"There are too many strollers on buses." "These mothers today and their SUV strollers." "That kid shouldn't even be in a stroller." There's been a lot of that kind of sentiment going around since a citizen issued a complaint at a Toronto Transit Commission meeting on Monday about strollers obstructing the aisle on TTC buses. Transit staff will look into the issue and report on whether there is, indeed, a need for guidelines. (Note that TTC CEO Andy Byford says they have no plans to start charging an extra fare for strollers.)
Here's the thing.
Sure, it's a pain to fit a stroller on a bus. The newer (I guess they're not even that new any more, are they? I'm showing my age!) wheelchair accessible buses that ride closer to the ground make it much easier to get a stroller onto a bus than ever before. Once you are on the bus, however, seats need to fit around the protruding wheel humps. (I'm quite sure that's the official word for them: wheel humps.) This causes a bit of a bottleneck about one third into the vehicle that's annoying during rush hour even without any strollers. Throw a couple Gracos into the mix and your transit commute becomes a live action Tetris game. I get that. Do you know who else gets that? The parents or caregivers who are trying to take up as little space as possible while placating a baby or toddler on a crowded bus ride and apologizing to every person squeezing past, that's who.
That brings me to my next point. Nobody brings a stroller on the TTC during rush hour unless they have to. I live in the city and have three children under seven years old. We didn't own a car at all until the second baby was born. I know what I'm talking about. For the most part, parents do try to coordinate their travel to avoid rush hour. We're not all masochists! But sometimes you have no choice. Child care is hard to come by in this city and some people do need to lug their kids to and from daycare on buses and streetcars. Is that not punishment enough? Or you could bring a five-year-old and two-year-old downtown for a rally supporting pay equity for midwives when you are heavily pregnant with a third baby and accidentally find yourself boarding the subway with a giant belly and a sit-and-stand stroller in the heart of rush hour and have to contend with scowls and sideways glances because how dare you impinge on that guy's right to a child-free commute!? Ahem, you know, for example.
If there's a stroller on a bus during rush hour, basically, it's because it has to be there. More commonly, you will get a stroller traffic jam mid-morning or mid-afternoon. That can also be a hassle for anyone else trying to squeeze by, but it usually works itself out. In those cases, there is plenty of room on the bus if you don't mind moving back a bit.
And I'd just like to point out that the so-called SUV strollers people like to complain about tend to be economy models. It's actually quite expensive to buy a nice, sleek, light-weight and transit-friendly stroller. Contrary to popular belief, the SUV models are not a sign of exorbitant indulgence. They're simply the only affordable options for many people until their kid is big enough for a $15 umbrella stroller (but that's another story).
But why do these kids need to be in strollers anyway, you ask. Babies, for one, can't walk and while some sort of baby carrier is always an option it's not always the best choice for everyone. (If I was going to be out all day, I would want both a stroller and a carrier, for example.) The thing that most people seem to be completely unaware of is that while toddlers can walk, they really do need to be strapped down for their own safety. Children under three or even four years old have the impulse control of Rob Ford at a football game and I would never feel safe taking the TTC unless they were harnessed into a stroller, especially if I have more than one child with me.
Just remember that it's public transportation, people. That means you'll occasionally have to squeeze past a stroller or two and I'll have to bite my tongue when I miss my connection because there's an old lady taking her sweet time on the stairs. I'll try not to begrudge the perfectly able-bodied person who took my stroller's spot on the elevator and we will all pretend we can't smell that guy over there.
Can we all just agree to leave young families alone and instead focus on that pervert masturbating over there? Because that still happens.
Follow Rebecca Cuneo Keenan on Twitter: www.twitter.com/rebeccakeenan