The proposal of letting parents bring unfolded strollers onto New York City buses faced hefty blowback from disability advocates Wednesday, who demanded that their spots on board not be sacrificed for baby carriers.
Several speakers with disabilities came out against giving up room at the front of Metropolitan Transportation Authority buses for the infant and toddler push carts, saying they had fought long and hard for their right to access transit.
“At the end of the day, mothers can still board a bus, whether they fold up a stroller or have a location for it in the back of the bus,” said Jessica De La Rosa, who uses a wheelchair, during MTA’s monthly board meeting March 30. “If those two wheelchair securements are occupied, then we cannot get on.”
“Monday, someone testified and mentioned that it feels like buses say, ‘You’re not welcome,’” said De La Rosa. “Well, welcome to my world.”
After months of moms showing up at MTA board meetings demanding the agency end its longstanding ban on unfolded strollers, transit officials during a Monday meeting announced an “advisory group” to study the issue, which includes caregivers, disability advocates, and bus operators.
Craig Cipriano, interim chief of New York City Transit, which oversees the Big Apple’s subways and buses, said they had safety concerns, but repeated that they were going to take a look at it.
“Unlike when there’s a wheelchair that’s strapped down, strollers — there’s no place in the bus for a stroller to be strapped down,” Cipriano told reporters after the meeting. “So we had some concerns around the risk involving short stops and the like.”
The working group was proposed by MTA’s Chief Accessibility Officer Quemuel Arroyo, according to Cipriano, who declined to give a timeline for when the panel would come back with a solution.
Bus systems in other cities allow open strollers on board so long as there’s enough room, and Cipriano’s incoming replacement Rich Davey, who used to be in charge of Boston’s transit system, has said he regretted instituting a ban there during his tenure.
One bus operator said he worried about how a new policy would shape out for him and his fellow drivers if they have to tell commuters there’s no space.
“Where does the bus operator’s safety come into play when he’s now being — or she is now being forced to make a decision on who’s more valid when there are three people standing in the rain,” said Alexander Kemp.
One public speaker at the meeting lashed out particularly harshly at parents, saying it was their own fault for choosing to procreate.
“We did not choose to be disabled, but you chose to have a baby. That’s not our fault, you chose to do it, that’s the consequences,” said the person, who identified themselves as CN. “Just stop being lazy, just fold the damn stroller up, and, you know, deal with it.”
One vocal Manhattan mom countered that it was a mistake to pit riders against each other in the first place.
“I cannot believe what I just heard right now,” said Danielle Avissar. “To be clear, we are asking to be third in line to the disabled and the elderly.”
“We are not presenting a case of us versus them, we should not be pitted against each other for space either,” she added. “Parents also deserve to ride safely with their children, and it is a system, like I said, that should work for all of us.”