Boarding Muni with One Arm and Two Babies

Photo by Lulu Vision

Editor’s Note: What happens when you need to get on Muni and you have one arm, two toddlers, and a double stroller? Read on.

On Wednesday evening our babysitter, a teenage girl who has only one arm, was taking our twin toddlers home in a double stroller on the L line. When she attempted to board the train at Wawona and 46th using the handicapped ramp she was refused entry by the driver, who told her she would have to fold the stroller and enter at street level. Folding and carrying a double stroller and a pair of toddlers up a flight of stairs is an extremely challenging feat for any able-bodied adult, let alone a one-armed girl. It should be noted that this was the train’s first stop during a non-peak time so passenger space at the front of the train was certainly not an issue.

Eventually some passers-by were able to lend assistance. When the train reached her stop at Taraval & Sunset she asked to leave the train via the handicapped ramp and was again refused. If it had not been for the help of other passengers she would not have been able to disembark at all.

I’ve encountered the “no strollers on the train” attitude before, and I usually begrudgingly accept it even though I don’t understand how a stroller is fundamentally different in principle than a wheelchair. (It’s worth noting I have also encountered many drivers who have been courteous and accommodating for parents with babies). But I can’t understand how anyone could be callous enough to enforce that rule against an actual disabled person trying to handle two babies at once. I believe the driver’s conduct violated the spirit, if not the letter, of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Real classy, Muni.

Current SFMTA policy leaves it up to the driver to allow or disallow strollers on Muni. According to SFMTA’s official website, “If a baby stroller is allowed on board, the child must be removed from the stroller and the stroller must be folded up while it is on the vehicle…wheelchair lifts are not intended for use by non-disabled passengers, including passengers with baby strollers or large packages.”

Last month, we posted about a proposal to ease up this policy, thereby allowing unfolded strollers on buses. But this incident seems to be, simply, about common sense and when to approach issues on a case-by-case basis. What do you think of the driver’s reaction?


  • Erik

    Traveling in a stroller is optional; traveling in a wheelchair is not.

  • Angela

    Traveling in a stroller is not optional when your baby is too young to walk. So… you’ve now just made it impossible for anyone with a baby under walking age to travel by Muni. Very progressive of you.

  • Dexter Wong

    Seems to me that Muni could give a little in this case. The woman is already disabled and handling more than she can with two kids. To deny her entry would force her to rely on friends with a car or a taxi, not an easy situation.

  • Ugh. I wonder if the Muni driver noticed she had 1 arm and 2 kids?

  • zanngo

    I’m with the drivers on this, generally. It’s actually a federal law, based on safety. The difference with a stroller and a wheelchair is that a wheelchair has room made for it, and gets strapped in. Strollers hang out in the aisle and block access for other passengers (especially double strollers) and pose a flying-object risk during a hard breaking. But if it’s early in a route and the passenger will be off soon, why not?

  • zanngo

    Okay, sorry, but have to respond specifically to the other posts on this.
    Dexter: nobody denied her entry.
    Angela: it ABSOLUTELY is optional to use a stroller when a baby is too young to walk. As a species, we did it for millennia before strollers were invented. Child psychology teaches that strollers are detrimental to a child’s development. We put the parents’ convenience at higher importance than the baby’s well-being when we put them in a device and face them away from us. Those are critical years for a baby’s development, and a strong parental bond is denied the baby when you don’t carry it facing you. I know it’s heavy. But it’s your baby, for pete’s sake. Love the damn thing and carry it like it means something to you.

  • Angela


    Your views are so radically hippy left-wing that they’ve actually wrapped back around to conservative, rationalizing away rights by inflicting your own personal views onto others.

    Step out of your alternate reality for a moment and imagine that you, a hard-working low-income parent (maybe single) have an infant and two small children that you need to get to day care, while also getting yourself and your belongings to work–a job where you stand all day, for 8 hours, with a couple of 15 minute breaks. Do that every day of your life, in the morning and in the evening. Now do it with your child strapped to your chest.

    Please. Don’t sit in your ivory tower and assume your advice rains down like happy blessings from the sky.

  • zanngo

    Angela, sorry. I didn’t realize I was making a condescending personal attack like yours. I’m not intending to rationalize away anybody’s rights, I was just trying to point out the detrimental effects to children and highlight that there is, indeed, an option to strollers, unlike wheelchairs for people who can’t walk. The law exists because strollers block access for wheelchair users. I’ve had some chair-bound friends who were vehemently vocal about infringements on their rights, so it’s rubbed off on me a bit.

    You’re right about the hippy part. My mom was a hippy and raised me by herself on welfare. She carried me until I could walk on my own. She would not have been able to handle more kids than just me, so it’s a good thing she recognized that and stopped with what she could manage!

