The Parents – and the Babies – on the Bus: Tips for Transit

We’ve heard from PEPS parents who head to their group meetings without a car. Some families are using transit all the time, some of the time, or want to give it a try and aren’t sure how to get started.

“Our ability to use the bus has allowed us to be a one-car household. Not owning a second car saves a ton of money.“

We asked parents to share their tips for taking transit with little ones and we hope this resource will grow and adapt. The Seattle area has buses, light rail, streetcars, ferries large and small and our very own Monorail. Buses that hinge in the middle and the Double Tall buses of Community Transit in Snohomish County are just a couple of ways to make getting around fun with kids.

Making changes before baby arrives

Many parents make many changes as they await the arrival of a new baby, and that can include transportation.

  • “[We] live and work in the city, so early 2017 when we were planning our logistics (before the baby), we decided to go car-free. We are renters, so when our lease was up, we decided to move closer to our workplaces to save time on commuting.”
  • For frequent appointments before the birth: “We relied on Car2Go a lot. When our little girl was born, we came home with her also in a Car2Go.”

The Basics

Did you know that up to 4 children under age 5 can travel for free with a fare-paying adult in King County? In Snohomish County, up to two children under age 5 can ride for free. Kids ages 6-18 pay a reduced fare.

  • “Get to know bus routes if you plan on using the bus and definitely get an Orca card with an auto load so you don’t have to think about bus fare!”
  • “Plan to fold up your stroller if needed on a crowded bus. You’ll want to learn how to fold up some of the seats in the front area designated for wheelchairs, and secure your stroller using the restraints.”
  • King County Metro’s policy says that children “may remain seated in the stroller as long as the child is strapped in the stroller and the stroller is secured in the wheelchair securement area. If the securement area is not available, the customer must remove the child from the stroller and hold them in their lap or in a seat alongside the customer for the duration of the ride.”
  • Check the policy for details on when you cannot collapse the stroller and be sure to keep the aisles clear. One PEPS parent notes this detail, “If a wheelchair or other mobility device wants to board, they get priority on the designated area.”
  • Umbrella strollers can be a great option if you aren’t hauling shopping – they are lightweight and easy to fold.
  • For rainy days, ditch the umbrella and stay dry with hoods and raincoats. Rain covers for strollers can keep out the wind as well.

It’s all in the timing

  • “I think adjusting the amount of time it takes to get places can be a little bit of a learning curve. I recommend using a Transit App to get real time arrival info and help with route planning.” King County Metro has a variety of travel apps, including trip planners, trackers, text alerts and the Transit App, which shows all nearby departures. Snohomish County offers a web app for your mobile browser with real-time info. See resources below.
  • Check Rider Alerts and Schedule Changes: “Once we were trying to get back from Capitol Hill and took the light rail to the Husky Stadium during a game, only to discover that we had to walk a long distance to get to bus stops to transfer; the bus stops were all closed near the stadium due to the game.” Rider alerts are often posted at bus stops and can be found online and by texts.
  • “Be prepared to walk or have a delay. If it’s super important to be on time, go on an earlier bus. You can always get off a few stops early and walk to take up some time.”

Tips for daycare and work and life

  • “We chose a daycare nearby my work, so I commute in with her on the bus to drop her off.”
  • “We have always picked a daycare within walking distance of home to make it easy to take our kiddo by wearing him or taking the stroller (as he got older). The stroller could be stored at daycare so it wasn’t a problem.”
  • “Many strollers have a cargo compartment on the bottom that can carry a rather large amount of groceries. Just remember that you can’t fold it up on the bus if it’s full of stuff.”
  • “For PEPS and other activities, we take public transportation if possible, and otherwise rent Car2Go or Zipcar.”
  • Extra storage. It can be handy, especially at the end of the day, to have a foldable bag with you for extra items to take home from work or daycare, or for stopping to pick something up on the way home.

Fun trips

  • “Once we met up with friends in SODO, each family having bused from our neighborhoods, and took a second bus together to West Seattle to get to Alki Beach. We had a nice walk along the beach together, and then took the water taxi back to downtown. The kids really enjoyed the boat ride. It was a weekend, so we were some of the only people on the boat.”

