You could hardly blame the city’s transit committee, faced in a meeting last week with a sizable delegation of ticked-off young mothers, for reversing proposed restrictions on strollers aboard buses.
The change, designed to reduce bottlenecks at the front of the bus, would have limited the number of open strollers up front, requiring those in excess to be folded up (presumably after the removal of children) for the duration of the trip.
It must be noted that strollers to my eye have grown steadily bigger in recent years, to the point where some approach the size of Smart Cars. The kids riding them seem bigger too, many of them apparently of an age at which they’re quite capable of walking, if not long division. They do take up some space.
But these are not our purchasing and parenting decisions to make, and moms are transit users too. We’ve all seen them perform the daily feat of boarding, keeping a grip on one or more squirming kids, plus stroller and assorted paraphernalia, while flashing the bus pass at the driver and an apologetic, harried smile at fellow passengers. Adding an extra setup/takedown step to their routine seems a bit much.
As things stand, it will be, as usual, up to the driver to determine whether the stroller blockade in the aisle is unacceptably compromising passenger comfort or safety.
As it happens, OC Transpo is also hoping to slow down drivers so that if they’re not on time, they’re more likely to be late than early. It is, after all, easier to catch a bus that’s a couple of minutes late than one which whizzed by a couple of minutes earlier.
So we’ve got another minute or two to let everyone get settled in. Why not take advantage of it, relax and make room for everyone?
The initial attempt to settle such daily inconveniences and awkward moments with an across-the-board rule was probably misguided in the first place. The buses are shared turf, and riders generally do a pretty good job of the sharing.
Legislating courtesy is probably the least reliable method of encouraging it, although the Toronto Transit Commission has made a spirited attempt, responding to growing complaints by jacking up fines to $195 or $345 (plus ‘victim surcharge’) for all sorts of incivilities and offenses, from failing to give up priority seating to swearing.
The results from this mandatory politeness crackdown remain to be seen, but I would expect better results from leaving most problems between passengers to the passengers themselves. Most of the time, we manage.