Weighing in on the strollers on the TTC debate

Flora's First Subway Ride
She slept through her entire first subway adventure.

My daughter was born in early September of 2008. I knew that it was a good idea to get used to traveling with her while the weather was still good. I wanted to get used to traveling with a baby and all the Stuff a baby needs before it got too cold. I didn’t want to look out the window longingly and feel even more housebound than I already was.

As a city dweller with one car between my husband and I, that meant I had to learn to navigate public transit with Flora. If I wanted to go anywhere on the days my husband took the car to get to work, I had to figure out how to do the subway. I wasn’t going near the bus when she was super small.

The picture over there is of Flora’s first subway ride. She was about a month old. That’s why she’s in one of *those* strollers. She was too small to sit up in the stroller seat so her car seat attached to the top so she could travel safely and I could bring the various stuff a baby needs in its constantly-hungry-or-leaking phase.

I planned this trip to get a couple of things done. I was canceling my membership in the Metropass Discount Plan because I wouldn’t be TTCing much while I was off work. That’s why we’re at Davisville. (Taking a stroller to the TTC head office – I hope someone did that this week.) Then we were off to visit Sean at work up near Mel Lastman Square. So a couple of stops and a long-ish subway ride to and from Warden Station.

I had planned for my trip to be done well outside of rush hour. I wanted to be considerate of other riders, especially since this wasn’t a time-sensitive errand. I know it’s hard to navigate around a stroller – I’ve done it too. So I did my best to take up as little space as possible and get out of the way of other people. I mostly succeeded, and I don’t remember getting any stinkeye from other passengers.

This was not the largest stroller on the market, nor was it the smallest. It was reasonably affordable (and a gift from Grandma to boot), held up for all of Flora’s stroller-needing years and I am grateful I had it.I did my best to be mindful of the people around me no matter where I was so I wasn’t crowding them or blocking their way. No one ever yelled at me, so I hope I succeeded.

Flora and Mummy at City Hall
This was taken at a stroller march held in 2009 to support the need for childcare in Toronto. This stroller got me through many daycare pickups and some dropoffs on the TTC.

When Flora got bigger (as in over six months, but under twelve months old, so still a baby), I knew I needed to get a smaller, more portable stroller. While our plan was to have Sean drive her to and from daycare, we knew that sometimes I would have to do the daycare run via TTC.

The days we knew I would have to pick her up, Sean would bring the stroller when he dropped her off and I would bring her home on the bus in it. When the bus would come, I would pick the stroller up to get her on the bus and wheel the stroller to the best spot to be out of the way of the most people. That spot was different every time depending on how people were sitting on the bus.

I was lucky that I was going against the flow of traffic at that time of day so most buses going to my place from my daycare provider’s home weren’t too busy. Still I did my best to be watchful and get out of people’s way.

Morning dropoff on the bus was less fun. There were several routes that went by my stop, but at least two went past a nearby highschool. Taking Flora to daycare on those buses meant getting on a standing room-only bus with a stroller. I was a cliché and I hated it. I did my best to get Flora and I the hell out of the way. I didn’t have far to go on the bus – I got off before the highschool kids, so I felt even more like an jerk when I had to pull the cord and wheel my kid precariously off the bus, apologizing the entire way.

I was relieved when Flora was walking well enough that I could stop using the stroller for doing dropoff and pickup on the TTC. I was paying a fare for her by now and she could have her own seat without guilt. I was even more relieved when Sean and I would park the car at Kennedy or Warden station and I would just take the subway to my car, then pick her up. It was just so much less hassle for me, even if Flora enjoyed the bus.

I was lucky. I lived close to two subway stations that had parking. My daycare provider lived less than fifteen minutes away from us and was easily accessible by car or transit. Not everyone is that lucky. Until the TTC’s coverage is more evenly spread throughout the entire city (and not just downtown), people will cobble together solutions that work for them.

I don’t live in Toronto anymore, but I still work there and use the subway five days a week to get to work. I also don’t have a baby anymore, but a little kid. As a TTC user, this issue affects me. Public transit is for everyone and that includes those who have to ferry small children around.

A note for those who want to say just wear your baby.

Flora in the wrap
I wore Flora plenty too.

I took short and medium-sized trips on the subway with Flora in a wrap and no stroller. It’s okay for the first bit, but doing errands that way is tricky at best. I can’t imagine doing a trip from let’s say, north Scarborough to downtown with a six month-old strapped to me, diaper bag on my arm, and possibly another child beside me. I’m just not that much of a masochist. I loved babywearing and I did it regularly. Babywearing was way better for our walks to the library over deep snow drifts, walking the dog and trips where I just didn’t want to bring a big stroller along. It’s not so good for trips where you’re going to end up carrying lots of other things besides your baby.

I believe that the issue of strollers on the TTC would be less of a hot button if all TTC riders just behaved a little better in general. We all have to get where we need to go. Don’t be a jerk, whether you’re commuting to work, daycare, or whatever it is you do with your time.

For other opinions on this issue, you should read these thoughtful blog posts:

 

2 thoughts on “Weighing in on the strollers on the TTC debate

  1. Melissa,

    This is a beautiful, beautiful post. I love the way you incorporated your story with Flora, words and images, throughout the post. It made me tear up at the end.

    Thanks for the link back to my post, but thank you even more for a wonderfully told story about your experience as a mother and a transit rider. Well, well done. 🙂

    • Thank you! Didn’t mean to make you cry though. 🙂

      I don’t always weigh in on hot topic stuff. Since I had experience with this one, I needed to speak up.

      I have to believe that there are more good experiences than bad. Most people are kind. It’s just that we remember the jerks.

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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada
This work by Melissa Price-Mitchell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada.