BART may reopen bathrooms at 10 stations

ByElissa Harrington KGO logo
Friday, September 11, 2015
BART may reopen bathrooms at 10 Bay Area stations
BART officials are meeting Thursday to discuss whether to open 10 bathrooms that have been closed since the September 11 attacks.

BART riders might finally get some relief when nature calls. Bathrooms at stations with underground platforms including Powell Street, Embarcadero and Lake Merritt might finally reopen to the public.

The men's bathroom at the Embarcadero BART Station in San Francisco hasn't been a real bathroom since 2001 and is currently being used for storage.

Restrooms at all 10 underground stations have been closed since the September 11 terror attacks.

Starting in 2003, security measures were taken to prevent any sort of terrorist attack or illegal activity, so signs were put on bathroom doors saying they were closed, elevator access was sometimes shut down, and BART removed garbage cans and added security cameras.

But BART officials are thinking about finally reopening them. "How do you accommodate people who really need to go to the bathroom, but make sure that there's no potential for terrorist activity and the undergrounds are closed because of the fact you can imagine the force of something that might explode would be directed in a confined area," BART spokesperson Jim Allison said.

For 14 years, riders have been met with signs that bathrooms are closed. "It's inconvenient. It's unnecessary," Emilio Alvarez said.

Passengers say when nature calls, it's hard to hold it and some end up using the stairwells or elevators as urinals instead.

They say it's about time they have a place to go. "They should because I had a hard time one time, so I had to run," Cliff Goodman said.

"I guess in an emergency it would be great to have them," Gabby Bodin said.

Others think public bathrooms could attract the wrong type of attention. "I think that probably the homeless and the drug users would be in there more often, so what's the safety in that," Mary Saavedra said.

BART's proposal focuses on safety, which includes partially transparent doors and sinks in the concourse area along with extra security.

According to an SFGate article, if the board decides to reinstall the underground bathrooms, it wouldn't be as simple as just unlocking the doors.

They would have to be cleaned, some would be converted into unisex bathroom, others completely remodeled with different doors and a different layout that would be easier to monitor.

The goal would be to provide a place for BART riders to go to the bathroom without compromising safety.

Thursday night's meeting is informational, but if BART officials do decide to eventually move forward they would try out a pilot program at the 19th Street BART station in Oakland and at the Powell Street BART station in San Francisco.

The estimated cost to maintain the bathrooms is roughly $1 million a year.