Recently, the RedEye published an article about stroller etiquette on the CTA. It probably would have slipped under my radar if it hadn't been highlighted by a post on the Chicago Tribune's Facebook page. As a mom of five and full-time professional nanny, I couldn't help glancing at the post and readers' comments. I also braced myself for the anticipated barrage of who-do-those-entitled-moms-think-they-are snark and readers did not disappoint.
But, to my (pleasant) surprise, many people without children also rushed to the defense of city moms with little ones who are just trying to get around on public transportation like everyone else. I made a mental note and got on with my week. And then yesterday happened.
The weather here in Chicago was insanely gorgeous and I decided to take the tiny men downtown for some quality time at Maggie Daley Park. We got to the park, had an awesome time and then, as the weather cooled off, headed for home via the good old CTA. Per usual, when the bus arrived, I asked the driver if there was room for us. We have a double stroller - when we have to wait for the next bus, it's okay. I get it. But this time, we were given the nod so up and in we went. One of the priority sections was already occupied by a man in a wheelchair. We moved over to the second priority seating section. As you do.
Now. BEFORE you go into a "THAT SPOT IS FOR WHEELCHAIRS ONLY" tizzy, allow me to point you in the direction of the instructions posted by the CTA at their website:
"If these [priority] seats are not in use, open strollers may be parked in this area. This will help you to avoid blocking the aisle."
There you have it, folks. Per the CTA, it is absolutely okay - and actually preferred! - for you to park your strollers in the priority seating areas and it's quite acceptable for you to (politely!) ask someone who is not elderly or disabled to please find another seat so you won't block the aisle with your "big-ass Cadillac sized" stroller. Here's the other thing to keep in mind, also courtesy of our good friends at the CTA. And this is important:
"Please yield this space if a customer with disabilities, a senior, or a person using a mobility device wishes to board."
"Be aware that in the event that a bus or train is crowded, a CTA employee may ask you to fold your stroller or wait for another vehicle. Please follow their instructions. Also, during certain periods of high ridership, we may require that all strollers be folded before you board."
There you have it, folks. The rules (which really boil down to common sense and courtesy), according to the Chicago Transit Authority.
So back to the other day. We were all on the bus, chugging along, Guy-in-wheelchair across the aisle humming to himself, elderly passengers boarding here and there while I tried to keep our big-ass, Cadillac sized stroller as far over as possible and made sure there was room for others to sit. And then the unthinkable happened.
The bus stopped. Suddenly, I saw the entry/exit ramp unfolding and, before I could say "wait wait wait! we need to make room!" another man in an electric wheelchair boarded. The bus driver informed me (rightly) that wheelchairs have priority and we need to move. "Of course, happy to," I reply. "Can he [guy-in-wheelchair-number-2] back up so we can get off, please?"
This is when Guy-in-wheelchair-number-2 says, "Sorry, I can't. If I go in reverse, my wheelchair will tip over backward."
Me: "Uhhh... okay. One sec while I figure this out."
Bus driver: "You've got to make room for the wheelchair, lady."
Me (slightly uncomfortable at suddenly being the center of negative attention): "Uhhh... yes. I know. I'm trying to figure out how to do that with this big-ass, Cadillac sized stroller that is keeping two, very confused preschoolers contained. Because, you see, they're getting a little nervous about this scene. One sec."
Guy-in-wheelchair-number-2 tries (unsuccessfully) to drive into the area and turn around so he can get off so WE can get off.
Finally, I say: "Never mind. Here. I'll fold the stroller and push it back here and get off with these guys so we can maybe catch the next bus. No worries - just give me a moment to get this done. SORRY FOLKS FOR CAUSING A DELAY!" I should mention that the rest of the passengers - the majority of whom are elderly and not at all afraid to be vocal - start yelling at the bus driver, calling him an idiot and whipping out their phones to take video. VIDEO.
So NOW I'm thinking these-people-are-filming-this-drama-and-I-am-the-center-of-attention-and-I-AM-NOT-WEARING-ANY-MAKEUP-DEAR-GOD-PLEASE-DON'T-LET-THIS-GO-VIRAL! Because that would be just my luck. I mean, really. I'm schlepping this stroller for two to the back of the bus while herding two, tiny men along calmly as if I do this every day but I am telling you my GREATEST fear. It's the fear of being the unintentional main character on world-view in a viral YouTube video without make up.
Anyway! In case you ever find yourself stuck on the CTA with a double stroller with no possible way to exit through the front double doors, NOW YOU KNOW. You can totally make your exit (it won't be pretty but whatever) out the back doors. Also, as a friendly, FYI, here's the section on strollers at the CTA Policies and Practices page:
Children in strollers
"Children in open strollers are welcome on CTA, however we encourage parents to be considerate of other customers and adhere to these rules when traveling with a stroller.
Keep strollers clear of aisles and doorways aboard buses and trains.
Seniors and customers with disabilities have priority use of the Priority Seating area aboard buses and trains. If these seats are not in use, open strollers may be parked in this area. This will help you to avoid blocking the aisle. Please yield this space if a customer with disabilities, a senior, or a person using a mobility device wishes to board. On buses, you may request use of the access ramp or lift to help you board and exit.
Please fold your stroller in the event that a bus or train becomes crowded, in order to make room for others. Be aware that in the event that a bus or train is crowded, a CTA employee may ask you to fold your stroller or wait for another vehicle. Please follow their instructions. Also, during certain periods of high ridership, we may require that all strollers be folded before you board.
Children in an open stroller should be seated and secured in the stroller before boarding the bus or train.
Note that strollers are never allowed on escalators. If traveling with an open stroller in a multi-level facility, please use elevators or ramps where available. On train station platforms, position your stroller parallel to the platform edge (not facing it), use wheel locks/brakes and stay with it at all times."
So now you know. You're welcome. ♥
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