somehow threatened by transit systems that are useful to more than just the transit dependent. They don’t like it when choice riders start using the buses they see as belonging to ‘their people’.

  19. There has always been the general perception and mindset that the bus is for individuals traveling alone getting to work and back, while cars are for any trips involving families. This some something that is only very slowing starting to change as a bus system that is already quite successful in getting people to work back needs to work harder in order to remain relevant to a non-trivial proportion of all trips.

    A saner stroller policy helps some, but it’s still fundamentally a band-aid that doesn’t scale well. If a non-trivial portion of parents suddenly decided to start taking their 2-year-old’s on the bus, the stroller space in the wheelchair securement area would quickly become exhausted. (This is a similar situation to how carrying a bike on the bus is not a scalable solution to last-mile problems).

    There’s also the fact that small children can sometimes be very impatient and have ways of making their impatience known to, not only mom and dad, but every other person on the bus.

    The ideal solution to the parents-on-bus problem is unfortunately neither easy nor cheap. Reconfiguring the bus interiors to allow more standing room at the expense of fewer seats would help, but unless buses can be sped up dramatically, this creates its own problems.

    1. I only sort of agree that a stroller-friendly policy is not scalable. Anecdotally (and I think I remember reading about it too), stroller parents/caregivers tend to travel at non-peak times and not all at the same time or direction. It’s an errand here or a day care drop of there, etc. It wouldn’t be 20 toddlers on a rush hour bus to downtown.

  20. I simply waited until my boy was old enough to be manageable with a umbrella stroller, which was hard, but doable. Particularly when he fell asleep on the bus after a long day downtown. Which was almost every time, now that I think about it! The rocking motion must me soothing.

    Not everyone is fortunate enough to forego buses for infants with a station wagon back-up however.

    Definitely a social justice issue.

  21. I think level boarding (or close to it) helps a lot. You can stroll the kid onto the bus, then deal with the stroller. This avoids the problem mentioned (having to restrain an anxious kid on the street). Other than that, the drivers need to be more flexible. If it is rush hour, and the bus is packed, then the stroller user needs to be able to pack it down really small. But if it is the middle of the day and there are plenty of empty seats, then the driver needs to wave them on and not worry about it. This should be official policy, but until then, drivers should look the other way. I can’t imagine anyone complaining about a stroller on a bus with a couple dozen people on it.

  22. I feel your pain. This is one reason why we haven’t taken our little one on the bus much, aside from a few occasional trips, since he was born at the end of 2013. As he gets older, it gets easier.

    One obvious problem is the design of buses – most Metro vehicles maximize seat space and so there’s just not a lot of room for people to stand with bulky items, such as a stroller (or luggage). As Metro buys new vehicles, we should advocate for them to purchase buses that are more flexible in their use of space.

    For the time being, the new policies being described above seem reasonable. Given the design of most existing buses, it’s going to be a challenge no matter how friendly the policy is given the limited available space. But it’s a good reminder for me, at least, to get the boy on the bus more often this year.

  23. This may be off topic, but has any consultation been done with disabled folks who use wheelchairs or scooters about issues like this? Having wait for a parent to disassemble a stroller, or somehow maneuver around a stroller, might not help too much with their overall transit experience. Just wondering….

  24. This makes another argument for 2+1 seating, which Metro may someday relent on. (Although unfortunately too late for the trolley fleet replacement and regular buses that are already on order.) Is there a “Family-Friendly Bus Design” we can advocate for?

    1. Doubt that re-fitting seats is that big a deal- especially since new fleet is coming from Canada, where they do use 2+1 seating. Which really does seem to work comfortably for both rush and off-peak.

      But another comment about bus speed is important reminder about how, in transit, one thing badly done, like transit speed improvement, results in other bad results.

      Fortunately, process works in reverse, too.


  25. I used to read Bus Chick, and I don’t recall her ever saying that bus travel with young kids is nearly impossible. She did it for years without demanding bus configurations and policy be changed for her convenience.

