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My family will be visiting Chicago next month and we'll be using the metro and buses.

My question is, how do infants (son is a 7 month old baby) usually travel in public transporation? Does one have to set-up a car seat on either of those? Or is it always on arms?

Also, if we carry a lightweight stroller, are there ramps on every station to be able to move around in it? How about when going through the turnstiles? Can the baby go through it on the stroller? Or does one have to fold the stroller, carry the baby on arms, and then unfold the stroller again when boarding?

Thanks for the help.

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Is this localized enough to be considered off-topic, or are these things pretty universal? –  HedgeMage May 26 '11 at 14:36
    
Too localized? This isn't going to be useful for the majority of the community if this deals specifically with Chicago metro, and the question might be closed as a result. @silverCORE, please consider rephrasing to make it more universal, or check out metrochicago.com –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun May 26 '11 at 14:41
    
@HedgeMage, funny that we commented the same idea at the same time! I suggest that we give silverCORE a chance to respond, and only close if it remains "too localized". –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun May 26 '11 at 14:43
    
While local transit systems may have specific rules, I think a general discussion of how parents typically address these concerns, or information on "best practices" would be valid. –  Beofett May 26 '11 at 18:37
    
thank you all for your answers and comments. HedgeMage, torbeng, Beofett, I understand the thinking behind making questions generic or not localized, however, I do feel any parent would want to be ready for the specific place they are going to visit. While one can always check the websites of metro stations of cities, nothing beats a personal opinion or comment like the ones Lennart or Larry were so kind to provide. Thanks all again. –  silverCORE May 28 '11 at 17:47
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5 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

I live in Chicago, have taken both my kids on public transport (bus and train). Most stations are now ADA compliant so you can take the stroller through where a wheelchair rider would. There are elevators too. Check out their site for a list of accessible stations: http://www.transitchicago.com/maps/

It can get crowded at rush hour, but in my experience other riders are conscious of people with kids/strollers and generally accommodating. It's not uncommon to see people give up their seat for someone riding with young children.

As far as germs go, I don't think it is any more or less germy than any public place. I suspect you already have hand sanitizer if you have a kid in diapers. Just use common sense.

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I've used public transportation in the Chicago area with a stroller. It was possibly more fun than a root canal, but barely. If you can avoid the stroller, by all means do so. However, carrying a baby around in a carrier all day seems impractical to me, especially if you're seeing some of our excellent museums. It may be anatomically dangerous for the baby as TorbenGB pointed out, but even with our awesome baby carrier (Fisher Price one that settles the baby's weight across your hips), I doubt I could have carried our little peanut child at 7 months in it for too long without anatomical damage to my back.

I'd suggest traveling as light as humanly possible with a stroller that folds up very quickly, as you won't be able to just wheel the stroller on your typical bus, and the trains can be so packed it's nearly impossible. Most Metra trains have a couple tiny sections for wheelchairs AND bikes and they fill up fast. They say things are ADA compliant but I have a family member who uses a wheelchair and will tell you that ADA compliant is so minimally accessible as to be almost worthless. The sidewalks in most areas downtown are wide and can easily accommodate strollers but many of the buildings are only marginally wheelchair accessible.

And while the people of Chicago are awesome, you can always run into a bad bunch of tourists who will, say, try to ninja your van cab on you even though they can fit perfectly well in a car cab, even though they see you have a stroller with you. Not that I've had personal experience with such a thing, of course.

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People usually carry their babies, because it is safer.
I would suggest one of these.

They're much cheaper than a stroller, and you can attend to your baby better.

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In most cities you can easily drive a stroller onboard local trains and metros, and you are typically allowed to do so. If the stations has elevators or escalators varies wildly from city to city.

Buses and trams are different, and there you'll typically find that if the buses/trams are modern strollers work well, and there are often an area for strollers although you will need to be two persons to carry the stroller up and down.

Commuter trains are usually not stroller friendly.

In the cases of non-stroller friendly transportation a car seat works for longer journeys, but for the typical 10-20 minute journey of local transportation you'll probably find that a baby carrier is more practical.

Because of this, your strategy will be different in different cities. In Paris you would typically have to carry the stroller up and down stairs to take the Metro, while all buses have stroller-parking (that is often full, though), so for a family with a baby or a toddler a bus is definitely easier. In Stockholm both buses and subway is extremely family friendly, partly because of an almost obsessive handicap-friendliness. In Krakow we find that it's easiest to walk. I remember both local trains and buses in Chicago as being stroller friendly even if we didn't have a stroller with us, but I do not remember if there was escalators or elevators everywhere.

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+1 for non-localized information that is likewise spot-on. –  Ernie May 31 '11 at 20:13
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You do not need a car seat in public transportation in Chicago.

Stations all have ramps/elevators (they are required by law for wheelchair access), however I would never take an infant through a Chicago station in a stroller. People are often pressed together very tightly, they don't watch where they are going or where their bags swing, and it can be hard to keep your infant from touching very germy surfaces. If you must take public transportation, do it with your child in your arms.

To be fair, some people do take infants in strollers through the city, and some even use strollers inside Union Station -- maybe those who live and work in the city every day have a strategy for dealing with the rude, the oblivious, and the germy that this country bumpkin just doesn't grok.

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For carrying "in the arms", I can highly recommend the Manduca baby carrier (my physiotherapist wife says the very popular "Baby Björn" are anatomically dangerous). –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun May 26 '11 at 14:45
    
Trivia time:"some even use strollers inside Union Station" Have you ever seen the movie "The Untouchables"? The scene with the baby stroller bouncing down the stairs in the middle of the big gunfight is filmed in Union Station. –  Beofett May 26 '11 at 18:38
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