An online campaign to toss the CTA's controversial stroller restrictions on buses is gaining steam among parenting groups on social media.
Michelle Parker, of Lakeview, drafted an online petition asking for stroller users to have the same rights as wheelchair users after a bus driver told her she had to fold her stroller to board a bus on the North Side on Saturday. The petition, which Parker plans to submit to the CTA, has garnered more than 160 signatures as of Tuesday afternoon.
The CTA's stroller policy is one of the most divisive rider issues. Stroller users are encouraged to fold their strollers before entering the bus if the bus is crowded. Strollers may remain open in priority seating unless a senior or rider with a disability needs the space, according to CTA rules.
Federal law requires the CTA and other transit agencies to designate priority seating to seniors and riders with disabilities. CTA spokeswoman Catherine Hosinski said children in strollers are welcome on the CTA but there is a hierarchy for who gets priority seating first: riders in wheelchairs or scooters, riders with other physical disabilities not in mobility devices, the elderly, expectant mothers and riders with children in strollers, and then everyone else.
Some riders have pushed the CTA to strengthen their policy to require all riders to fold their strollers, a rule on Pace suburban buses. But Parker and those who signed the petition are asking for priority seating to be designated for strollers, in addition to people in wheelchairs and seniors.
"I think at the end of the day, it's recognition that for very young children ... strollers are their wheelchairs," said Parker, 36.
Parker said when she has boarded a bus with her young kids in a stroller, she has encountered hostility from bus drivers who refuse to lower the bus so she could board—and from other riders who say rude comments as she boards.
Complaints about strollers on buses are a regular topic at CTA meetings that allow comment from the public. The CTA tried to quell some of these frustrations in 2012 when the agency launched a stroller awareness campaign.
Bus drivers handed out fliers encouraging riders to "Be Stroller Savvy" and use small, umbrella strollers and fold the stroller when the bus is crowded.
In the six months after the campaign, stroller complaints were down 60 percent, CTA president Forrest Claypool said last year.
But Parker is hoping the CTA will revisit its policy and tell drivers to be more accommodating to riders with strollers.
"I am hoping it's an easy fix for them and it doesn't turn into world war three but we'll see," Parker said.