Trimet adventures (with babe in arms)
Our car broke down this January, when our daughter was six-months old, and my partner, Jeremy, had just started a new job across town in Hillsdale. We could have fixed the car, but we decided that we'd try being a bit more environmentally friendly for a while, so we put it off indefinitely. Suddenly, we found ourselves travelling exclusively by bike and bus -- that is, Jeremy would bike 14 miles a day (uphill both ways!) and I would maneuver around town with the baby on the bus.
Full disclosure: I'm a public transit veteran. Having grown up in big cities, and spending the past 8 years living without a car in Chicago, I know my way around bus routes and schedules and waiting at inadequate shelters during blizzards and sleet and all sorts of terrible weather we're usually spared in Portland. Nevertheless, I wasn't fully prepared for the adventures that awaited us while taking Maya on the bus. Six months later we've persevered and even learned to love our bus time. We've also heard from some of our urbanMama friends who feel intimidated by the prospect of getting on the bus with strollers, diaper bags and, of course, baby. So for all of you who might otherwise feel stuck at home, or would rather redirect some of that $3 per gallon to college savings accounts, here are some tips we've picked up along the way:
Google Transit! Check out Google's new feature available only for the Portland metro area! It uses Trimet schedules to plan your trip, but it also calculates whether it's more cost effective to drive or take public transit, and it uses Google's awesome maps to make sure you understand the route.
Take the baby into the bus while still in the stroller, but be prepared to hold baby throughout the bus ride. Some bus drivers are extremely patient and courteous, waiting until you have baby securely on your lap before they begin driving. Others will slam on the gas, oblivious to the fact that you and baby might go flying down the aisle. I like to get on the bus, get situated, and pay the fare once I'm settled and the bus stops to pick up more people. Bus drivers seem to like this too since it means they can keep closer to their schedule.
Travel light! This is advice I don't often follow myself, but that doesn't mean we all shouldn't try. It's especially hard if you're going to be out all day not to carry a blanket, extra clothes, hats, sunscreen, bibs, food, in addition to diapers, wallet, phone, keys, sunglasses, etc. Try leaving extraneous toys at home. One major benefit of public transit is that baby gets to look at other people and be in your arms. No toy is that engaging. There are lots of very friendly people, especially seniors, who are dying to play peek-a-boo and tell you just how precious your little tyke is. In fact, you're practically doing the community a service just by sharing your babe.
If possible, wear your baby. Slings and front- or backpacks will make your life a lot easier, especially when baby is small. I usually bring our Ergopack even if we have the stroller just because it's easier to board the bus with your hands free. If you decide to skip the stroller, then packing a light diaper bag is extra important, of course.
Practice baby sign language. Sure you can't read or listen to music to pass time on the bus anymore, but that doesn't mean you can't be putting your commute to good use. There are tons of songs to sing and things to point out as the world zooms by. Our daughter signed "tree" for the first time today while we were on the bus.
Have fun! Remember that time spent on the bus or MAX with your little one is different than time being stuck in traffic when you're driving. In a very literal sense, the journey is more important than the destination. Plus, if you start walking and running to catch those buses you'll lose that baby weight in no time!
I'll keep chiming in with other tidbits and stories involving our trips on the bus and with our bike trailer. Share your transit secrets and stories with the rest of us!