Transit accessibility policy puts potential pinch on strollers

Winnipeg Transit is singing a new tune to passengers with child strollers: you got to know when to fold ‘em.

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Winnipeg Transit is singing a new tune to passengers with child strollers: you got to know when to fold ‘em.

Starting Oct. 5, a new priority and courtesy seating area policy will require passengers travelling with child strollers to collapse the devices — when needed — to a reduced size to ensure priority seating is given to passengers with disabilities.

“Winnipeg Transit is dedicating access to service for all customers,” said Teresa Platt, manager of client services division. “This comes from the legislation that we are awaiting for the Accessibility for Manitobans Act and the transportation standards.”

Platt said the policy was drafted through public engagements with riders and stakeholders in mind.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Melissa (who didn’t want to share her last name) doesn’t agree with Winnipeg Transit’s decision. While waiting Wednesday at a stop on Portage Avenue, Melissa’s stroller not only held her two-year-old grandson but also her belongings.

Melissa (who didn’t want to share her last name) doesn’t agree with Winnipeg Transit’s decision. While waiting Wednesday at a stop on Portage Avenue, Melissa’s stroller not only held her two-year-old grandson but also her belongings.

Having to fold the stroller up while the bus is moving could be a challenge, she said. “How do you carry a baby and push a stroller at the same time? It’s going to be a very ugly situation.”

The grandmother first heard about the upcoming stroller rule by word of mouth on the bus. She worries the change could cause safety issues as well.

“There are no seatbelts, there is no safety, anything on buses,” she said.

Ina Wood was also waiting for the bus on Portage Avenue.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Ina Wood thinks babies and strollers should take priority ahead of wheelchair riders.

Wood, who uses a wheelchair, said mothers with strollers need the space on the bus. “They need more care.”

Generally, Wood said, passengers are quick to get out of the way when she needs a spot on the bus.

Romeo Ignacio, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1505, said he is happy to see the change. He views it as a step towards making Transit more accessible for people with disabilities.

“At certain times of the day, our transit system gets full and we don’t want to see people with mobility issues getting left behind,” said the leader of the union that represents Transit operators.

Ignacio said the move is in line with the Accessibility for Manitobans Act, which Transit and the ATU have been working to uphold.

“At certain times of the day, our transit system gets full and we don’t want to see people with mobility issues getting left behind.” – Romeo Ignacio

Section 17 of the January 2020 recommendations for an accessibility standard for transportation states all Winnipeg Transit buses must have clearly marked seating for people with disabilities. Passengers who are not disabled must vacate the marked seating should a disabled person require it.

The report also differentiates between priority seating, which is specifically designated for disabled people, and courtesy seating, which is applied to mothers, seniors and passengers with children.

“Before the accessibility act, the city at the time was saying, it’s a first-come, first-serve basis, but now there is a requirement for our members that they need to prioritize people with mobility issues,” Ignacio said.

“We want everyone to have equal access to Winnipeg Transit and, unfortunately, we’ve also seen a rise in big strollers. That takes up the limited space for people with mobility issues.”

“There needs to be education for the public, because at the end of the day, the public will question the only person that they see– and that is the operator.” – Romeo Ignacio

 

Ignacio’s one concern is the initial reaction from impacted passengers. Bus drivers already struggle with fare enforcement issues, and the added confusion could make it more difficult, he said.

“There’s going to be a period where people may not know the law until they are told,” Ignacio said. “There needs to be education for the public, because at the end of the day, the public will question the only person that they see — and that is the operator.”

However, Platt said drivers will not be required to enforce the new policy. Instead, audio announcements and signage will remind passengers of priority seating rules and encourage them to comply.

Platt said residents may contact 311 at any time with questions about the changes.

cierra.bettens@freepress.mb.ca

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