MBTA officials said today they do not intend to change the T's stroller policy anytime soon, quelling speculation fueled by an open-ended survey question on MBTA.com and a succession of news reports and blog posts that suggested otherwise.
A question posted on the T's website earlier this week asked, "As part of the MBTA's ongoing efforts to provide a comfortable and easily accessible transit environment, should the MBTA request that baby strollers be folded before customers board a bus?"
But a series of stories -- first in another newspaper, then on multiple TV stations and local blogs -- indicated that the T was considering much stronger action and was weighing an outright ban on open strollers on all modes of public transportation. Some peer agencies have already done so, citing crowding and safety concerns.
The rumored policy change surprised some members of the MBTA board of directors. It also spawned a Facebook group, a flurry of charged blog posts, and a succession of phone calls and e-mails to the MBTA customer service department, and it brought half a dozen parents to the T's monthly board meeting today to speak against the proposal, children in tow, though no proposal was on the agenda.
"I believe the proposed policy is unsafe -- for children, for parents, for T employees, and for other passengers," said Alison Mitchell, a lawyer, former State House aide, and mother of two young children, describing the potential hazards and complications of trying to collapse a gear-laden stroller and keep an eye on children while boarding a crowded bus or subway car.
Another mother, Amber Baker, demonstrated the difficulty while wearing her 2-month-old daughter, Ella, in a front carrier and trying to keep her 19-month-old daughter, Rose, cradled between her legs.
"OK, I've got it folded -- I'm extraordinarily proud -- meanwhile, the doors are closing," said Baker, a lawyer on maternity leave. "How do I hold onto a bar, how do I not hit another passenger, how do I keep my children safe?"
As of midafternoon, the question had received 8,965 votes, a record for an MBTA online survey. Sixty-six percent of respondents had voted no.
MBTA Deputy General Manager Jonathan Davis, acting head of the T with General Manager Richard A. Davey on vacation, sought to placate the crowd.
"I appreciate the people coming out today to express their concerns and thoughts as it relates to this particular issue," he said. "I can assure the public, and I can assure the board members that there has been no change in policy -- and certainly the concerns and public comment that was given today, not only by our customers but also by the board members, will be a key part in any consideration moving forward."
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