When Terry and Brian Crunk decided to move from downtown Minneapolis to Golden Valley, they didn’t want to take their 6-month-old son Finn out of his downtown daycare or deal with the stresses of commuting by car.
The solution: Bring him on the bus.
Nearly two years later, Finn has become a routine presence on Route 758, which stops just a few blocks from the Crunk’s home.
“Initially, I was very nervous about how it was going to go but it’s progressively gotten better and now he loves the bus, being able to look out the window and having that freedom,” Crunk said. “As a working mom I also like being able to spend that extra time focusing on him rather than driving.”
During a recent morning commute, Finn sat quietly near the front of the bus paging through a board book and peering out the window as the bus traveled down I-394. Arriving downtown, he reached for the cord to request his stop – one of his favorite parts of the ride.
Survey data doesn’t indicate how many children like Finn ride transit. But anecdotes from across the Twin Cities suggest there are plenty of caretakers who don’t shy away from bringing young ones along for the ride.
Zachary Kahn, who lives in downtown Minneapolis, is among them. Several times a week, Kahn and his six-month-old son Camden walk to the U.S. Bank Stadium or West Bank stations, board a light rail train, and ride to Nicollet Mall. From there, Kahn drops Camden at daycare and heads to work.
“One of my favorite things is watching him as people make eye contact and smile,” Kahn said. “It brightens my morning to see him making other people smile and we end up interacting with people we wouldn’t interact with normally.”
Jamey Erickson, who lives in Northeast Minneapolis, also finds joy in traveling by bike and on transit with his children, ages 6 and 3.
Erickson gave up his car a decade ago, and has learned to adapt since having children. Today, he regularly brings his kids to school, the grocery store and other destinations on the back of his electric cargo bike. When weather or distance dictate, Erickson and his kids hop on light rail.
“It’s become such a regular thing for us,” Erickson said. “That’s just how the kids assume they’re getting around with dad now – by bike or by train.”
Metro Transit has taken steps to welcome children on transit. Children under 5 years old can ride any Metro Transit bus or train route for free. Children can also remain in their stroller while they ride (children in strollers should be secured, with the brakes set, and strollers cannot block the aisles or doorways).
Crunk has overcome the occasional challenge of needing to get home in the middle of the day by using Metro Transit’s Guaranteed Ride Home program, which allows regular commuters to seek reimbursement when they unexpectedly need to pay for a ride.
Finding a daycare provider that is accessible by transit and making extra time for potentially longer trips are bigger hurdles.
A report produced by Wilder Research for Metro Transit’s Transit Oriented Development Office suggested that Metro Transit, childcare providers and other partners work together to make daycare more accessible by transit.
Chad Dunkley, the Chief Executive Officer at New Horizon Academy, said the company intentionally looks for locations with frequent transit service. New Horizon has several locations in and near downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul where, and in Highland Park near a METRO A Line station.
About 20 years ago, New Horizon also opened a childcare in Burnsville’s Heart of the City, right next to a Park & Ride that will soon be served by the METRO Orange Line.
“We purposefully built in that location because we knew it was a high commuter area and it’s been full ever since,” Dunkley said. “Parents are busy, so we want to make it as easy for them to come and go as possible.”
Crunk, whose commute on Route 758 takes about 20 minutes, is now expecting her second child. The new addition will likely change her travel habits, at least for a while.
“It’ll make things different, but I’m hoping we can continue to take the bus,” she said. “We’ve really grown into it and now it’s just a part of our routine.”
Tips for riding with children
> Children left in strollers should be secured with the stroller seat belt with the brakes set. Parents must remain with the child. Strollers must not block the aisles or doorways.
> Children ages 5 and under ride free, with a fare-paying customer. Youth ages 6 to 12 can ride for $1, outside of rush hours. To receive a reduced fare during non-rush hours, inform the driver of your eligible age.
> K-12 students can also use a Go-To lite Card, which can be used to take 10 rides (fares that are more than $3.25 are not eligible). Go-To lite Cards cost $15, providing significant savings. Students or their parents must complete and sign this form to receive a Go-To lite Card. Go-To lite Cards are available at a Metro Transit Service Centers, by mail and at select schools and organizations.
> If you're concerned there may be times you need to use a car to get somewhere quickly for a personal emergency, the Guaranteed Ride Home program has you covered. Regular commuters who have an eligible emergency can request reimbursements up to four times per year or $100 in value, whichever comes first, for eligible trips with valid documentation.