  26. Great post, Matt. My wife pretty much never takes transit with the kids for this reason, unless she has the whole day to deal with the one-mile trek (in either direction! Shout out to Hillman City!) to the light rail. Personally, I travel light – umbrella stroller + shoulder-strap diaper bag.

    Does comparing the pet policy to the stroller policy tell you anything about Seattle culture?

  27. Some Solutions:
    At least a few single seats.

    On articulated buses places for a stroller (I like the idea of boarding from a middle door, although I don’t think we have 3 door buses.

    Ease up the rules outside of rush hours.

    And seems like something between the ‘umbrella’ strollers and the ‘giant’ ones should be easily available.

  28. Matt, I wonder if your toddler could be classified as disabled under the ADA; after all, not being able to walk or talk certainly is a “physical impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity.” Bonus: If you were to hypothetically claim the baby as disabled, not only could they be secured like a wheelchair, but you could be considered a Personal Care Attendant and ride gratis.

    Removing seats on general-purpose urban routes increases the crush-load capacity but tends to lower the practical or scheduled capacity, as planned-for standee numbers are usually a function of seating capacity. As far as a transit firm’s smallest customers are concerned, three children, or a parent with two children can fit into two transverse seats; when school bus routes are planned the capacity assumption is three primary-age children per bench but only two secondary-age students. Restated, a small child takes up 2/3 of a seat. When one of the pair of seats is removed, two small children may not fit in one seat. As standing by small children is especially disliked more than by reasonably fit adults, in the marginal case where enough seats would be available but for the removal of a few, the transit firm may lose customers due to an uncomfortable and stressful experience by the child and/or parent.

    A preferable option for strollers is to install transverse flip-up (page 2, top center diagrams) rows behind the wheelchair securement barrier, with these seats designated as priority seating. Locating the flip-up seats behind the barrier compartmentalizes the stroller, preventing it from becoming a projectile when the coach brakes suddenly or crashes, while the flip-up seating provides flexibility in use.

  29. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a stroller on a bus when visiting Seattle. Around here? All the time. It is probably just the routes I ride, as I certainly have seen Asian women with a baby in a sling once in a while in Seattle.

    I’ve seen some pretty monstrous strollers put in the area above the wheel well on the low floor buses here. Is placement of stuff in that location allowed on King County Metro?

    1. I think everybody is noticing increasing number of ever larger wheeled things aboard transit. Wonder if LINK could add a baggage/bike car to trainsets?

      In Stuttgart, Germany, light rail cars are coupled with flatcars fitted with bike-racks. Easily researched with SLU and First Hill cars. Similar flatcar for kids in strollers, and their parents probably not a good idea, especially in this climate.

      Though kids involved would immediately start demanding flatcar rides after first trip. Parents on the way to ball games and the art museum tell me that their children now like LINK a lot better than whatever they’re taking the train to.

      So: subtract young light rail passengers’ age from voting age, and it will be a lot easier to calculate ideal year for future transit votes.

      Mark Dublin

      1. Ever larger wheeled devices indeed. There was a whole obnoxious series of events touched off here when a group of Segway users demanded to be treated the same as wheelchair users. I’m not sure how all that sorted out. In my part of town if people have that much to spend on an unroofed conveyance they just get a really nice bike.

  30. Grown-ups have also told me that on the street anywhere in ear-shot of a station, children who can’t talk yet will start pointing and wordlessly but loudly demanding a train-ride every time they hear a light rail bell.

    Voting age – 2 years old = year 2031 could give us Vancouver BC, Portland, and Coeur d’Alene in ST5.


  31. On CT the child can stay in the stroller , out of the aisle in the wheelchair area, parent must have a hold on the stroller. If the area is full, fold it up or wait for next bus.

  32. If a driver bends the rules or is “shows compassion” and something happens, it can be his job on the line for violating the sop.,

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