    Again, sorry that I came across as calling you names and attacking your values. A society exists to help each other, so I’m glad there were people willing to help this girl out on the bus. I would have been among them, I assure you.

    • ognnaz

      so your solution is fire the babysitter and have the mom stay home with a kid on each hip?

      • zanngo

        Seriously? How do you interpret that? How does suggesting that a stroller is not a mandatory thing mean firing babysitters?

        • ognnaz

          By reading the words that you type in context with the article they are posted under.

        • zanngo

          Hmm. Random conclusion, but if you see it it must be there. The point was purely about double wide strollers on buses, but if a babysitter has to be fired because you can’t bring a stroller on a bus, then I guess that’s what I was unintentionally trying to say.

        • zanngo

          Nobody was denied access to the bus, after all. Just denied being able to block the aisles. She still rode the bus just fine. Nobody had any rights violated.

        • Nnagzo

          I STRONGLY disagree with your biased and HATEFUL speech. Disabled people should not be denied easy access to the bus simply because they do not use a wheelchair.
          opinions like yours are what are driving families out of this city.
          SF is not just for 2 armed people raised by hippies.
          SHAME ON YOU!

        • zanngo

          Okay, I had to sit on that one a couple of days and think about it.

          You know, you’re right that I was not thinking about it in the context of making accommodations for a disabled person. I got stuck purely on the fact of strollers and explaining why they aren’t allowed. Even so, I thought it was clear in my original post that I thought the driver should have made an exception for her.

          In a completely unrelated topic, I decided to throw in the argument about mothers connecting with babies. I didn’t think that would rile people up so much, the suggestion that there are ways to improve contact and bond between a mother and her child/ren. Even so, it had nothing to do with the question posed and I should have just left it out altogether.

          All that being said, I’m at a loss as to why I’m being so attacked. So hatefully, so screamingly, by people who don’t know me. I wasn’t attacking anyone. Anyone. Just pointing out why the rule exists. Able-bodied people don’t have the “right” to bring strollers on buses, so I really don’t think the “right” is there for non able-bodied people either. But it’s a matter of situation – why not let her on? If there’s room, it’ll be easier and faster for everyone concerned to hoist her up on the ramp and be done with it.

          And I’m still at a loss as to the notion that she was denied access to the bus. No such thing occurred. Please, read the article if you don’t believe me. It’s not about denying access, it’s about a stroller. She had access. She rode. She had to make her physical load comply with the rules, is all. Should we overlook safety regulations for all to make one person’s life easier? The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) is behind the law, making sure that everyone has equal access to services. It has nothing to do with strollers, and her disability was not a factor in the driver making her break down her load like any other passenger.

          But again, it would have been so much easier for the driver and her to just let her ride with the stroller. Perhaps they could have popped up a wheelchair seat so the stroller wasn’t blocking an aisle, ya know?

          I don’t deserve the shaming. I’ve been calm and rational through all this discussion, and haven’t screamed at or called any other reader names. Only crazy people scream and call strangers names.

    • Zanngo, let me help you figure out where you went wrong and unintentionally caused such offense. I assume that you are genuine in your consternation, and that thus a stranger’s unsolicited advice across the Internet might be welcome.

      1. “Okay, sorry” is an antagonistic way to start a response. You are signaling that you are so riled up by other people’s opinions that you are dragging yourself away from the important activities of life in order to tell other people they are wrong.

      2. Phrases such as “Child psychology teaches” come across as patronizing. In your particular example, it is also too widely sweeping to be accurate. Schools of highly educated people who study people and perform science disagree strongly. As does my niece, who hated being carried and LOVED being in her stroller.

      3. The phrase “We put the parents’ convenience at higher importance than the baby’s well-being” implies that “convenience” is a small thing, and that allowing parents (who are people — not baby-tending machines) to do things such as walk more than two blocks will harm “the baby’s well-being”. Riding in a stroller will not cause a child to develop tumors; it will just allow him/her to fall asleep while Mom or Dad gets some fresh air.

      4. The sentence “Love the damn thing and carry it like it means something to you.” actually straight-up says that if I am a parent who disagrees with your slightly out of the mainstream strollers=death belief, I do not love or cherish my child. This is probably what makes strangers want to shame you. Patronizing, judgmental, and self-satisfying — excellently executed.

      5. “Angela, sorry. I didn’t realize I was making a condescending personal attack like yours.” Just read that sentence again. Then read Angela’s reply again and see if it actually contains a personal attack. Then read your sentence again out loud, perhaps substituting your name. Don’t you sound like a dick? This, by the way, is not a personal attack — it’s a crucial etiquette point, and your confusion over the anger you caused tells me you need to learn about how other people perceive you. Sarcastic apologies make you (and anyone else) sound like a dick.

