As I've mentioned before on this blog; my husband and I don't own a car. This is mainly because we don't have our licenses (yet!) but it's also a financial decision. Living in a big city like Toronto means that it is far cheaper - and sometimes easier - to take public transit instead of driving. I was never good at math, but by my logic when you add up the costs of gas, insurance, car payments, maintenance, and parking with the inconveniences of grid lock, finding a gas station, and finding parking in busy places - walking or taking transit makes more sense. (Not always, and not for people who live in smaller communities.) Even if you have a car or two, taking the bus may be the best option for certain activities.
I'm not blind to the downfalls of using public transit, especially as a mommy. It is definitely not all roses and sunshine taking the bus but now that the weather is nicer and I want to get out of the house more, transit is inevitable. Whether I'm taking trips to malls, mommy groups, or I walk too far and baby wants to go home NOW I have to take a bus or two. Lately, I've been asked a lot of questions by some intimidated mamas considering this transportation option, so I thought I'd share what I have learned so far.
Stroller vs. Baby Wearing.
How you choose to transport your baby is completely dependent on what you're planning on doing when you're out. While wearing your baby in a sling or Baby Bjorn may take up less space, it's not always the best option. Keep in mind that you may not be offered a seat on a busy bus (people are jerks sometimes) so you have to consider your own comfort zone for wearing your baby standing in a moving vehicle. More importantly, where are you going? If you're going out for a long time, you'll like the versatility of the stroller. Baby can sleep while you shop or socialize, plus you have storage for carting things around. If you're going to a play date at a friends house, or just to the grocery store to pick up a few items, baby wearing is a better choice. You can put your baby down when you get to your friends house, and you have more freedom to move around while you're out and about. Make sure to take your baby's weight and diaper bag needs into consideration before going out this way, though. Even a 20 minute walk can be difficult with a 35 pound baby on your back!
The Pros and Cons of Buses and Subways.
My husband ALWAYS chooses subway over bus - even if it requires him to go a little bit out of his way first. I can understand why: they are faster, bigger, and more reliable. (Plus, more likely to be temperature controlled!) However, as a mommy traveller, you have other things to consider and subway is definitely not always the best choice. Here in Toronto, subway station elevators are not as common as you'd think. Especially with a large travel system, stairs and escalators are not a viable option if you're travelling alone with a baby. It makes more sense to research all your route options and the weather forecast in advance and then make a decision. Are you willing to walk from a further subway station? Or, is it easier to take two buses to get there? One of my favourite parts about travelling by transit vs. car is that I don't have to constantly bring my baby out of the car seat and put her back in at every stop to shop or eat. With a bus, you stroll right on, and stroll back out and you're ready to go - no disruptions to a sleeping or fussy baby.
There are some things that might happen to you on public transit that definitely wouldn't in your own car. People are attracted to babies like magnets, so you will likely get asked about your baby, told stories, and in the worst case scenarios, people might try to touch your baby. Just be polite yet firm with strangers. It might be a good time to call your sister, or if baby is asleep, pull out an iPod.
One more dreaded possibility is that multiple strollers get on one bus. I've been on a bus with three other strollers! It's not the end of the world. If other riders are frustrated with you, that's their problem to deal with. You have every right to be on the bus with your stroller and baby. Communicate with the other mothers about which stop is yours, and be prepared to wheel off the bus and right back on to accommodate other strollers. The other mamas will understand - they're dealing with the same things.
Let's face it: when you're taking transit whether it be bus or subway or street car (baby wearing only on most street cars) you may have to take a longer, less direct route and you may have to walk a bit. Planning in advance saves you stress and time. Figure out when the bus runs, write down the transfer streets, and bring distraction toys for baby. I love the time to either talk and engage with my baby while en route, or if she's sleeping relax and unwind without having to be alert to traffic. If you're intimidated to take public transportation, try it for a short distance trip in the middle of a weekday when it will be less busy. I'm sure you'll find that it's not as hard as you think, and the pound of freedom to explore the city is worth the ounce of trouble. (I took three different buses in one trip to get to a mommy meet up on Monday!)
Do you have a bus travelling horror story? Or some good tips for travelling locally? Share below in the comments!