A Stroller on the A Line

I ride the bus with little kids, and being able to bring a stroller on board makes the ride a lot easier for me. For this, I like the Green Line the best, with its level boarding, wide walkways and space for a stroller. I have been very excited for the A Line to start service, and to see how easy it would be to take a stroller on board. Here is the story of my first A Line ride with three kids and a double stroller.

We arrived at Snelling and Saint Clair northbound station, where my three year old son Alex immediately hit the emergency call button in the shelter. Dispatcher Mike promptly responded and was very polite when I told him we had no emergency. But I was happy to know that if there were an emergency at the station, help is easy to reach.

Alex pushed the red button as soon as we got to the station. And he was proud.

Alex pushed the red button as soon as we got to the station. And he was proud.

My eleven year old daughter Sylvia and I scanned our Go To cards at the station, since the A Line offers preboarding fare payment, like the Green Line. I really appreciate this feature, because I don’t have a hand free for scanning a card when I’m boarding a stroller.

The station pylon informed us we had 5 minutes to wait until the next bus arrived. I planned to board through the back door when the bus arrived, since you can board the A Line through either door and the back door is extra wide.

The next A Line bus arrives in 5 minutes

The next A Line bus arrives in 5 minutes

When the bus arrived, the bus driver stopped with the front door right in front of us, so we boarded through the front door. The bus stopped a few inches from the curb, and required a step up for my stroller. It was easy for me to board without help, but a person in a wheelchair would need the ramp. The door and walkway were wide enough for my stroller to maneuver.

Boarding_1

Photo credit: Sylvia Metcalfe

Boarding_2

Photo credit: Sylvia Metcalfe

The bus driver suggested to me that many riders fold up their strollers and hold their babies because it’s safer, but said it was up to me. My stroller is difficult to fold up and carry while holding my baby, so I chose to leave my baby in it. I noticed the Customer Code of Conduct still requires strollers to be folded up while riding, so I appreciated that the driver told me it was my choice.

Customer Code of Conduct still says strollers should be folded while riding

Code of Conduct still says strollers should be folded while riding

The A Line buses have spaces to accommodate two (or three?) wheelchairs, so I lifted up the seats on one side and parked the stroller there. I liked that there is a separate companion seat, so I could sit next to the stroller.

Companion seat allows someone to sit next to a child in a stroller or person in a wheelchair

Companion seat allows someone to sit next to a child in a stroller or person in a wheelchair. Photo credit: Sylvia Metcalfe

As we rode north, I noticed that the Snelling and Como northbound station was relocated for the weekend to Snelling and Midway Parkway, to accommodate riders attending the MSRA Back to the 50s car show at the State Fair grounds. I’m guessing Metro Transit will do the same during the State Fair.

We arrived at Rosedale and exited through the back door. The curbs at Rosedale have not been rebuilt like the other A Line stations, and it was a big step down. We didn’t get any pictures of the stroller offboarding, because I needed designated photographer Sylvia to help me with it. But she got this one of Alex jumping from the bus to the curb.

It's a big jump from the back door to the curb at Rosedale. Photo credit: Sylvia Metcalfe

It’s a big jump from the back door to the curb at Rosedale. Photo credit: Sylvia Metcalfe

Final thoughts: the A Line buses are a nice improvement over regular Metro Transit buses for people boarding with strollers, carts, and wheelchairs. I hope Metro Transit adopts this style of bus for its regular routes, as well as future arterial bus rapid transit lines.

A person waits for the southbound A Line at Snelling and Saint Clair

A man waits for the southbound A Line at Snelling and Saint Clair


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20 Responses to A Stroller on the A Line

  1. Sam June 21, 2016 at 12:50 pm #

    I get that people need to get around with their kids, but the rules are the rules. Whether or not the driver chooses to enforce it is besides the point. Very selfish. Now, if the bus isn’t busy it is certainly not the end of the world, but strollers cause major issues when buses get near capacity. If you can’t fold it and need to use transit often, then I’d suggest getting a cheaper stroller that is lighter and can fold easier.

    If you don’t like the rules, take that up with Metro Transit. Otherwise, have the decency to respect your fellow riders.

    • Rosa June 21, 2016 at 9:49 pm #

      it’s NEVER easy to fold a stroller, because you have to take the kid out to do it. And I don’t care what Metro Transit says, there is no way it’s safer to hold a baby in your lap (while also managing other children and anything you had to carry and the stroller itself) while riding the bus. I had a stroller-aged child at the time Metro Transit arbitrarily changed the stroller rules – in what way are riders supposed to get a voice? We certainly got no notice a rule change was on the way.

