Monday, June 4, 2018

Learning from Halifax: Public washrooms at major transit exchanges

I’ve done a fair amount of travelling, and have used many different transit systems through Canada, the US, and the world. For a region our size, Metro Vancouver punches above its weight when it comes to transit ridership and the quality of transit service. We have a good system, but it does have areas of weakness. While TransLink has public washrooms at SeaBus terminals, you will not find public washrooms at any other station or transit exchange.

Over the past five days, I’ve been in Halifax for the Federation of Canadian Municipalities annual conference. The conference is a gathering of over 3,000 elected local government representatives and staff from throughout our country. One part of the conference is study tours. One of the study tours that I was on was about the work that Halifax Transit is doing to enhance accessibility for their transit network. Dartmouth Bridge Terminal is a major bus exchange for the Halifax transit system. It was one of the nicest bus exchanges that I’ve seen.

The bus exchange, which was opened in 2012, includes the full complement of accessibility features including tactile pads, braille, high-contract signs, ramps, and an elevator. It also includes another important accessibility feature, public washrooms.

I asked the study tour guide what Halifax Transit’s experience has been with public washrooms on their system. Halifax Transit closed public washrooms in the past due to vandalism, but has since switch course. They are opening public washrooms throughout their system. As another example, they recently renovated the washrooms at their downtown ferry terminal.

Entrance to Men's Washroom at Dartmouth Bridge Terminal. Select image to enlarge.

Vandalism doesn’t simply disappear, I asked how they reduced vandalism. Halifax Transit builds high-quality washrooms that instill a sense of pride in the facilities. They also have extensive cleaning schedules. At the Dartmouth Bridge Terminal, they have a staffed security/information desk across from the washroom entrances. Like some of our SkyTrain stations, there is a shop within the bus exchange to put more eyes and ears in the facility.

Inside Men's Washroom. Select image to enlarge.

Shop inside transit exchange. Select image to enlarge.

For people such as seniors or young children, having access to public washrooms is important for longer journeys. Public washrooms allow people to travel independently and with dignity.

While I would not expect TransLink to open up public washrooms at all SkyTrain stations and transit exchanges throughout the region, they should open public washrooms at the busiest locations. If Halifax Transit can operate public washrooms, surely TransLink can.

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