The MTA announced this week that it had set up an advisory panel to look into the issue of allowing open strollers in the accessible seating areas of buses.
Currently, only enclosed strollers are allowed on buses. But a noisy group of parents is calling on the transit organization to change its policy. The issue has pitted disability rights advocates who rely on buses due to the lack of accessibility on the metro against parents, who said they feel excluded from the bus network.
The statement spread in the public commentary session of Wednesday’s MTA board meeting.
“We’re the ones waiting in the heat, the cold, the rain, because it’s too crowded,” says wheelchair user Jessica Delarose. “I’d like 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 took the matter 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 should be established because we are all humiliated by bus drivers.”
Jessica Murray, chair of the MTA’s Advisory Committee for Transit Accessibility, said she first learned last week that the MTA is considering changing its policy to allow strollers in the accessible seating areas of buses – when not in use. -.
“This set off alarm bells for disabled passengers who are already having problems with bus operators not stopping for them, or conflicts with other passengers in crowded conditions,” she wrote in an email to Gothamist.
Other proponents such as Jean Ryan, president of Metropolitan NY’s Disabled in Action, said the MTA must answer many questions before it allows open strollers on buses.
“How would this be implemented if the bus fills up?” Ryan said. “Will the caregiver be able to fold the stroller and carry the child? Will the aisle be blocked? What happens if someone with a large stroller approaches it? Does 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 assembled a panel of bus drivers, disability rights advocates and caregivers who use strollers.
“I think it’s all about listening to the different grassroots 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 mothers with prams,” he said.
Cipriano’s permanent replacement, Richard Davey, will assume the role of president on May 2. Davey, a former Massachusetts transportation secretary, had toyed with the idea of banning strollers while serving in his previous position. But this week, he changed course, concluding, “that has to be the stupidest idea I’ve floated.”