Monday, January 10, 2011

Parents to petition DTA on stroller restriction

DTA Stroller Policy Challenged

In November, DTA manager Dennis Jensen met with a group of women concerned about a policy change set to go into effect on January 1, 2011. The new policy restricts the use of strollers on city buses and has brought up some concerns among parents who are dependent upon public transit.

Minnesota is well known for its harsh winter weather, and Duluth is no exception. For individuals whose primary mode of transportation is the bus, protecting infants and children from the harsh weather is a serious concern. The increase in stroller size that the DTA had noticed was due in part to the protection they provide from the elements. There is concern among parents that being forced to give up this winter weather protection may place their infants and young children at risk of exposure.

The DTA is also restricting the use of uncollapsed portable shopping carts. These carts make it possible for individuals who depend on public transit to do their weekly (or monthly) shopping. The bus is the only real transportation option for many families on a tight budget. The restriction on both carts and the number (and size) of packages that can be brought on board significantly reduces the amount of shopping that can be done in a single trip. The strain this new policy places on low-income families is understandably high.

The same group of women who met with Jensen in November met again in December to propose a ‘Shopping Bus’ to run every Monday (at a minimum), making stops at all major department stores and grocery stores, and allowing both strollers and shopping carts to board the bus and remain uncollapsed. In addition, the group is asking the DTA to consider a long-term plan to purchase physically modified buses that can provide a safe means of transportation for both strollers (with children in them) and shopping carts while still maintaining special seating for wheelchairs and the elderly.

Concerned individuals are being encouraged to sign a petition being circulated or to contact the DTA at 218-722-SAVE and express support.

Also discussed at both meetings was the increase in incidents of unprofessional behavior on the part of bus drivers toward individuals traveling with young children in strollers. The DTA is encouraging all patrons of the bus system to call and register complaints whenever an incident between a driver and a passenger occurs. When submitting a complaint, a passenger will be asked for the bus number as well as the date and time of the incident.

Anyone concerned about this issue, or interested in becoming more involved in its resolution, is encouraged to attend Community Action’s Circles of Support meetings. Contact Community Action for more information at 218-726-1665.