      • brad June 23, 2016 at 10:25 am #

        Umbrella stroller if the kid is old enough, otherwise, companies make 1-second folding strollers (I have one, by Graco, that literally takes 1 second to fold up) and it’s a jogging stroller.

        • Rosa June 26, 2016 at 9:41 pm #

          it’s still not easy to hold a baby, and whatever else you were holding – people take the bus for a reason, like to go to the grocery store or a doctor’s appointment or work – and stand on a moving bus and fold a stroller. No matter how magical the stroller.

    • Josh June 21, 2016 at 10:10 pm #

      I love that Phil & Ted’s stroller. Its a single wide double stroller, so it makes a really small footprint. Honestly, as a passenger, having two kids in the stroller vs. two kids running about the bus, I feel like the stroller takes up less space. Even folded up, that’s no dream. This is really a non-issue as most of the time, parents with the option to avoid rush hour do. Rules are rules, but a stroller all opened up takes up less space than a manspread. Generally, compassion is practiced and a beef with strollers is pretty uncommon.

    • Eric Saathoff
      Eric S June 22, 2016 at 6:54 am #

      This is ridiculous. It can be difficult to get everyone on the bus with the folded stroller, especially if you’ve got multiple little ones who need help. But it’s not too difficult to judge the situation and make the best choice. If she were on the bus and realized it was filling up quickly or multiple people with disabilities needed that spot I’m sure she would accommodate by folding up the stroller and making space. If the space is available the driver was right to give her the option. I’m sure the driver would have said something different if it had been standing room only inside. Just use some common sense here.

      When the bus is empty are you so dedicated to following the rules that you would never set a backpack on the seat next to you? Similar to above – if you see it filling up, you pick up that bag and make the seat available.

      • Matthew Steele June 22, 2016 at 9:54 am #

        Enough with the parent shaming by some of the commenters. I would have done (and have done) the same thing as the author many times. It’s nothing like parking in a handicap spot, and the signs even reflect that… IF an elederly, mobility impaired, etc bus rider comes on, then fold up the stroller and make room for them.

        Great article Emily. I’m eager to try out the A-Line with my little stroller-dweller.

        • Matthew Steele June 22, 2016 at 9:55 am #

          My comment was threaded onto Eric’s for some reason, but I was responding to *others* in agreement with Eric.

    • Emily Metcalfe
      Emily Metcalfe June 23, 2016 at 9:51 am #

      If we don’t need the double stroller at our destination, I take a single, compact stroller on the bus because it is smaller and easier to fold. When my baby was smaller, I put her in a chest carrier so I could take the single stroller for my 3 year old. And of course, if the space on the bus is needed for a wheelchair, I would move out of it.

      On the routes I regularly ride, it is common to see parents with strollers and shoppers with portable carts. When buses get full, it can be a challenge to find space for these things. I like LRT because it affords space for people to board with stuff easily. I wrote this to show how the aBRT experience compares. As the A Line was configured, I was able to easily board with a stroller and keep it on the bus without interfering with comfortable boarding or off boarding of any other passengers. I really don’t want the bus to be an environment where parents or shoppers (or people in wheelchairs for that matter) feel that they are too much of an inconvenience to other passengers to be welcome. So transit design is important to accommodate the needs of all passengers.

  2. Serafina June 21, 2016 at 1:43 pm #

    The rules are ridiculous and discriminatory on a bus that is set up with space capable of handling strollers and wheelchairs. Transit that can accommodate the needs of the people using it has been a long time in coming.

    Yes, many people use strollers long after they’ve ceased being necessary. Some are unwieldy. But having to fold a stroller on a bus is unmanageable in far too many cases. Change the rule.

  3. Casey June 21, 2016 at 3:59 pm #

    Unless your child has special needs, those areas are reserved for limited mobility. Do you park in handicapped parking spaces because it is easier with your children?

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke June 22, 2016 at 10:55 am #

      Reserved in a way. I think the official rule is that you give those seats up if someone with special needs requires them. I’m sure Emily would have done that if it had come up.

    • Emily Metcalfe
      Emily Metcalfe June 23, 2016 at 9:54 am #

      When wheelchairs are not present, riders regularly sit in these seats. I don’t think it is any more inappropriate to use the space for a stroller. To which I mean, not inappropriate at all. Of course, I would move if the space were needed for a passenger in a wheelchair.

  4. Monica Millsap Rasmussen
    Monica Rasmussen June 22, 2016 at 9:04 am #

    I was under the impression that the BRT would be easier to board because it would line up with the platform, similar to light rail. I also was hoping for more interior space for strollers and wheelchairs. Reading this, I’m left wondering what the changes are that make BRT better than kneeling buses, in terms of boarding.

