"http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-transitional.dtd"> urbanMamas

Do you travel by transit with kids? Do tell.

Bus-sign425ah060910 A few years ago, we talked extensively about what it's like to ride the bus and the train 'round here with the kids in tow (and we aren't the only ones).  Some stories were positive, some not so much

As a result of our lively online conversations, we actually sat down with the good folks at Tri-Met to talk about riding with kids  - and how to make that process a little smoother.  We were pleased that they created a 'riding with kids' web page to offer up advice and explain the rules to those of us trying or having to make a go of it (thinking they should make a brochure of it and post it on the buses, where riders are more liekly to see it - you?).

Of course, there are many other types of riders with unique needs and challenges, ranging from people using wheelchairs to bikers and folks with canes, dogs, and grocery walkers (among many others) - some rightly protected by law. 

I now ride Tri-Met a whole lot less (had another kid, attend 2 schools, got a bike), but I'm curious: how goes it for you?  If you were to constructively suggest a change or two that would make riding public transit more appealing for us kid caregivers, what would they be? And if you have experiences or examples from other cities (in the US or abroad) that you think Tri-Met should consider, bring 'em on.  We just might share 'em with Tri-Met -- again!

Mine are:

  • SEATING. Add a sticker in the priority seating area to suggest that riders make seats available for pregnant women and caregivers with young children who may have trouble standing on a moving bus/train.
  • STROLLERS. Don't make us fold our strollers; yes, it's tidier and takes less space for others, but often it involves waking a sleeping infant, unpacking the groceries/laundry/work folders/younameit, and then some -- usually with one hand! And if you want me to fold it, please provide a space to put it besides shoved under the seats.

[Thanks to conbon33 & Flickr for image of what could be...]


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I hear you on the stroller, but if you are riding at a really busy time of day, doesn't your stroller mean less space available? That post from a few years ago complained about full buses not stopping--they won't stop when they're full, and if lots of strollers are open, the get full faster. I've been on TriMet buses that are absolutely packed.

Having said that, the TriMet page doesn't say you have to fold strollers. It just recommends that you do. But, I haven't brought a stroller on board, and I have seen open strollers on board, and maybe others are having a different experience.

Also, I hope everyone here who is about to complain about TriMet voted 'yes' on the failed initiative to update the fleet. What's better for older and disabled folks is probably going to be better for families.

I agree that people should stand for pregnant women and kids--that's just common courtesy.

It is completely about the stroller! My daughter has thankfully outgrown it, but when I returned from living in Europe and was residing in temp housing in the Pearl without a car, I was taking the bus everywhere. Not all bus drivers enforced it, but really, waking a 2 yr old who is sleeping while you are doing errands, how sadistic is that?! Otherwise, public transit is the way to go with kids! So much easier than fussing with car seats and the inevitable conflicts created by cramming three into the close confines of the back seat of the car.

I take transit every school day with my 7yo daughter. We catch the bus a few blocks from our house, then take a MAX train right to her school. I love it, but it takes a long time, 1.5 hours on a good day, over 2 hours if I can't make my connections back to work/home. That is my biggest complaint. The bus/train connections are off just enough to wreak major havoc if I miss one. My other issue is the teen profanity that I really don't want to hear. Overall the drivers are courteous and respectful, and I feel safe using transit.

I've been taking Trimet tons recently with my 4 year old and 9 month old and I have to say I find it a lot easier than expected. The drivers are nice and patient. I've noticed that they always give us time to get situated before they start moving again. It's actually a pleasant surprise because I stopped riding a few years back because I had the opposite problem. However, I would second the idea about priority seating. I usually have my 9 month old strapped to me with a moby wrap rather than fussing with a stroller and for the most part people are kind and offer us a seat. But, it is a little scary if there isn't a seat available for us.

I was on the bus on Sunday evening heading to Powell's and a dad got on with a sleeping baby in a stroller, and the operator told him he had to take the baby out and fold the stroller. Luckily the baby stayed asleep, and the dad was pretty quick with his one-handedness.

