February 15, 2018

Why Can't We Have Washrooms at Vancouver's Public Transit Stations?

There are two things that users of TransLink services would appreciate~across the board free internet that is not just at certain stations or tied to having a plan with a certain provider, and having washrooms. Yes, there are no washrooms at SkyTrain station or at major bus loops despite the fact that there is a universal need for such facilities. Price Tags Vancouver has already written about the fact that in Metro Vancouver you can use public transit, or you can use a washroom, but you can’t do both on the TransLink system. This lack of facilities drew the ire of the Raging Grannies when they took public transit into Vancouver for a protest. They were so annoyed at the fact that TransLink did not provide washrooms that they wrote a song about it, and  followed up with the Vancouver Seniors’ Advisory Committee who also asked TransLink to get washrooms.
TransLink has had lots of reasons for not providing something everyone needs to use. The renovated SkyTrain stations along the Expo line even have space that has been prepped with plumbing for washrooms. TransLink has “issues” such as maintenance security and sanitation. But as Price Tags Vancouver has discussed before~ if Edmonton, Toronto and Paris can provide washroom facilities at some stations, surely Vancouver can as well.  You can take a look at this older copy of The Buzzer that provides a chart of which transit systems have washrooms.
TransLink is now saying that they are going to consider washrooms at SkyTrain stations and perhaps at bus loops according to the Daily Hive. Right now washrooms are for staff only and the only available washrooms for the public are at the SeaBus terminal. TransLink’s spokesperson is still repeating the same mantra saying “Transit systems in North America that provide washrooms often struggle with safety and cleanliness concerns of customers and the high cost of maintenance for the transit agency.”  
In the 21st century we should be providing for the comfort and convenience of passengers and making public transit an effortless alternative to using an automobile. That includes providing for the basic necessities of people using the system, and that means providing washrooms  that are universally accessible for all system users. Quite simply, public transportation customers on the go need to go. And providing universal access to free internet would be helpful too.

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  1. When I worked on setting up SeaBus, toilets were provided at the two terminals as waits could be up to half an hour. Within a year the porcelain at Waterfront was smashed and were replaced with stainless steel, prison-style, fixtures.
    I moved on to SkyTrain design, and a decision was made, based on average trip times below fifteen minutes not to provide public washrooms but to allow, on request, emergency use of staff facilities–provided at most stations. I ended up fronting this decision in the media and was called for a while “Mr. Public Toilet”.
    I had previously worked in Toronto for the TTC which had public toilets at four or five of forty subway stations. They were a maintenance nightmare used as much for drugs and sex as natural functions. At Bloor and Yonge one cubicle was converted into a police surveillance booth.
    Given the modest trip times public transit should not have the cost and burden of such facilities but, just as municipalities are resposnsible for bus shelters, they could provide conracted self cleaning toilets at select stations.

  2. Maybe we actually need to be tough on the lawbreakers that trash the washroom facilities instead of punishing every law abiding citizen that has to take a pee. it’s ridiculous that a huge city like London can have public washrooms everywhere but here they are as scarce as hens teeth.

  3. As a person who works for a seniors organization I have discused this issue at length. One solution to vandalism and questionable use is to have people tap in with their compass card. Not as payment but for tracking and legitimate use. It makes it easier to go after those that abuse the system. Timely checks are done of the facilities and you can easily determined who used it during that time. When people know they can be traced they tend not to do questionable actions.

  4. Perhaps worth noting that even after FINALLY being refurbished, the Seabus washrooms are still about the most unpleasant place I can think of.
    At a workshop on the new Phibbs exchange a couple of years ago Translink was entirely upfront that the plan included washrooms, but there was no money to install them.

  5. On one hand, it’d be nice to be able to relieve yourself mid-commute… on the other, if the bathrooms end up looking like the ones at McDonalds, TransLink might as well not bother.

  6. I used to work at Waterfront (There are offices upstairs for those unaware) and had to disappoint so many tourists (And probably locals too) who fully expect a main transit station of that size to have washrooms.

    1. That’s a good point. It may be excessive and too costly to have washrooms at each station but surely all hubs and major stations could have them. It wouldn’t be too onerous to keep a dozen washrooms in a good state.

      1. ” It wouldn’t be too onerous to keep a dozen washrooms in a good state.”
        Seriously? Peanuts in the grand scheme of things. Raise fares by a penny, or mobility pricing by some fraction of a percent. The lack of washrooms is by choice, not necessity.

  7. The issue of public washrooms on transit is complicated. Yes, there are agencies that provide public washrooms. But the list of agencies that do NOT provide washrooms is much longer. And those that do probably wish they didn’t.
    There is the issue of cost. Not huge compared to the overall cost of operating the transit system. But why would an agency that is constantly under the microscope for spending (think back few years when they were raked over the coals for providing coffee for their employees or the constant and tiresome debate over executive compensation) expose itself to yet another opportunity for public criticism.
    Which brings us to the real reason TransLink is likely hesitant to open washrooms to the public – risk to their organizational reputation. TransLink has had a challenging few years in the public realm. SkyTrain delays, HandyDART provision, failed referendum. TransLink is one of the best transit agencies in North America. But the public (especially the press) seem to love any opportunity to condemn, criticise and generally disparage them. TransLink has recently made inroads in turning around their relationship with the public. They are on a better track now. So until TransLink is confident they won’t be vilified the first time someone overdoes in the bathroom at Waterfront Station, expect them to stay out of the public washroom business.

  8. Does the idea of an attendant, visible in many cities around the world, paid for by small user contributions, possibly work?

    1. Or a big fat camera just outside the door. I don’t mind the idea of tapping your compass card either. But just to discourage vandalism, not to charge.

  9. hi, am working on proposal report on this issue the washroom unavailability at skytrain stations. can anyone please help me and give me 3-4 reasons why they do not have restrooms.

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