As though the TTC doesn’t have enough on its plate, 61 year old Toronto resident Elsa La Rosa filed a complaint at Monday’s TTC meeting about the problem with strollers and buggies. Her suggestions to the commissioners are to limit strollers and buggies on Toronto buses and street cars during peak periods to two and during non-peak hours to three. As well, she would like to see a service charge of $2 / buggy. While TTC president Karen Stintz never thought there was a problem, she did recommend a report looking into the matter to be released in the next few months. Meanwhile, both Stintz and TTC CEO Andy Byford have no intention of charging for or limiting strollers.
As a mother of two young children, I am clearly biased where this issue is concerned, but I believe there can be some middle ground that can be gained. Unlike most cities in North America with transit systems, the TTC has no actual stroller policy, despite being the 3rd largest transit system in North America, behind Mexico City and New York City. Perhaps it’s time they did.
Why is this a problem now? Four reasons:
Reason #1: Ridership is more than it has ever been in TTC ridership history. Ridership in 2003 was 405.4 million, while in 2011 it set a record for ridership at 500.2 million. In 2012, it is expected to be between 503 -507 million. That’s a lot of people to move each day.
Reason #2: Reduction in services. There are less buses on the road to service the amount of persons traveling on any given day. That, along with longer rush hour periods leads to more crowding, even on weekends.
Reason #3: The new fleet of Orion buses. You know those low riding buses that have all but replaced the old fleet? They are much narrower than their former counterparts. It some areas, they are no more than 42” wide, and the back deck is raised, limiting the amount of floor space on the bus.
Reason # 4: SUV strollers. Not my name for them, but I think you get the idea. They are super wide like some double strollers, or with large wheels like the joggers or sport styles. At any rate, anything over 2 feet wide or 4 feet long, will block aisles and accessible seating.
What are other cities in Canada doing? Both Vancouver and Montreal have firm policies in place making recommendations for smoother travel. This includes size restrictions of strollers, designated standing areas for strollers and buggies or priority seating, transportation outside of peak times and incentives to do so by offering free rides for children under 6 years of age.
What’s the TTC to do? They can’t send back the fleet, but certainly, designers of buses should take transportation of all passengers into consideration – persons with disabilities, the elderly, pregnant mothers and mothers with young children. But as this is not coming anytime soon, perhaps they could create a travel policy for strollers and buggies, like other cities in our country have. I have looked for stroller dimensions on some websites; most recommend collapsible strollers or umbrella style strollers that measure no more than 24” wide or 48” deep. I found many styles on-line that fit quite easily into this size range, including tandem strollers for twins.
Charging for strollers is not the answer, and many forget that children 2+ do pay transit fare. Perhaps creating incentives for off-peak hours such as free trips to children under 6. I say this knowing that it is not always possible to ride during off-peak hours. I myself have had to take transit during rush hour for appointments and school, but providing the incentive might bode well for non-essential excursions. Create priority areas for strollers, such as the two dedicated wheelchair spots. Of course, wheelchairs take priority, but when not in use, this could be a great option. I’ve already seen some drivers doing this already!
Finally, we all know that a little courtesy is required. Sure, strollers sometimes make riding the TTC less than pleasurable, but so do many other things. We’ve all got to be respectful of one another.