Today, as I stood on a streetcar so crowded I felt like I was spooning the hefty woman to my left, I gave a little prayer of thanks that I don’t have to cart my two-year-old to daycare on transit.
So it felt particularly timely that there’s a poo storm swirling this morning about the Toronto Transit Commission's (TTC) decision to see whether the system needs “guidelines” about strollers on buses. TTC CEO Andy Byford has helpfully pointed out that his hometown of London, England has a two-stroller limit per vehicle during rush hour. Well, thank god there’s only two parents who need to get to work! Or the doctor! Or leave their house! The image of some mom standing there, in the snow, or freezing rain with her stroller, as the driver says: “Sorry ma’am, already at our limit” and cheerfully closes the door in her face while her baby wails is as ridiculous as it is depressing.
Yes, you feel a jerk taking up space with a stroller. But what are you supposed to do? You can’t hold your kid all day. Have you ever tried to wrangle the squirming, screaming, suicide drone called a two-year-old through rush hour traffic without a stroller? You can’t. Have you ever tried to carry a baby and a diaper bag all day long? You can’t. And you also can’t, as some have so helpfully suggested, always plan your travel times around rush hours. When I was on maternity leave, I used to live in terror of transit rush hours, but had the flexibility then to plan my Very Important Errands (must hit sale at Old Navy! And buy batteries! And meet friend for acai smoothies!) around them. But if you’re, you know, working, and you don’t have a car, and have to get your kid to daycare or just get around the city period, you have to take transit. You can’t just hop into a cab either — it’s completely unsafe without a car seat.
When I read that Byford said that strollers are a “problem,” I assumed he lived in the suburbs where everyone has cars. He doesn't, but this is still a weirdly suburban mentality—where going for a ride on the choo choo train is something special you do with your kids on a field trip to the Downtown Place. (So gritty! So real!). Here’s the thing. Living in Toronto isn’t always the choice of snotty women with fancy streamlined strollers (like me). Guess where a lot of poor people live? In the city. Guess what they don’t have? A car. Or cab fare. And P.S., the whole problem would be solved if the TTC just made it a policy to fold up those three retractable seats in the front. That's where Paris and Berlin find room for strollers and wheelchairs on their buses. They understand that a stroller isn’t an accessory.
Yes, it’s annoying for other riders to have to negotiate around a stroller. But I’m only going to be that person taking up space with a stroller for five years or less, yet I’ve been riding the TTC for 30 years so far and will probably do so for 25 more, and I deserve to be able to use our public transit system without being discriminated against due to the fact that I have a child.