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November 10, 2017

Petition urges SEPTA to allow strollers on buses

Philly mom: Carting a baby, diaper bag and folded stroller is challenging

A petition to allow open strollers on SEPTA buses has gained more than 7,000 signatures.

Lacey Kohlmoos, 34, of Fairmount, launched a Care2 petition after she found it difficult to carry her squirming baby boy, diaper bag and folded stroller onto the bus – all while being ready to pay her fare.

"It was an experience that left me almost in tears," Kohlmoos said, recalling a particularly difficult boarding experience. "It definitely left him in tears. ... It was really challenging – and it was stressful trying to do it as quickly as possible."

SEPTA already is working to give bus operators discretion to permit open strollers during off-peak hours, spokesman Andrew Busch said. And within four years, SEPTA's fleet will include 525 buses with flips seats designed to create space for strollers while keeping the aisle clear.

Currently, bus operators ask parents to fold strollers on crowded buses to ensure the walkway remains open, allowing for easy access and preventing tripping hazards, Busch said. But SEPTA is rewriting its guidelines to allow operators greater discretion for permitting strollers on buses that are not full.

"It will be something that we continue to develop moving forward," Busch said. "We are sensitive to the concerns of parents and others who have children and need to have some kind of accommodation. We also have to make sure we're not creating a tripping hazard with a stroller that isn't folded."

Kohlmoos stressed that a clear policy, in which parents and caretakers know exactly what to expect, would be most helpful. She doesn't want to be left wondering whether the bus driver will permit her to use her stroller when the bus pulls up.

"Then, we can plan accordingly," Kohlmoos said. "Leaving it as a crapshoot (as to) when you can take the bus – that's going to be really hard for parents."

Kohlmoos, whose one-year-old son is named Finn, said she avoids SEPTA buses due to the hardships of bringing a stroller on board. 

Instead, she has taken to walking wherever she can. When the distance is too great or there is inclement weather, she uses ridesharing services – even though they are more expensive.

But she recognizes not everyone has the resources to do so.

"It limits mobility within the city for so many people," Kohlmoos said. "I think that resonates with a lot of people, both here in Philly and in a lot of cities."

Transit authorities in Boston, Chicago and San Francisco permit open stroller on public transit buses. The Metropolitan Transit Authority in New York City does not permit them, but a similar Care2 petition has generated discussion there.

SEPTA has received similar complaints from mothers and caretakers over the years, Busch said. But it also has received complaints from people who are angered by strollers blocking the aisle.

SEPTA anticipates announcing new stroller guidelines sometime early next year, Busch said. The guidelines won't necessarily be a "one-size fits all," but instead allow operators greater discretion in permitting strollers.

"It's certainly not something that just surfaced with us," Busch said. "It's balancing those needs and doing our best to accommodate them in a safe manner."