Most TTC drivers and passengers were helpful, but there were times when the mother of twins cringed. In 2011, one driver told her that if he had to lower the bus at every stop, as he’d done for her, he’d be late. Another driver told her the side-by-side twin model stroller was too big and she shouldn’t be letting her on.
“I was really embarrassed because I knew people were looking. They look at you anyway because you’ve got twins. I knew they were looking at me because of the comment that was made,” she said. “Going out on the TTC, I hated it, so when you have a driver give you hard time, it really pissed me off.”
This week, the TTC board asked staff to look at whether the system needs guidelines governing strollers. A rider suggested only two strollers should be allowed on board city buses during rush hour and no more than three at other times. TTC spokesman Brad Ross said a review will be undertaken, but he doesn’t imagine there will be a “significant policy change” with respect to strollers.
Strollers used to be included in TTC policy that bars the transport of large objects during rush hour. But after a parent complained when she wasn’t allowed on a bus during rush hour, strollers were exempted, he said.
Raktim Mitra, an assistant professor at Ryerson University’s School of Urban and Regional Planning, said the issue is sadly an emotional one (someone compared dogs to children in one online forum, he noted), but it speaks to increased demands on transit. TTC ridership numbers continue to break records.
“If the system was not congested during rush hour, no one would discuss the kids,” he said.
“Why would a mom take a stroller and ride a TTC bus? They would also suffer from this congestion. Either they don’t have access to an alternative, or they choose to use transit as an alternative, and discouraging that, I think, goes against our goal of creating an inclusive society,” he said.
A 2011 review of 42 North American transit agencies by the Transit Cooperative Research Program showed that the stroller problem is common and complex. Policies credited with being most effective are those that limit driver involvement: Rules such as ensuring that strollers must fit through doors and be kept out of aisles. Attempts to place limitations on size and style have been perceived as “discriminatory against parents, often low-income women,” the report notes.
Technology is also useful. The report cited some European examples.
In Ottawa, where strollers have to be made of hardy stock, city staff recommended a ban on non-folding strollers and a limit of one open stroller on board, but city council voted against the changes in 2010.
While frustrated TTC riders might feel that strollers are getting bigger every year, Arnie Garcia, the stroller manager at Moms to be and More, says many companies are tuned in to the condo effect and have focused on creating something lighter and more compact.
“Not a lot of people can accommodate that in their living area — so the smaller the better, for most people,” he says. “Definitely a big change has happened in the last few months,” with intermediate-size strollers popular.
Ten years ago, California’s Tri Delta Transit, which serves a rural and suburban community east of San Francisco, dealt with the issue by removing a pair of seats on their fleet of city buses to create a designated stroller area.
CEO Jeanne Krieg said the experiment has been popular, but not without its critics.
“There’s a lot of reasons that I’ve been told we’re wrong and we shouldn’t have done it. You can’t secure the stroller, so if there is an accident or a sudden movement there could be an issue with a child. But my response to that is, if you have a baby sitting in your lap and the same thing happens … Safety has not been an issue for us at all,” she said.