      6. The phrase “it’s a good thing she recognized that and stopped with what she could manage!” might be the most inflammatory thing here. For one thing, it’s the babysitter, not the parents, who has one arm. For another, maybe the babysitter had two arms at the time she started — you don’t know. For another, your words connote that you wish the younger children didn’t exist, which means wishing that someone’s babies were dead (that’s how it feels when one posits the non-existence of someone dear to you who currently exists).

      7. Read what you wrote, and then read this: “The point was purely about double wide strollers on buses.” That is an untruth. What you are doing here, whether consciously or not, is trying to make a different point because your original point is failing to make the desired impression.

      8. Minor point: “Nobody was denied access to the bus, after all.” That is not exactly true. The driver denied a one-armed woman use of the handicapped ramp to board or leave. Just because other people helped her does not mean her rights weren’t violated. This is a side note, though, and is not why people are attacking you.

      9. Nobody called you a name. Unbelievably, after you broadly generalized about parenting practices and told people they didn’t love their babies and implied that perhaps little Jenny shouldn’t have been born, nobody called you a dick. Even I am not calling you a dick. I don’t know you. Maybe you are as nice of a person as you think you are. But you do come across in this thread as a dick, as I’ve explained in points 1-7. I hope this helps in your future interactions with humans.

      • zanngo

        Karen, thank you. Truly. Reading your points,I get it. Mostly. 🙂

        I didn’t intend for #2 to be patronizing but I do clearly grasp that there are differing opinions among even experts. Just like in my own line of work, so that totally makes sense to me. Yeah, I can see how dick-ish I was being. Reading the point in #5 I still see her comment as condescending, and of course I responded in kind. Not the best approach, I have to admit…

        On #6, my mom was always so vocal about her limitations and consciously took steps to avoid getting pregnant again after me. When birth control options failed repeatedly (she was fertile above average, apparently, she even went to surgical prevention routes. I thought I was just being anecdotal! In context,I get where you’re coming from. I don’t wish harm on anyone’s babies.

        #7? Spot on.

        I ride as a disabled passenger myself, though able-bodied and not requiring the ramp (knock on wood). I like to think I’m sensitive to disabilities, but obviously I can learn some things. Sincerely, thanks for illuminating this for me…

  • In Sacramento it is common for adults with strollers use the wheelchair ramp. Every station has a wheelchair ramp in the front. When the train is stopped by the ramp, the operator has to get out to deploy a bridge plate to cover the steps.

    The potential downside is that in Muni double stops would be required and that all the steps have to be raised or lowered, but other than that the operator doesn’t have to get out.

  • demarest

    Okay, I’m going to get hammered for this, but maybe a one-armed babysitter isn’t the best fit for the job when it entails corralling twin toddlers and a double stroller? The writer acknowledges that this is “an extremely challenging feat for any able-bodied adult, let alone a one-armed girl.” That still leaves a zillion other things this girl CAN do and do well, including activities with small kids.

    • Erik

      That’s what I was thinking too. It seems pretty irresponsible to send your two toddler out around town with this particular babysitter.

    • Angela

      It seems like she was able to handle it just fine, the problem was when she was now allowed access via the ramp.

      Also, I wonder… how do we know she was a babysitter? What if she was actually the childrens’ sister, aunt, or otherwise free-of-charge caretaker that the parents rely on so they can earn a living?

      More devil’s-advocate–what if this were actually the childrens’ mother? Should her children be taken away from her because she cannot hoist a stroller onto a bus by herself?

      It seems very backwards to me that we’d turn this situation around and say “you shouldn’t be taking care of children in the first place.”

  • Michelle

    The part of the story that irritates me the most (and has as a temporarily able-bodied adult who used to travel with a tyke in a single stroller) is that the muni driver didn’t allow the sitter to use the accessible entrance (the platform with a ramp at the back of the car.) She could have been allowed to do so, then asked to remove the children from the stroller/fold it.

    I’ll tell you — climbing up or down MUNI steps with even one child and a stroller is challenging at best — those things are STEEP!

    To me, the accessible entrance to MUNI should be treated as “universal design.” It’s technically created for those in a wheelchair, but anyone for whom it would be easier to descend or ascend using the ramp and enter/exit the car on level should be allowed to do so. I use the “wheelchair access” electric buttons on doors often when I am laden with packages, and the wider MUNI station entry gates when it suits me, as well.

  • Jeremy

    I am a driver for AC…state law says if a passenger requests the ramp you as a driver cannot ask why or say no you have to just do it….that driver was wrong

  • We have seen it here that this can be a great deal.

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