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June 16, 2005

urban schlepping

Getting around New York City with a baby via means other than feet is, quite frankly, kind of a pain in the ass. The initial shock I felt upon realizing that I could no longer just hail a cab and stuff baby and self in there continues to reverberate almost two years later. Now, plenty of people do just hoist kids of all ages into the back seat and pray...maybe this works better if you're a Hope For The Best type, but Imagine The Worst types (like me) may not find this solution feasible. In fact, if you happen to be both anxious and lazy, you may find that there are few options available to you in the world of public city baby transport that don't serve to discourage your escape from the house altogether.

Here's my breakdown of the major options and what sucks about them, just because that's the kind of mood I'm in.

TAXI: Cabs are exempt from the NY State law requiring all kids up to seven to ride in a carseat. But it is often pointed out that cabs, although yellow, are still cars, and cab drivers are not famous for their careful driving techniques. There is a periodic raging debate on Urban Baby about whether or it's ok to take a baby in a taxi. Some people schelp carseats on cab rides. This is no big deal in the infant seat phase, but far less convenient when you're talking about that behemoth of a toddler seat. We went so far as to have someone import a European baby carseat and kept stuffing our son in there when he was way too big in hopes that it would provide some protection...but we eventually had to let it go. There are also a couple of travel carset options, both of which I own, and both of which seem to be fairly flawed products: the Sit N Stroll (a carseat/stroller combo) and the Tote N Go (a portable carseat). With these options, it's easy to see why people might not even bother.

CAR SERVICE: I hear that there are car services which will come to your house with a pre-installed carseat. But I have had little luck with them: carseats have been the wrong size (like a toddler seat for an infant, and vice versa) or installed totally wrong. And since many people travel without carseats in car services (because they can) drivers tend to be cranky about complaints. Or maybe car service drivers tend to be cranky about complaints altogether. Hard to say.

SUBWAY: The umbrella stroller should make traveling by subway easy enough, except for one major aggravation. The MTA's elimination of token booth personnel has also eliminated the ability to exit most subway stations through the service gate. Leaving the station requires taking the baby out of the stroller, folding it up, carrying both, and squishing adult, baby, stroller, and any accompanying children into an obscenely small wedge of space on the way through the egress turnstile. I'm always afraid we'll get stuck somehow. And although I know that's my four year old self talking, I still worry about it.

BUS: That leaves the bus, transportation method of choice for New Yorkers too poor for cabs, and too old, scared, or otherwise unable to venture underground into the subway system. Contrary to my pre-birth fantasies, stroller-pushers cannot, like people in wheelchairs, simply wheel themselves onto the hydraulicly lowered bus. Strollers must be folded up and babies must be held. Why people think the bus is safe when a cab is not is a bit murky to me—something about less statistical chance of an accident. The bus works. But the bus, of course, is slow as snails.

So the situation leaves a lot to be desired...including, say, your own car. I see a business opportunity here. There's a doggie taxi, why not a baby transport service? Hmm. Let me know if you want to invest.

by rebecca at 9:11 AM
in baby | parenting


I can't believe no one's standing up for the MTA.

comment by Anonymous at June 17, 2005 9:37 PM

I don't know if the MTA gets the credit for what its passengers do... but, here's a happy tale about motherhood & the subway system: I take the subway with my baby a few times a week (we live in Queens & can't afford a full-on car-service lifestyle). I used to break into a sweat when faced with a particularly steep set of concrete stairs but here's the thing: I have never once been stranded on a platform with my baby. Sometimes I have to ask, but the majority of the time a stranger will just grab the bottom of my stroller and lift. And, these strangers are all types: some young, some look like they might also have kids -- or they tell me so -- some men, some women, some English speaking, some not. And, when my kid is tired or we're stuck in an endless delay, he is usually distracted by a nice lady who smiles at him, or some dude who starts waving his keys. Once when my baby was about 4 weeks old I was trying to comfort him on the N train and I got nothing but understanding looks from my fellow passengers. Especially from the women in the train whose bodies literally leaned forward, their hearts were going out to me that much! In fact, sometimes my subway experiences are so affirming they can get me out of a real motherhood funk... I often wonder how I would fare stuck in the privacy of a nice, quiet family wagon! So, in general... I am annoyed that I *have to* depend on the assistance of strangers when traveling the MTA, but I'm happy to know that I can most definitely rely on it.

comment by Ceridwen Morris at June 18, 2005 12:48 PM

funny, I have had the complete opposite experience! I carry my son in a sling and love taking public transportation. For the first three months of my son's life, I lived in a suburb and didn't have a sling. I never wanted to go anywhere. I hated the stress of driving with him (he hated the carseat!). I take buses and subways several times a day. I love that we are not in a car and we can meet new people & stop and look at interesting things whenever we like!

comment by tiffany at July 19, 2005 12:35 AM

City babies are developing a life-long dependency on vehicles. We seem to go from prams to strollers to second-hand Toyotas to zimmer frames to wheelchairs. I talked to a pram retailer in Stockholm who told me that business is booming - what with primary school kids being wheeled around the streets by parents who are far too busy to slow down their pace to include their children on these walks.
What's the solution? I've got a sling and a mountain-climbing backpack (made in America) to carry baby in, but when the time is right I think I'm going to get myself a leash. I know the connotations at work here, but I don't care. If it means my baby is allowed to use her legs - even during those first precarious months when her awareness of traffic is non-existent and I might be schlepping another baby at the same time - then so be it.

comment by Sofia at August 6, 2005 8:06 PM

Please...don't even complain to me about how "hard" it is to take ONE, SLUNG baby on the subway. Try taking two kids, both of whom are too big to sling, but too little to go without a stroller. Try holding the baby while keeping the toddler corralled long enough to try and fold your stroller one-handed so that you can climb three flights of stairs just to squeeze through those damn "shark-teeth" entry gates.

comment by mugbug at August 16, 2005 8:05 AM

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