Parents find Duluth Transit Authority's stroller rule tryingWaiting for a bus at the Holiday Center on Wednesday, Alicia Bennett kept an eye on her active 3-year-old son while talking about the Duluth Transit Authority’s stroller policy.
By: Steve Kuchera, Duluth News Tribune
Waiting for a bus at the Holiday Center on Wednesday, Alicia Bennett kept an eye on her active 3-year-old son while talking about the Duluth Transit Authority’s stroller policy.
“I stopped using my stroller,” Bennett said. “I found that if you didn’t have the stroller (folded) down in time for the bus, they would keep going.”
The DTA requires that strollers brought onto its buses be folded and stored under or between the seats. The policy is the topic of today’s Big View Forum, a monthly event hosted by Community Action Duluth.
“We have a number of parents who work with us who rely on public transportation as a way to get around town,” not all of whom have strollers that meet the policy, said Xavier Bell, director of community engagement for Community Action Duluth. “But one way or another, these parents are trying to overcome a transportation barrier.”
Last year the DTA carried close to 3.3 million passengers, 9,305 of whom had strollers, according to transit authority numbers. So far this year, the DTA carried 823 strollers in January and 721 in February.
To keep bus aisles safe for walking and clear for emergency evacuation, the DTA requires that all items be stored either under or between seats. The only exceptions are devices that passengers with disabilities require — such as walkers, canes, oxygen equipment and service animals — which may be in the aisles if they can’t be stored between seats. Under the policy, strollers must be stored out of the aisle. They can’t be in the areas reserved for passengers with disabilities.
“Our current policy is basically similar to the policies of almost all other transit systems,” said DTA director of administration Jim Heilig, who plans to attend today’s forum to hear people’s concerns.
In the Twin Cities, Metro Transit’s policy calls for strollers to be folded before riders board and for strollers to be kept out of the aisle during the trip.
Kayla Gengler, mother of a 3-year-old and an 8-month-old, uses the DTA almost daily. She called the current policy ridiculous.
“I have two kids, back problems, all sorts of stuff on the stroller,” which makes it difficult to collapse the stroller and carry everything onto a bus, she said. “I’ve had arguments with bus drivers. I would like it (the policy) to go back to the old way.”
For about two years the DTA tried an expanded policy, allowing some larger and non-folding strollers and carts on buses.
“We sometimes got too many of them,” Heilig said. “We would have them in the area where wheelchairs go. After you had two in there, you had a clutter and you didn’t have the aisles open anymore. We also had a case where a person in a wheelchair got on the bus and we couldn’t get them into the wheelchair tie-down area because a person with a stroller wouldn’t move. We just can’t have that.”
There also were cases of strollers and carts rolling up and down the aisle because riders weren’t holding them.
“We had more incidents of runaway strollers than you could believe,” Heilig said. “We reviewed the policy and decided that, from a safety standpoint especially, we were better off going back to the old policy.”
The DTA reinstituted the more restrictive policy in August.
“We have gotten more positive comments here than negatives” since the policy changed back, Heilig said.
In preparation for today’s forum, Community Action Duluth conducted a survey on the policy. Of the 45 people who responded, 78 percent would like to see the policy changed; 53 percent said the policy affects them; 87 percent said they felt people with strollers are discriminated against.