No Place to Go

No Place to Go

Restrooms are supposed to be available to passengers at Metro stations, but few are.

When you have to go, two months is too long to wait.

After almost two months, the Mount Vernon Council of Citizens' Association resolution requiring a transit authority to make public restrooms more available got the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors' attention.

MVCC noted in their November 2005 resolution that Fairfax County citizens wait for buses that take them to Metro rail stations, often requiring several transfers over extended periods of time, only to get to rail stations are without public access to restrooms.

In a matter introduced Jan. 9 by Mount Vernon District Supervisor Gerald Hyland, the resolution that would require Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) to make public restrooms "more available and conspicuous" was referred to County Executive Anthony Griffin. Griffin was instructed to return to the board with recommendations. However, Hyland's motion carried no time frame for that response.

Lee District Supervisor Dana Kauffman, who also serves as WMATA's Board Chairman agreed that restroom access needs to be a priority.

"I agree with the item introduced by Gerry Hyland. I have met with the concerned citizens and my challenge to Metro's staff is that if Reagan National Airport can have their restrooms open, why can't we?" Kaufmann said.

Kauffman has been pushing for this restroom access at Metro stations over the past several years prior to his assuming the role of WMATA Board Chairman. He was instrumental in having a prototype restroom installed at the Huntington Station in the summer of 2004.

Metro has consistently resisted opening their existing station restrooms based on security concerns.

The association noted in their resolution that state building codes require public restrooms be made available for use by anyone in a rail station.

WMATA board policy is clear that restrooms are to be made available to Metro riders upon request without passengers explaining to Metro station managers whether or not it is an emergency. But that policy has not been universally applied and station managers have denied restroom access to Fairfax County residents.

Based on these actions by WMATA, the association requested that the supervisors require the WMATA Board inform their station managers that in Fairfax County they must provide unrestricted access to adequate public restrooms or some alternative with large standard signage. This is to be enforced at all station in the county whenever Metro is operating.

"I hope the recommendation that comes out of this from the county executive makes it a part of the WMATA audit procedure that any contractor performing such facilities considers the restroom situation," said Robert Brubaker, president of MetroPed. Brubaker is a long time advocate of restroom access at all Metro stations.

"The Washington Metropolitan Airport Authority has building code enforcement as it impacts the easy access and use of restrooms in terminals and it works fine," Brubaker said.

OTHER BOARD MATTERS INTRODUCED by Hyland at Monday's session included the following:

* A request that the Laurel Hill community be informed when a request for proposal is released to institute the re-use planning of the reformatory and penitentiary portions of the former Lorton prison.

"Responses to this RFP will inevitably shape the physical landscape of the Laurel Hill Community," Hyland said.

* A joint board matter with Kauffman to create the Lawrence V. Fowler Memorial Award for honorable service on a Fairfax County Board, Authority or Commission. Fowler recently resigned from his position on the consumer protection commission after 41 years of voluntary service to the county. Hyland said that the county has no award to recognize service on county boards, authorities or commissions.

"I believe it is important that the Board of Supervisors recognize those who serve and stress the involvement and promote the desire to serve," he said.