May 31, 2021

Public Washrooms on South Granville Street or the New Broadway Rapid Transit Connection? Nope.

Once again I ventured onto South Granville Street and once again I was greatly disappointed when I need to find a washroom only to find that there were none. Starbucks will sell you any drink you like but you can’t use the washroom there. Chapters as you enter has a large printed sign saying that they have no washrooms. Well, that’s not true, they have washrooms, they just are not washrooms you can use.

What about Meinhardts the grocery store, which you think would be helpful after you bought a lot of groceries? Alas no, they directed me three blocks away to a park where two off gassing construction biffies  covered in graffiti were available. No thank you.

Helpful friends after the fact have suggested using the Fire Hall Library (although their hours are much shorter during the pandemic), or a nearby church. I also heard about the excellent coffee at the Phoscao Cafe at 3007 Granville Street that WILL allow you to use their washroom.

It was Jeff Veniot, a freelance tour guide, Vancouver history buff and friend that summed it up very neatly.

Jeff said on social media: “It’s time to go back to a lot of public toilets being added with proper attendants (or big burly security staff who also clean them, and toss out those that do not belong there). We either pay to use them (at the time we go in) or the city (cities or Prov Gov’t) raise our taxes to pay for it. I for one will be glad to pay one way or the other so when I go out with my disabled wife, we can find either a men’s or ladies or a family / disabled washroom.”

Jeff is right.

I have written so many times that public washrooms are part of basic city amenity in every park and commercial area. They should be publicly accessible and paid by taxpayers, instead of all privately owned by businesses and just available to the business customers.

During the pandemic even that privately owned washroom availability has been curtailed. This impacts families, homeless, disabled, seniors and pretty much everyone that needs to go.

And please don’t trot out the trope about parks having public washrooms. Most parks are not located in commercial areas and along transit lines where people need those services. You can read more about the public washroom fail in Canada in Lezlie Lowe’s book How Public Toilets Fail Our Private Needs .

We need to support Vancouver Sun’s writer Dan Fumano who has just written an article asking how it is a $2.83 Billion dollar 5.7 kilometer extension of rapid transit on Broadway is not including public washrooms in the design.  After all the hand clapping at the groundbreaking  of the Broadway subway line extension, City of Vancouver Council started to do the double take realizing the fact that there were no public washrooms along the route, and no accessible washrooms.

In the spirit of placating all those travelling bladders, the Province’s Transportation Ministry revealed that there WOULD be single-occupancy “one off” washrooms in the new stations BUT you will need (and find) a SkyTrain attendant to use it. And, as only this Province can do, the spokesman disclosed a well known secret: there actually ARE single-occupancy washrooms available “throughout the Sky Train network” but you have to find and beg an attendant to use one.

That’s simply not good enough. What is it going to take to create and staff  public washrooms in this city?

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  1. Most recently I had to educate some clients from Alberta and Ontario who were looking at the plans of the new Evergreen Line stations, trying to convince me (I take SkyTrain every day to work) that those stations had public washrooms. I did concur that they are indeed built and there (behind the fare-paid zone) but had to point out they were for staff use only. Good to know if you approach the station attendant that they will let you use them.

  2. I’d honestly be satisfied with port-o-potties in all parks. I cycle, so it’s not hard for me to get to one.

  3. The construction site “Johnny on the Spot”at the VSB Park on 10th Ave r for bus drivers’ use as there is a curbside busloop there. Problem is that no one wants to share their washrooms to the public during the pandemic. Yes the city’s stainless steel sidewalk washrooms downtown should be installed at major intersections all over the city.
    I’ve seen grown men urinate on the sidewalk on Broadway rather than urinate in their pants. Neither is particularly sanitary nor sane when the Govt CAN spend a BILLION + $, only to leave u half way to UBC!!

  4. Being of the age when weaker bladders of more common, I agree.
    How and who do we contact to get action on this?

  5. Yeah, isn’t it the City’s responsibility (rather than passing the buck to others, whether TransLink or businesses?)
    Plus, those public automated toilets would be available 24/7, whereas businesses (and Translink do close).

  6. Yes to far FAR more public washrooms, perhaps for a modest fee or a suggested / forced donation via the cleaning person at the entrance as is common in most European cities.

    I also think that food establishments ought to have mandatory bathrooms for customers and then buying a drink or donut if the right choice / barrier to entry. Unclear why we allow establishments that sell food or drinks to not have bathrooms?

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