public restrooms are a transportation issue

Car drivers can zip between places with restrooms. Bicyclists, to a lesser degree. Transit users and walkers, not at all. This is a transportation issue. If people cannot find restrooms, they can’t make their way through the city. They can’t afford to wait at a transit stop for a transfer. People with urinary issues (count me among them) have to plan carefully around not just their movement, but around restroom access. A city without public restrooms is a city that biases transportation against walkers and transit users, and in favor of vehicle drivers. Access is denied to an entire class of citizens.

In Sacramento, public restrooms are scarce. Cesar Chavez Plaza downtown has a Portland Loo type restroom, but it took years to get it done. So far as I know, there are no plans for additional locations.

Cesar Chavez Plaza restroom Portland Loo model

Roosevelt Park downtown has a new restroom, replacing the old one. There are two single-use, all-gender units, which is the current trend and probably much better than the older multi-user, gendered restrooms.

Roosevelt Park new restroom

The restroom in Fremont Park, right across the street as I type, has been closed for years, and despite the sign, is never open during events. Porta-potties are used for events at this park.

Fremont Park restroom closed

I have not traveled to all the city parks to see which restrooms are open, which are open but with limited hours, and which are closed, but my impression is that about half the park restrooms in the city are closed. The city has a GIS map of park restrooms, but no indication of whether the restrooms are actually open or not: https://data.cityofsacramento.org/datasets/b9e7fa6d1d104833b3f04268d7f682dc_0/explore. Park restrooms are valuable for walkers, but very few are located on transit routes.

There are no public restrooms at transit hubs. No restrooms where people are waiting for the next train or next bus. The next bus, at transfer points for low frequency routes, can be quite a long wait, up to 45 minutes assuming the buses are on schedule. Even at Sacramento Valley Station, where a number of modes converge, you can only use the restroom by showing an Amtrak train ticket. Using light rail or bus, or just walking or bicycling, you are out of luck. (Note: Many people assume that Amtrak or Capitol Corridor owns the train station, but it is owned and managed by the city.)

Some light rail stations and a few bus stops have restrooms for the transit operators, but not for the public.

The city should:

  • re-open or replace all park restrooms, within two years
  • install public restrooms at every city park which does not currently have them; this would include Muir Children’s Park, Grant Park, Winn Park, and several others
  • install a public restroom at the bus layover point on L St & 14th St
  • install a public restroom at the 16th St light rail station (where the Gold Line and Blue Line diverge, and the most used transfer point)
  • install a public restroom at 7th St & Capitol Ave light rail station (where the Blue Line, Gold Line and Green Line diverge; the 8th St & Capitol Ave stop is a block away)
  • identify locations throughout the city where walkers and transit users congregate, and install public restrooms there

You might wonder why I’m asking the city to install transit restrooms rather than SacRT. The reason is that I see it as the responsibility of the city to provide restrooms everywhere they are needed, not of the transit agency, though of course the projects could be joint projects.

Author: Dan Allison

Dan Allison is a Safe Routes to School Coordinator in the Sacramento area. Dan dances and backpacks, as much as possible.

2 thoughts on “public restrooms are a transportation issue”

  1. Thank you very much! This is a pet peeve of mine.

    Even in my younger days (I’m 65), I had a “small bladder” (which was exacerbated by drinking beer) and had to plan routes involving public restrooms.

    Fast forward to a now mobility challenged body and inaccessible and locked public restrooms, it’s no wonder so many of us become shut-ins. Luckily, my wife is good about transporting me and I have a couple of discreet portable urinary containers.

    IMHO, this is a high priority issue. It doesn’t matter how frequently accessible Light Rail trains arrive, if there are no bathrooms available!

    Mike

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