I got the following email from Winnipeg Transit:
I sent this reply:
|Dear Ms. XXXX,
Dave XXXXX, Director of Transit asked that I respond to your email to Mayor Katz and Councillor Gerbasi dated July 23, 2008 regarding strollers on Winnipeg Transit buses. Thank you for taking the time to contact us with your concerns.
Since January 2004 we no longer request that babies be removed from strollers. Doing so in the past usually led to confrontations and the customerâ€™s refusal. Concerns were raised regarding difficulties in removing the child, holding him/her, while folding up the stroller and then controlling it and the infant at the same time (plus probably some bags) which isnâ€™t very feasible or safe.
Priority Seating is considered on a first come first served basis. Unfortunately, the difficulty in expecting Operators to use their discretion in these cases is that we as individuals all have different standards and what may seem reasonable to one individual in a particular circumstance may not be reasonable to another individual in the same circumstance or at a different time. The Operator has no way of knowing who in fact requires the courtesy seat more. One individual with a mobility challenge or another individual who is restricted by age or another individual who has a child in a stroller. Some disabilities may also not be physically recognizable simply by looking at the individual. This makes it very difficult to have an enforceable rule regarding all situations.
If the securement area at the front of the bus is available, strollers are encouraged to use this area. If the securement area is not available, the Operator is expected to ask the individual to not block the isle and move to the back of the bus, which is safest.
Thanks again for taking the time to make us aware of your concerns. I realize you may not be totally satisfied with this response but hope you can understand the difficulty in enforcing a standard policy for all situations.
Supervisor of Customer Service
I sent this reply:
|Mr. XXXXX, thank you for your reply.
I still have some concerns about what I was told when I called and spoke to customer service. In particular what the driver is supposed to do when they encounter a person in a wheelchair or with a walker and those priority spots are in use by people with large strollers.
I was specifically told that the transit driver is supposed to leave the wheelchair or walker bound person on the sidewalk to await the next bus. Now this is a problem for me. Not all buses are "all access", and there is no guaranty that the next bus will be "all access" or even if it will have room to accommodate them in the priority seating area. So the person in a wheelchair or with a walker could potentially be left sitting at the curb for extended periods of time until a bus came along that could accommodate them.
The way I see it is if those priority spots were taken up with wheelchairs and a bus came across a person with a large stroller, that the person with the stroller has a choice: fold up the stroller and get on the bus, or stand there and wait for another bus. My guess is that they wouldn't opt to stand at the curb waiting for a bus to come along that would accommodate them; they would fold the stroller in order to get on the bus and get to their destination. A person in a wheelchair or with a wheeled walker doesn't really have that option.
Then there is the matter of safety. Wheelchairs are strapped into those priority spots so that they are secure and don't move about. Strollers aren't. God forbid there should be a bad traffic accident involving a bus that results in a large, heavy stroller flying around inside a bus. Not only would the child be hurt, probably fatally, but also other passengers. Even with the brakes on they are a safety hazard because they are not secured as wheelchair is when in those spots.
Safety aside, my biggest concern is for the handicapped individual that is left waiting because of able bodied people with strollers.
You say that it's at the "operators' discretion". I can certainly appreciate the difficulty that a person might have in folding up their strollers. However, since they no longer have to, they bring strollers the size of small cars, and more stuff than they can reasonably manage, hence having to use the stroller as a shopping cart and the difficulty in having to fold it up because of massive amounts of packages.
You say the policy was changed because of complaints from customers with strollers. Well this change in policy has shifted the inconvenience to a whole different sector of the population. The physically disabled.
There are ways that this can be managed. Such as implementing a policy that requires anyone with a stroller to be told to move to the back of the bus when a person with a wheelchair or walker is encountered at the bus stop, instead of leaving the wheelchair bound person at the bus stop to await another bus. If there are standing passengers blocking the strollers way to the back, the person could exit from the front and re-enter the bus via the back door to gain entry to the back of the bus. If all operators are told that they are supposed to do this (like they were told to call out bus stops), then they will do it and then no one will be left behind and riding public transit with be a better experience for everyone involved.