I used the bus a lot over the summer with my 4 year old, and it would be nice if more college-age folks would move from the front of the bus to the back, not just for parents with kids but for seniors. Simply rude.

We are a car-free family with a 16 month old. We have been using transit (also biking and walking depending on the errand) regularly for 4 months now. First and foremost I wish the drivers would STAY STILL until I get the stroller collapsed and settled. I wish I didn't have to collapse it on a non-crowded bus (been yelled at numerous times for keeping it open), it is insane and unsafe to expect me to be able to set the baby down, use one hand to make sure he doesn't fall (as he tries to stand/walk/jump/climb me) and get the stroller collapsed. The baby did fall once when the driver began to drive and had to break suddenly. It was unsettling. I rarely ride with the stroller now but sometimes it's necessary. I would like that courtesy and peace of mind knowing we are safe for the minute it takes to tend to the stroller. . Also, priority seating for adults with infants and pregnant women. Most often someone on a crowded bus will offer me their seat, but the fact I had to ask sometimes (and did not receive support from the driver) while I was 8mo pregnant is upsetting to me. I find people more apt to give me a seat now with my son in arms, but having a sticker or brochure could be helpful.

Thanks for your hard work and consideration!

My pet idea is that TriMet should compete with cars by offering a family discount package once your children reach fare-paying age. Just like the cell phone companies offer family discounts in order to compete with the efficiency of shared landlines in larger families, TriMet should be offering family discounts to compete with the efficiency of shared autos in larger families.


I think the availability of seats/space also comes down to the reduced service schedules. I got in a bus yesterday that was SO packed, and it wasn't even a busy time of day. I can tell there are folks using to actually having the "frequent service" they advertise, only it's not there anymore. I've also been having to split up where my kids and I sit as a result. Luckily most of the other riders are pretty nice about it, but one can't take that for granted, either. So my vote goes to more frequent service (and of course I voted yes on that measure. And I really don't use transit much but I think it's a super important option)

We are a one car family and fill the void with transit, walking, biking, and the occasional zip car rental.

Never did the stroller thing, we did babywearing (honestly, what did you expect?) . I think that bringing a stroller on board TriMet is harder than ever due to the fuller buses and trains.

Riding the bus and train is still a great thrill for the kids (which is very cool). We often need to sit apart for some of our trip but it doesn't seem to phase them. And it ends up being a chance for some new folks to tell me how awesome my kids are - it embarrasses my daughter to no end but I never tire of that :)

What would I change? I would love to see all the bus service that has been cut over the past couple years magically reappear.

But that service isn't free and is funded primarily by payroll taxes....so it's a waiting game on the economy for that one unless a new ongoing revenue source is found (i.e new tax or fee).

I don't drive but walk and take the bus every now and then. I'm still trying to get used to the bus system here in Portland. Overall I have been pretty satisfied. I took the bus downtown this last Sunday and I couldn't believe how crowded it was coming home. I felt so bad for a young Mom who got on the bus with a stroller and baby. I was sitting way in the back but apparently the stroller wouldn't fold down and the bus driver was making a call to somebody to see if he could let her stay on the bus. There were many elderly people on the bus that day as well with walkers up at the front of the bus. We sat at the bus stop for about five minutes and then I noticed that the Mom had gotten off the bus and was waiting under the shelter. It was raining and cold and she was crying. I don't know what developed, maybe he told her to take the next bus because of all the walkers? It just didn't seem right.

One of the things I love about riding the bus and MAX with my kids is the public nature of public transit. We're so much more a part of our city on the bus than in the car. We would ride more if buses had better frequency.

I am so thankful to not have to ride the bus regularly anymore. My son thinks it's fun, but I really am tired of it. Late buses, no room, very few people who will move for you or be helpful, keeping my son busy and distracted during the wait for the bus so he doesn't try to run off (a favorite game). When I was pregnant I commuted by bus every day, an inner-Portland extremely crowded bus, and only once did someone give me a seat. I was so thankful I cried.
I shouldn't be spending the gas money, but for now I'm luxuriating in driving instead.

