Ross: Seattle needs to get serious about public bathrooms

Oct 12, 2023, 8:02 AM | Updated: 8:36 am

public bathrooms...

SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO - APRIL 16, 2019: A sign in Santa Fe, New Mexico, identifies the location of public restrooms. (Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images)

(Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images)

We took a vacation to Eastern Canada last month, and I was very impressed that in every city we visited, our tour guide managed to find clean public restrooms that all 38 of us could use.

It impressed me because I’ve had trouble finding them right here in my own city. The question is, why?

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Seattle Times reporters Daniel Beekman and Anna Patrick researched this issue for the article in last Sunday’s paper about Seattle’s shortage of public bathrooms.

And it turns out that King County Metro has zero public restrooms for bus riders. And exactly one light rail station has public toilets. You might as well post signs that say, “Welcome to Seattle, speed limit 30, diapers recommended.”

And when I asked Daniel if anybody from the city had responded to the article, he said, “No, not yet.”

But readers certainly responded.

“No one really said, ‘Oh, the actual government-operated restrooms are adequate,'” Beekman said

There is one glimmer of light: San Francisco has what’s called a Pit Stop program, with trailers equipped with toilets and sinks, supervised by paid attendants, and which are stationed in neighborhoods where people had resorted to just using the streets.

“Actually, Seattle has a certain number of sort of shower or hygiene trailers,” Beekman said. “They’re a little bit based on that model.”

And I’m all for helping people who have no place else to shower, but sometimes those of us who have already had our shower need public bathrooms, too.

Not in some remote corner of the city but right in downtown. Especially if you want people with money to spend more time there, generating the tax dollars to pay for the underprivileged people who need the showers.

So how about it?

How about transit restrooms you can open with an Orca card? Corporate-sponsored comfort stations with constantly running radio ads to discourage loitering? Larger unisex bathrooms with private stalls, a common sink area, and paid attendants? There’s some evidence that mixing the sexes actually improves behavior.

But do something.

None of us, privileged or not, should be made to feel like criminals because we were born with intestines and a bladder.

Seattle is a great city, with a stunning natural setting and a laid back vibe that’s made us famous. But sometimes I think we’re all pot and no potty.

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Ross: Seattle needs to get serious about public bathrooms