Insider Info

  • “One thing I don’t recommend is hauling a car seat on the bus without having a stroller, unless you really need the car seat (such as a trip to the airport, if you plan to drive in the other city). I once hauled a car seat on a bus and the light rail to meet a friend for lunch because I thought it’d be nice to have my hands free during lunch if the baby would sleep. But even just the two blocks to the restaurant were quite a pain for hauling the car seat!”
  • “Some buses “kneel” while others might have steps and need to have a ramp extended if you’re going to bring a stroller on board.”
  • Negative/Positive Feedback: As one of our experienced transit parents says she’s “had people criticize me.” Generally, she says, “I try to be quick about boarding/folding the stroller if needed, but most people are pretty understanding about needing some extra time and needing to have a seat, or for older kids seats together. If you expect a crowded bus, maybe best to just have it folded to begin with.”
  • “I think every parent needs to plan around nap times and have an escape plan when they take kids on outings, especially with the little ones.”

What makes this work for you?

Just in time for the re-align
This January, the Alaskan Way Viaduct closes for work. And traffic – including transit – will experience changes and expected slowdowns. Check updates for more info!

  • “I love riding transit with my kiddos because it’s the more eco-friendly option, and it’s more fun than dealing with car seats (and parking fees when applicable). It’s fun to run into someone we know on the bus, or to see my toddler interact with a stranger. Kids really take down the barriers people naturally put up. I find random people trying to play peek-a-boo or starting to talk about something on their outfit that my kid is paying attention to. And bus drivers are often nice to kids too!”
  • “I love that I can engage more fully with my kids as they look out the window and we can talk more about what they see, or sing a song or even play with toys together. I have also seen parents reading books on the bus. Also, when my son was very young, he often fell asleep on the bus when I was wearing him in a baby carrier.”
  • “On a few occasions, we think having a car would make life with a baby easier, but we mostly don’t miss the parking, upkeep/maintenance, and expenses in this already-expensive city!”

Yes, you can go to the airport too!

  • “I would say that getting to the airport by transit is a pain – mainly because you’re hauling so many things and also carrying a child. But on the positive side, I’ve never had a problem finding enough space for all our stuff on the bus or train when going to the airport. We tend to pick flights at less busy times, so that may be a factor.” Check out the info here.


Even as Seattle adds more cars, the percentage of households with cars is declining. That means there’s a lot of traffic, but some people are making the switch.

Please share your questions and your ideas for using transit below – or in your PEPS Group!


Note: Ideas were shared from PEPS parents and other local parents in our community and have been lightly edited for length.




More resources for parents

  • Bus Chick – Bus Chick is an active blog in Seattle with “writing and riding” from local mom Carla Saulter. Carla was featured in this 2015 Seattle’s Child article about going car-free with kids. Carla is a transit enthusiast, and her posts range from when her kids were very young to a summary of her first ten years as a bus-riding parent that include tons of tips and strategies.
  • All Aboard for Transit Adventures – this ParentMap article dates from 2016, so be aware of changes to routes. Read it to find destinations perfect for kids to get you practicing your transit skills – with idea like Rainier Beach, Lincoln Park and more.

About the Author

Laura has been writing copy around town, editing even more words and thinking about how we tell our stories to each other. Laura knows her commas, mostly – and admires good writing everywhere. She is an MLIS with a deep interest in books for adults and children. At home, she is the mother of 3 inspiring kids.

  One thought on “The Parents – and the Babies – on the Bus: Tips for Transit

  1. Annie
    January 27, 2019 at 9:12 pm

    Don’t forget babywearing! It was definitely the thing that allowed me to take my 3 mo. to 2 year old on the bus to daycare every day. A lot less hassle than a stroller, and when they’re on front it’s easy to sit down and take up just one seat.

  2. Azkan
    January 16, 2020 at 11:23 am

    Parents, please keep in mind that some disabilities are not visible. Please keep this in mind when you ask someone sitting in the disability priority area of the bus to move for your stroller. Also, people don’t “have to” move for you. As a disabled person, I have faced a ton of harassment for refusing to move, especially on full buses. I’ve had people demand to know what my disability is, threaten to beat me up, tell me I’m ‘rude’, and tell me I’m faking.

    I would love to be able to ride the bus without running the risk of being yelled at, threatened, called names, or told I’m faking.

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