Vancouver B.C. Open strollers of all sizes are no problem on the buses here. I've never seen one at rush hour, probably because kids that small don't move around at that time of day. Why is a stroller more of a safety issue for Tri-Met than for Vancouver's Translink? Go figure.

And the story about the mom getting off the bus and crying in the bus shelter outside is just awful.

Agreed on all the sadness and frustration. They don't make it easy to ride, so why ride? If we want to be "THE greenest city" in the US, we need to make public transit friendlier and smoother.
I hope tri-met reads these.

I spend at least 1 and 1/2 hours on Trimet each day of the week. I get to work on the #20 and Max. Then I pick up my 3 year-old daughter from school on the 19. Overall, it's a great experience. She loves the two bus drivers we see most frequently. It has helped her develop a sense of direction. She also likes being out of her car seat!

I appreciate the diversity represented on the bus. My daughter watches people make room for each other. She sees people from different cultural backgrounds. She watches the drivers help out folks with physical disabilities.

My only gripe would be that too often the drivers take off before we are seated. A stumbling toddler and a stumbling pregnant lady (I'm 7 months along) are not a good combination. Too often Trimet gets trashed in the media. After living in several cities with next-to-no public transit, I am grateful for what we in Portland have!

I used to live in Germany, where the city bus's back door was a bit wider, so that a stroller could be easily wheeled into that space where tri-met has three side-facing seats--designated stroller parking. There were rails above for holding on, and it made traveling with a little one so much easier. Also, the front 2-4 seats were higher, so that elderly people could sit and stand again more easily and safely. I've done it there and here, no car, and I hope I never have to own a car again.

I lived in Paris before Portland, where we were car-less, and the buses there sound like the same as Germany -- wider back doors, designated spaces in the middle for strollers/wheelchairs, and higher front seats. Plus, people always popped up to offer me a seat when I was carrying my toddler. The only time I had to stand on an overcrowded bus with him, an elderly woman chastised a teenager into giving us his seat.

We've had mixed experiences here with buses. Nice drivers for the most part but, people, please give up your seats to pregnant women and people carrying kids! Sheesh.

A few winters ago a female bus driver told me and my 1 yr old (who was in a stroller) that there wasn't enough room for us. This was just as the freezing rain started coming down. Recently, a bus driver yelled through the bus to me and my little one (now 3) to take a seat as we walked to the back of the bus. There weren't any seats and we had to stand. The next day, a driver lurched ahead as we were finding our seats, throwing my little guy onto the floor.
I have never had trouble with patrons of TriMet, only the drivers, so yes, I did vote Yes on this years failed TriMet initiative hoping for system changes that would benefit everyone.

There is a lot to dislike about TriMet these days. I pay employers' tax for it, and writing that check is not easy when I get passed by full buses, or have to wait 25 minutes for the next one.

Funding is a major problem, but some shorter term challenges that could be more easily solved include bus drivers not starting until it's safe, bus drivers having some understanding of a parent's POV, and riders moving out of the aisle.

I've ridden TriMet for over 15 years and have learned that sometimes a bus driver just wants to lecture you about something. This has happened to me maybe five or six times over the years. It was almost always when I had my son with me.

We're by no means perfect, but he was not destroying the bus or being a maniac. These were things like standing too far from the blue stop pole (for safety, from my POV) and for changing seats while we waited more than 15 minutes for a train to pass. I would hope drivers could have some understanding about the needs of people of all ages and their caregivers.

I too have had my kid fall (and smack his face against a rail) when a bus driver braked hard into a bus stop (not an emergency, just lurching into every stop.)

The other thing that makes it really hard to ride with kids (but without them, too) is the mass of people standing in the exact spot where you get on/off and access is tightest. 90% of the time there are seats available. It would be great if the bus driver would ask everyone to please take a seat unless they have a reason why they cannot sit.

All that said, I am thankful for TriMet getting us to so many places so well for years. It has really deteriorated so sadly recently, but I have long been a fan.

i agree with larissa comment..

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