    • Joey Senkyr
      Joey Senkyr June 22, 2016 at 9:35 am #

      Most platforms are raised a little bit, so the kneeling bus gets closer more easily. The Red Line is set up for true LRT style level boarding, but it turns out the extra time it takes to carefully line the bus up to the platform at every single stop is much greater than the time it takes to kneel the bus and extend the ramp only when necessary.

      • Monica Millsap Rasmussen
        Monica Rasmussen June 22, 2016 at 11:33 am #

        Right. And I agree. The kneeling buses barely take any time to kneel if someone needs it. The kneeling buses are also lower to begin with, so many board by slightly lifting front wheels of stroller or walker just like Emily on the A Line. But, since that option was already available, and the A Line isn’t set up for true LRT style boarding, and the A Line looks to have no more interior options than any other bus (in terms of space for strollers, wheelchairs, etc), what makes this design better for boarding than a regular kneeling bus? That is what I’m somehow missing from reading this.

        • Emily Metcalfe
          Emily Metcalfe June 23, 2016 at 9:28 am #

          I was thinking it would be more like LRT too. It was about as easy to board as the low boarding 21 (as a point of comparison). I think there was a little more walkway space on the A Line bus than the 21. The station platforms were nice though, because I could board directly from the platform. On the 21, it depends how close the bus can get to the curb, and I usually have to step off curb with the stroller and then back up to the kneeling platform.

    • GlowBoy June 27, 2016 at 6:13 pm #

      In terms of boarding, BRT has a bunch of benefits:
      – Faster (or minimal) kneeling, as already mentioned.
      – Wider doors, simultaneous boarding through front and rear. If you’ve got a dozen people waiting to board or deboard a bus, it takes a lot less time to get them through the doors.
      – Prepay on the platform. If you’ve got a dozen people waiting to board a bus, the bottleneck is of course not the doors, but the fact that each rider must pay or demonstrate proof of payment one by one.

  5. Rich Passmore June 23, 2016 at 4:34 pm #

    Really nice, neutral write up, thanks Emily.

  6. GlowBoy June 27, 2016 at 6:07 pm #

    I often pick up or drop off my toddler at daycare using the (regular, not A-line) bus. We use an umbrella stroller. I usually fold it to get on the bus, holding my kid (or kid’s hand), pulling the stroller on with the other hand, and scanning my go-to card with my third hand. 😉

    I do look forward to more BRT around town – and living near the #5, which I hope will become the D-line, maybe I’ll eventually get to use it regularly. I imagine we’ll be done with strollers by the time that happens, but the BRT buses are nice for a lot of other reasons too.

    I’ll echo the above replies that folding ANY stroller is a bit of a fuss, as is unfolding it when you get out. And removing your child from the stroller you can fold it results in one less free hand. Can we assume presume the child who darts off while we’re holding the stroller in one hand and fishing out our payment card with the other is the result of bad parenting, so we can absorb the full brunt of the shaming?

    Bear in mind that folding strollers must also be EMPTIED in order to be folded. Ours will carry more half a grocery bag’s worth of stuff in the bottom, but if we’ve put groceries in there it must be emptied – into an actual grocery bag, say – for folding, forcing us to carry one more item.

    And anyway, a lot of strollers aren’t really that much smaller folded in terms of bus-floor footprint than when unfolded. My umbrella stroller becomes nice and narrow when folded, making it easier to wedge in with luggage in a car trunk, for example. But folded, it also becomes 4′ long and won’t stand up on its own, so on a bus its folded dimensions aren’t always that advantageous. Sometimes I can wedge it upright between seats or in an underutilized space, but if I have to lay it down the square footage it takes up is about the same as when it’s open.

    Finally, please don’t shame people for not choosing umbrella strollers. In this country parents have very few choices when it comes to strollers that fold up well. At your typical baby outlet your choices are pretty much the $25 umbrella stroller or one of the big SUV strollers. You won’t usually find anything that will hold up well for long walks AND fold up small. We finally settled on a $100-200 British model which we love, but we had to mail order it. Please don’t blame anyone for simply choosing among the products actually available to them.

    So the folding thing just isn’t as simple as the Code of Conduct. I almost always fold the stroller when getting on a normal bus, almost always roll the stroller on with my child in it when getting on a train (and most likely the same on a BRT bus), but have been known to fold the stroller when the trains were really crowded. In other words, the basic “decency to respect my fellow riders” – when it actually makes a difference to other riders.