If you have a young child in New York City, you know that walking is usually the easiest way to get around. You can bring whatever your stroller can carry, and you don’t have to deal with stairs, car seats, or crowds.
But there are times when traveling by foot just isn’t feasible, and we have to rely on some form of public transportation. Luckily, NYC has an extensive public transit system that, on a good day, can get you from one place to another relatively quickly. It is also inexpensive: a subway or local bus ride with Metrocard costs adults $2.25 ($2.50 without), while children under 44” tall (up to three children per paying adult) are free.
But taking public transit with young children isn’t always easy, particularly if you are traveling with a stroller. For whether you are riding the bus or subway, at some point you are likely going to have to carry your stroller and juggle it along with your child and all your personal belongings.
The only sure-fire way to avoid this problem is to leave your stroller at home and either wear or carry your child, or get him or her to walk. But if a stroller is necessary for your child’s safety or your own sanity, here are a short guide and a few helpful tips:
Riding the bus
- On a bus, your stroller must be folded. Do this before the bus arrives.
- On most buses, you pay your fare at the front of the bus, either with your Metrocard or coins (exact change only and no pennies allowed). However, certain bus routes in Manhattan (currently, the M34 and M15) and the Bx12 in the Bronx have implemented the Select Bus Service system. This means you pay your fare at kiosks located at the bus stop, keep the receipt issued, and when the bus arrives board through either the front or back door.
- If the bus is full, at least try to find a seat for your child, so you will be free to hold onto your stroller and bag. Some passengers are kind and will offer a seat to a young child.
- Hold your stroller upright or, if there is room, lay it at your feet. Take care not to block the aisle.
- If the bus isn’t crowded and you are near the front, you may exit through the front door, which is controlled by the bus driver. Otherwise exit through the back doors. Wait for the green light before pressing on the yellow bars or tape strip, to open the door automatically.
Riding the subway
- Check the MTA website to see if your beginning and end subway stations have elevators (you may also want to check for out-of-service elevators) or HopStop to plan a route around accessible stations. Where there is an elevator, in most cases there will be one to take you from street level to the station, another from the station to the platform, and vice versa.
- If you know you’ll have to carry your stroller up or down stairs, bring a lightweight stroller. If the combination of child and stroller is too heavy for you and your child can climb stairs, lead your child with one hand and carry your folded stroller with the other.
- Once inside the station, tell the agent you have a stroller and ask him to open the special service entry gate. Swipe your Metrocard at a nearby turnstile and rotate the arm. Enter through the gate. If there is no agent, ask another rider to open the gate for you, but be sure to swipe your Metrocard. Avoid the high entrance turnstiles; it is very hard, perhaps impossible, to get through one of these with a stroller and a child.
- Wheel your stroller directly onto the train. No folding necessary.
- Exit the station through the special service entry gate. Ignore the alarm.
- If possible, avoid traveling during rush hour. If a bus or train is full, consider waiting for the next one. Cars at the front and back of the train are usually less crowded than those in the middle.
- Look at the stops surrounding your subway station for one with an elevator. Having to walk an extra few blocks may be worth the convenience of not having to struggle with stairs.
- If you need to switch between local and express trains, do so at a station where both trains stop on the same platform. For example, the 4-5-6 trains stop on the same platform at 42nd Street, but at 59th Street the express and local trains are on different floors (and there is no elevator).
- Even if you can travel on an express train for the length of your trip, consider switching to a local if this means fewer stairs. For example, the 4-5 express stop at 86th Street is four long flights below ground, whereas the 6 local stop is only two flights below ground.