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A Baby Born on a Bus Underscores the Need for Quality Transit Access for All

5:01 PM CST on February 7, 2019

Guadalupe Lara holds her daughter, Samantha, at UIC Hospital. Photo: Sharon Parmet: UI Health

By this point, you’ve probably heard the story of Guadalupe Lara, the woman who gave birth on the #9 Ashland bus at Ashland and Cermak. The story really struck a chord with me and I started thinking about the various important intersections to note beyond the inherent feel-good aspect of such an unusual story.

I started wondering how a woman comes to give birth on a bus. When we imagine childbirth, we imagine someone driving the mother to the hospital. That’s the familiar narrative in TV shows, movies, and our lives, but what happens when you don’t have someone to drive you there? Perhaps your only option is to take public transit. That isn’t inherently a bad thing, but this story illuminates the reality of who rides the buses and why they’re so vital.

For a lot of us, we have multiple transportation options at our disposal. Whether it be ride-share, a car, or biking. Taking the bus for an emergency would be unthinkable, particularly because it’s not seen as a fast and reliable option.

Not everyone has the privilege to have multiple mobility modes at their disposal and the ability to simply choose the quickest one. This becomes even truer if you have children or a disability, if you're elderly, or if don’t have much disposable income. That is the key point in thinking about transit and mobility justice. We need to center the idea that all modes of mobility are worth prioritizing because it means creating high-quality access for everyone, regardless of which mode you use.

I’m heartened by how the CTA and other riders helped the woman give birth safely, which shows the resilience of Chicagoans in adverse situations. I also think we should see this as a learning moment to remember the many different kinds of people riding public transit, and why that makes it essential to prioritize making high-quality service for everyone riding. That is what transit justice in our city should be about.

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