Out and about: MTA adds space for prams on more buses

The MTA is moving forward with plans to add stroller-only sections to more than 1,000 buses on routes throughout the city.

The expansion announced on Tuesday follows a test program launched in September on just seven routes and 142 buses with folding seats and designated areas for full-size carriages.

“Twenty-five hundred stroller rides later, the results speak for themselves,” said Frank Annicaro, bus manager at the MTA. “Feedback from our customers and operators has been extremely positive and we have reported no incidents involving open buggies on our pilot buses.”

MTA Bus Chief Frank Annicaro speaks on York Avenue about expanding space for strollers. January 24, 2023.

With nearly 5,800 MTA buses citywide, stroller zones will now be available on nearly 20 percent of the entire fleet, with even more expansion possible. The MTA has yet to determine which routes will have buses adapted for stroller spaces, though officials said they will be selected by factors including data showing which routes have high numbers of passengers with strollers.

“We will deploy another 1,000 buses, get it right and plan for the future,” Annicaro said. “As for the fleet, each [bus] it is adaptable.

The campaign to create stroller sections initially faced criticism from advocates for riders with disabilities who feared losing space to parents.

Some Transport Workers Union Local 100 leaders were not on board either, saying open buggies could lead to passengers losing space on buses and lead to bus operators having to referee confrontations.

“We remain concerned about this pilot program and will continue to monitor it very closely,” TWU Local 100 said in a statement. “There is the potential for rider disputes and other issues that could lead to harassment by bus operators.”

But MTA officials said the bus boarding process has, in some cases, been expedited by operators allowing passengers to board buses with open carriages. Also, the MTA said, there have been no reports of riders fighting for space.

“I tell people on the bus, ‘I need these two seats,'” said Dewrell Smith, a bus operator on the M31, a route that runs between Yorkville and Clinton. “They are very collaborative.”

A big step

Danielle Avissar, a Manhattan mother who was among many parents who campaigned for the MTA last year to make space for strollers, said the option to board a bus with a carriage open has “changed my life”.

“I no longer have to deal with the embarrassment of getting on the bus,” Avissar told THE CITY. “Even when the bus is full, I tell people, ‘Hey, you’re sitting in a designated area,’ they stand up, there’s no arguing, everyone is doing their best.”

In addition to the M31, the new bus layouts have been tested on these routes:

  • B1 (Bay Ridge-Manhattan Beach)
  • Bx23 (Pelham Bay-Co-op City)
  • Q12 (Small neck wash)
  • Q50 (Co-op City/Pelham Bay-Flushing)
  • S53 (Port Richmond-Bay Ridge)
  • S93 (College of Staten Island-Bay Ridge)

MTA officials said the agency’s numbers show the B1, S53 and Bx23 had the most use among riders with buggies.

“Brooklyn riders, caregivers and parents are definitely making use of it and see this improvement as a positive,” said Quemuel Arroyo, accessibility manager at the MTA.

But as strollers have increased in size, public transport agencies have had to find ways to accommodate them, removing the seats to make room.

Council member Julie Menin uses the stroller section with her daughter on an M31 bus on the Upper East Side. January 24, 2023.

“Some strollers are so big, they’re like mini-cars,” said Joy Gardner, a nanny who was pushing a UPPAbaby-brand double-decker carriage. “They can’t really go through the corridor.”

Joy Frederick, another nanny, said she avoids taking the bus with a stroller because she doesn’t want to be marked for a large carriage by other passengers or a bus operator.

“It’s too much,” said Frederick. “Then the old people come in with their stuff and they can’t go anywhere.”

Advocates who have lobbied the MTA to make room for the strollers said increasing the number of buses in the schedule could help boost ridership to around 60 percent of pre-pandemic levels.

“We’re so happy to see it expand,” said Christine Yearwood, mother and founder of UP-STAND, which supports pregnant people and parents on public transit. “The expansion of this program is a real opportunity to continue building by bringing back transit riders and investing in families.”

Out and about: MTA adds space for prams on more buses

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