Wheels on the Bus: taking a stroller on King County Metro

When my oldest two children were my only children, we rode the bus frequently. We have a very convenient and relatively frequent bus that takes us right to the Kirkland Library, and before we had our cargo bike, that was our favorite way to go. The kids, because they love the bus, and me, because I didn’t have to grumble about parking (that, my friends, is freedom). The older could walk on her own, and the younger went in a baby carrier or walked. I carried the diaper bag and library books. I don’t remember it going anything but smoothly. Yeah, sometimes we had to wait, or we missed a bus, but there was nothing memorably terrible. Getting on and off the bus was always a little stressful. It’s hard for little kids to get up and down the steps and I was always afraid of leaving somebody behind.

Once we had twins, we quit riding the bus because I couldn’t figure out the logistics of it. I’d heard that you couldn’t take a stroller onto a King County Metro bus without folding it and I just couldn’t see how I could get two babies, a stroller, the diaper bag and library books, and two other children on and off the bus in a timely manner. So we drove everywhere that we couldn’t walk to until we got the cargo bike at 10 months. When they were about a year and a half we experimented with the bus. I tandem wore them and we brought along a rolling suitcase with the gear. It.. worked, I guess. But a bus trip tandem wearing toddlers is exhausting so we only did it a couple of times.

Last spring I heard that Metro changed their stroller policy (thanks to a fellow Mom of twins!) to allow a child to stay seated in the stroller. Great news! But I was still nervous because I’d never done it and never seen it done, and had heard horror stories of operators still telling caregivers to fold up the stroller. Plus, the wheelchair lift has always seemed a little sketchy to me.

But then we got a bunch of new fancy low-floor kneeling buses on our route, and it started to look a little more possible.

And our bus is never full.

And then we added a weekly trip to Crossroads to our life. We can get to Crossroads on the bike, but it’s at the edge of our bike-shed, and our bus also goes there. Hmmmm.

Two weeks ago I packed everybody up, one baby on my back and one in the single jogging stroller (big, but with a better brake and much nicer for long-distance pushing than the umbrella stroller). The 7yo carried a backpack with her school books, and the diaper bag and library books (because there’s a library at Crossroads too) went in the basket under the stroller and we dashed out the door to catch the bus.

Then I saw the construction going on at our crossing. It’s for a new flashing crosswalk, but does make the current crossing even more questionable. But with all of the cones and equipment around, drivers were being very careful so we had no issues walking down the middle of the street and then waltzing across the arterial while the drivers yielded to us for once. Maybe we can keep the concrete mixer there permanently?

When the bus pulled up, the driver went back to get the wheelchair area ready for us, then knelt the bus and I wheeled the stroller straight on. It’s a little tight turning the stroller around with a baby on one’s back, but we did it and when I admitted that I’d never done this before, the driver strapped the stroller into place with the wheelchair straps and we were on our way. I sat where the toddler in the stroller could see me, and held the other toddler on my lap. I put him back on my back before we got off the bus.

On the way back, I had to do it all myself. The stroller easily rolls onto a un-knelt bus just fine and I found the handle to lift up the seats in the wheelchair area. I turned the stroller around, and as soon as I’d positioned the stroller and set the brake, the bus started moving. I couldn’t figure out how to pull out the wheelchair straps, so I sat in the seat behind it and held on to the handle. This time I put the second toddler in a seat next to his older brother, and when we got home, he was able to get himself off the bus, thanks to the low floor.

Now that we’ve done it once, I’m sure we’ll do it again. The kids all love the bus.

It looks like there can be a range of operator responses to a stroller, but while the second driver was completely unhelpful, he was certainly friendly and not hostile to the stroller.

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5 thoughts on “Wheels on the Bus: taking a stroller on King County Metro

  1. This is good to know! We haven’t had a stroller for years, but it’s nice to know their policy has changed (almost a year ago, it appears! (How to Ride Metro: Traveling with Children) We took a Metro bus just yesterday and a woman with a stroller boarded which her toddler still in the stroller and the driver said, “Let me know when she’s out of the stroller and it’s folded and I’ll get going” so it seems like not all drivers know…and/or the confusing wording of the policy makes it easy to request children of folding strollers be plucked out and placed in a seat.

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    • Oh, goodness, really? Yesterday??? I did not want to hear another story like that, as if I were asked to unload my stroller I think I’d just walk right back off the bus. And cry. I waited a most of a year in the hopes that the word would have gotten out to all of the operators…

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  2. yeah, that d–n stroller policy and the arrival of our twins had the same effect. I’ve had drivers start yelling at me when I was still 10 feet away from the bus “take em out of the stroller! you gotta take em out of the stroller!” Uh, yeah, but can I at least get ’em out of the street first?

    The #7 bus usually has experienced aunties and grandmas, so resigned mothers with multiple young children just get on and pass the children around to willing holders. The children are remarkably calm about it, even though it is clear that they do not actually know the temporary aunties, so it is clearly a fact of life with that stupid policy. I am not sure if suburban buses are so well staffed.

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    • Not so many aunties and grandmas on our bus, but I don’t have to worry about having the wheelchair spaces taken either! I’m not sure what I’d do if we lived in the city and rode busy buses. Clearly they need a better solution if the bus is to be a reliable form of transport for young families.

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