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Washrooms on the system

Public toilet sign

Do you want to see more washrooms on or near the system?

Where are the washrooms on the system?

That’s a good question. If you’re taking the SeaBus or West Coast Express, then washrooms are available in the fare paid zone or the trains themselves. As for SkyTrain and bus loops, the simple answer is there aren’t any washrooms for “official” public use.

From time to time, parents who need to change their children’s diapers, the elderly or people with disabilities can ask an attendant to use the staff facilities. But this limited access to washrooms isn’t ideal since an attendant needs to wait outside while the washroom is in use. This takes staff away from other duties including attending to potential emergencies.

Why aren’t there more washrooms on the system?

The conversation of adding washrooms has been one TransLink has had in the past both internally and with the municipalities TransLink services. To date, there are a few public washrooms near SkyTrain stations like the automated washroom near the Main Street SkyTrain station operated by the City of Vancouver.

The public toilet outside of the Main Street SkyTrain Station

The automated public toilet outside of the Main Street SkyTrain Station

Then there’s security. We all would like to use washrooms that are safe. There’s also the issue of vandalism and washrooms being used for illegal or inappropriate activity. This could mean adding security personnel and/or security mechanisms.

Of course, the addition of any washrooms to the system would come with a significant cost. TransLink’s current funding doesn’t cover additional washrooms, and the Moving Forward Supplemental Plan [1], which Metro Vancouver mayors will be voting on October 7th, doesn’t include the cost of adding washrooms either. Money to pay for washrooms would, therefore, need to be found elsewhere.

Are there washrooms on other transit systems?

Transportation agencies tackle the washroom question differently. TransLink’s Public Information Officer, Drew Snider, put together some numbers that help to compare the system in Metro Vancouver to other systems in North America and beyond.

Portland doesn’t provide public restrooms and neither does Calgary. Edmonton has restrooms at eight of its 15 LRT stations,  four out of 25 exchanges and plans to include restrooms to future transit exchanges and LRT stations. Toronto has 10 washrooms in a total of 69 stations. Paris has washrooms in 37 of its 370 Métro stations. There’s no direct surveillance for those washrooms, but they are located in stations where rail personnel are usually present and there are video cameras working in the area.

Of note is that where systems have a large number of station restrooms, they’re almost always heavy-rail commuter systems, serving long-distance customers.

The number of washrooms found in other transit systems

The number of washrooms found in other transit systems

What to do about washrooms on the system?

That’s the big question! It’s hard to refute the benefits of having washrooms on or near the transit system. After all, nature doesn’t always call when we want it to. As pointed out in The Globe and Mail [2], access to washrooms is “no joke”, so it’s important to have the discussion.

There’s also the issue of priorities. Are adding washrooms more important than maintaining and improving the system to keep up with demand?

I’m curious what Buzzer readers think about the issue. Is adding more washrooms to the system important to you? If so, how do you think they should be implemented, and by whom?