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

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

    I was very encouraged by how others helped out and that she was able to give birth safely.

  • FG

    Even people with cars sometimes don’t make it to the hospital (shoot, I know someone who couldn’t even get TO the car before the baby came after her water broke) before the delivery.

  • sahra

    The fact that they had a car to go to and this woman likely did not is the point, friend.

  • FG

    Actually, it is, “friend.”

    Having access so-called equitable access doesn’t prevent a baby from being born quickly – it’s a weak argument for improving transit.

  • Lynda Lopez

    It’s not about guaranteeing whether a baby is born quickly or not. It’s about acknowledging that having access to certain modes puts you in a position to get to a hospital quicker. Beyond this example, it’s about considering all the people riding the bus and the varying needs they have. That’s a great case for improving the bus system. If you need a more compelling reason, you’re more invested in serving as a devil’s advocate rather than having a humane conversation about transit access for all people.

  • sahra

    You really came here to argue against considering the extent to which transit is a lifeline for many – not just for people about to give birth, but people who are trying to access healthcare or other vital services, more generally. Why, friend?

  • Carter O’Brien

    I’m sure others will chime in with similar stories, but take it from a generally healthy guy how just one injury will make you appreciate the shortfalls in our transit system.

    I spent a few months last winter hobbling around in a walking boot due to shattering a few toes, and it put an exclamation point on the fact my L stop (Belmont Blue Line) doesn’t have an elevator, and although there are a few here and there for Loop stations, they were in such repulsive condition that I opted to just use the stairs.

    And since I was also taking buses to get to and from the hospital for checkups (at least I have health insurance) and that wasn’t an issue), I got to see how plenty of people waiting for the bus who were in similar straits, either in wheelchairs, using crutches, canes, etc.

    This story may be rare, but as Lynda notes, the larger issue is that our bus system serves a lot of people that the hub-and-spoke commuter crowd do not see on a daily basis. Not everyone has an $800 iPhone and uses Uber or Lyft, and nor should they. This in turn should get one thinking about where we should prioritize and focus our effort and limited resources (the time of our elected officials included) so we don’t fall into these rabbit holes of fanciful transit of little use to the majority of the City’s population. Such as a certain express line to O’Hare, for example.

    Editing to note that at least this kid will have the best urban street cred ever. Number of people I’ve met in my lifetime here who were born on a bus? That would be zero!

  • TRPCLRMNTCST

    republicans wont be happy unless you are walking uphill both ways to the hospital and cutting the umbilical cord with your teeth. Ashland BRT is the cheapest and most direct way to connect communities and reduce segregation! The current southbound reroute of the bus towards racine/blue island between roosevelt and 18th is maddening and should never have been allowed. How about a bus priority stop light?

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