The MTA announced this week that it had created an advisory panel to look at the issue of allowing open strollers in the accessible seating section on buses.
Currently, only closed strollers are permitted on buses. But a vocal group of parents is calling on the transit agency to change its policy. The issue has pitted disability rights advocates who rely on buses, due to the lack of accessibility on the subways, against parents, who said they feel excluded from the bus network.
The contention spilled into the public comment session of Wednesday’s MTA board meeting.
“We’re the ones waiting in the hot, the cold, the rain, because it’s too crowded,” wheelchair user Jessica De La Rosa said. “I’d love to see any of you try to park a wheelchair with strollers, shopping carts, bags in the way. And don’t even think about stubbing a toe.”
Danielle Avissar, a parent who brought up the issue to the MTA last month, said she wants stroller access on buses, but not at the expense of other users.
“Strollers should remain open if there are no wheelchair or elderly passengers needing the area,” she said. “It’s very simple and I think the rules need to be established because we’re all getting humiliated by bus drivers.”
Jessica Murray, chair of the MTA’s Advisory Committee for Transit Accessibility, said she first heard the MTA was considering changing its policy to allow strollers in the accessible seating section of buses — when they’re not in use — last week.
“This set off alarm bells for disabled passengers who already experience difficulty with bus operators not stopping for them, or conflicts with other passengers in crowded conditions,” she wrote in an email to Gothamist.
Other advocates like Jean Ryan, president of Disabled in Action of Metropolitan NY, said the MTA has a lot of questions to answer before it allows open strollers on buses.
“How would this be implemented when the bus becomes crowded?" Ryan said. "Will the caregiver be able to fold up the stroller and carry the child? Will the aisle be blocked? What happens if someone with a big stroller insists on coming on? Will the driver have to be the stroller police?”
Craig Cipriano, the outgoing interim president of New York City Transit, announced this week that the MTA had created a panel made up of bus drivers, disability rights advocates and caregivers who use strollers.
“I think it’s all about listening to the different constituencies and coming up with a policy that serves them all. It’s not about us or them. It’s about how we can all come together to serve customers with disabilities, the elderly and the moms with strollers,” he said.
Cipriano’s permanent replacement, Richard Davey, assumes the role of president May 2nd. Davey, a former Massachusetts secretary of transportation, had toyed with the idea of banning strollers while serving in his previous position. But this week, he changed course, concluding “that had to be the dumbest idea I floated."
This story has been updated with the correct spelling of Jessica De La Rosa's last name.