Broke-Ass Mom and Mass Transit 201

If you think you’ve mastered mass transit because since last week you’ve become a black belt in riding a train, think again. We have yet to discuss how to get on and off a train or a bus. The first question is how far do you have to walk to where the bus or train is? There are only two possibilities: either you have less than three blocks to walk at the beginning and end of your trip, or you don’t.

If it’s within a few blocks both at the beginning and end of your trip, then you can either let your child walk (assuming you’re not in a huge rush), or if they can’t walk yet, a baby carrier is God’s gift to parents. Baby carriers are fantastic because they give you the flexibility to move around just as freely with a baby as you would without one. Moby Wraps are great when you’re baby is a newborn. It’s soft, and comfy and provides a pouch-like compartment for your baby to sleep in while you’re out at the bar knocking back a few. If your baby is able to support their head and body, then go for the Ergo or Cybex. Don’t be tempted by the trendy Baby Bjorn; it’s not nearly as comfortable as the other two.

Although you can get around all day with your baby in a carrier when traveling more than a few blocks, a lightweight stroller might be a little easier on your body. The biggest challenge with a stroller on mass transit, besides having to lift it onto the bus or train, is that once you get on you’ll need to quickly fold it up before you get on. The ideal stroller weighs as little as possible, reclines in case your baby wants a nap, has a large sunshade, and can open and close easily with one hand. Going super cheap and simply buying an umbrella stroller that is extremely lightweight (under 15 lbs) is one way to go assuming your baby is old enough to hold its head up and doesn’t need much support. Chicco has several umbrella strollers that could work under this circumstance. If you want something with a little more umph (like a place to put your rotating coffee cups, for example), Peg Perego and Maclaren have several lightweight strollers that are easily collapsible with one hand, come with a full sunshade, and recline. They’re a little more expensive, but it may last you longer and can always be bought used, of course. Besides the weight of a stroller, also pay attention to size: two important dimensions are the width when opened and how much space it takes up when folded. Most trains have a narrow turn-style so do a little research ahead of time to ensure that your stroller can fit through without being collapsed up every time you enter a train system. Buses won’t have this problem because their doors are usually large enough to accommodate wheelchairs and surely your stroller will be smaller than a wheelchair

Buses tend to be the easier transit to get on and off of because most drivers will wait while you fold up your stroller, take out your wallet to pay, and get safely seated. Trains, on the other hand, wait for no one. They’re on a tight schedule and often you never actually see the driver. However, trains tend to be on the ground floor so there are no stairs to deal with once you’ve arrived at the platform. Train stations usually have elevators, so you may not have to deal with stairs at all. A word of warning though, elevators in train stations often don’t work and smell like someone has peed and thrown up in them several times. Some train stations have escalators getting down to the platform, so assuming you’re a skilled escalator rider, this is a great option instead of possibly smelly elevators and cumbersome stairs.

One of the best parts about having a baby on mass transit is almost everyone feels sorry for a poor struggling mom with a baby, backpack, and stroller. You’ll be surprised at how happy people are to help if you just ask. In fact, sometimes you won’t even have to ask, and don’t worry, last time I checked the black market for Maclaren umbrella strollers had fizzled out in the eighties.

Taking mass transit with confidence can be extremely fulfilling. The biggest thing you lose as a new parent is your sense of self and independence, and nothing restores your independence like travelling on a train by yourself successfully. And remember, cars may get things done faster but you still have to find parking, and put your baby into and out of a car seat every time you get in and out of your car.

Photo by: Istockphoto naes

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About the author

Jennifer White - Mommy No Bucks

Jennifer has been a bit of a nomad having lived in seven different cities. Her life as a gypsy has settled down for the moment in San Francisco with her husband and two-year old son. Recently, she decided to throw caution to the wind, quit her job as an analyst to be a full-time mom while chasing her dreams (and the Pulitzer Prize). When she's not writing, she's aspiring to be a luddite (although blogging isn't helping), knitting the occasional hat, or running in the park with her son and his secondhand compost truck in tow.