Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Lessons from Auckland: Public Toilets and Transit

If you’ve ever taken public transit in most Canadian cities, I’m sure you’ve had the experience of needing to use a washroom, but not being able to find one. It can make for a very unpleasant journey. For some people, such as those who are older, not having a washroom nearby can limit their ability to travel.

Canadian transit agencies tend to shy away from providing public toilets for their riders. In Metro Vancouver, West Coast Express train cars and the SeaBus terminals are the only locations that I’m aware of that TransLink provides public washrooms for its riders.

Being unable to keep vandalism under control and maintaining clean washrooms are often cited as reasons why public washrooms are not provided at public transit facilities.

When I went to Auckland, I noticed that there were public toilets everywhere. They even provided public toilets at both major rail and bus exchanges.

Public Washrooms at Auckland Transport's Albany Bus Exchange. Select image to enlarge.

Public Washrooms at Auckland Transport's Panmure Rail Station. Select image to enlarge.

I asked some of the people I know at Auckland Transport how they are able to keep a handle on keeping their public washrooms in a state of good repair and clean. I was told that in the not too distant past, they designed and maintained public washrooms like they were in prisons. Not surprisingly, people didn’t treat the facilities with respect.

They started designing higher-quality facilities, more in line with what you’d see at an airport or shopping mall. As a result, people started respecting the facilities more. I can personally asset to the quality of the public toilets that Auckland Transport maintains.

Auckland is a big city. Its public transit users come from all walks of life just like in Metro Vancouver. Auckland Transport's ability to provide clean, high-quality washrooms shows that it is possible to do. Having public toilets at transit stations actually improves the accessibility of the transit network as a whole, and is something that TransLink should consider.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Yep, you're absolutely right. Providing ubiquitous public toilets (which for some strange reason are called washrooms in Canada!) is seen as an absolutely core responsibility of municipal government in New Zealand and their standard has improved hugely in the last decade. My perspective is that in Canada transit exchanges are often designed for the needs of buses, not bus customers (Edmonton does better than most with transit centres with heated indoor waiting areas and washrooms). As transit exchanges are often connection points for longer multi-leg transit trips, public washrooms are an obvious key customer requirement.