The “GottaGo!” campaign aims to create a network of safe, free, clean and environmentally responsible public toilets and water fountains that are accessible to persons of all abilities in parks, major transit stops and key public places to meet the needs of residents and tourists in Canada’s Capital City.
Why we need a network of public toilets
In a city such as Ottawa the needs of tourists, outdoor activities of families, an aging population and people with disabilities, and the need to ensure effective public health combine to demonstrate that a network of safe, clean, accessible and environmentally responsible public toilets are essential. There are effective public toilet programs in other capitals like Tokyo, Paris, London, Christchurch and Seoul. Which of us has not been caught short by our need for a toilet? The Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation surveyed their members and donors in 2010 only to find that more than 75% of them had been humiliated in this way.
What parent has not had their child urinate or defecate behind a tree in a park? Which pregnant woman, tourist, bus user, cyclist or jogger has not had moments where they worry about getting to a facility in time? Although Ottawa does have public restrooms in large parks, their hours do not accommodate need. Transit stations do not have public toilets and there are no plans for toilets in the new LRT stations (except at the end of the line). People with urgent needs, such as colitis and celiac sufferers, are held captive in their homes and cars. In the city core, where bars and restaurants are located, people urinate after hours in laneways and buildings, and restaurant and bar owners fret about non-paying customers using their washrooms. Tourists from Asia and Europe are shocked by the lack of public toilets. Available toilets that are accessible to people of all abilities are a public health issue, a disability issue, a tourism issue and a key to sustainable cities and complete streets. The current situation is unacceptable in a capital city.
GottaGo! proposes that the City of Ottawa & National Capital Commission:
- Ensure that open, clean public toilets and water fountains accessible to people of all abilities are installed in the proposed LRT stations and the Park & Rides
- Invest in signage, appropriate hours, staffing, improvements and maintenance for existing public toilets to bring them to a standard fitting to a national capital
- Provide subsidies to private businesses in key locations in return for improvements to their toilet facilities, open access, oversight and signage
- Add at least one 24/7 unisex, direct access facility accessible to persons of all abilities to public buildings in high traffic areas. Invest in at least two adult “changing stations” for users with severe disabilities.
- Require new developments in key areas to provide for unisex street-access toilets accessible to persons of all abilities as part of their permitting.
- Build/install new architecturally beautiful public toilets where required.
Dealing with concerns for safety, security and sanitation
The Ottawa Police Service agrees that toilets located in public or commercial settings can be inclusive and safe environments. They can be facilities that patrons feel confident to use, are easy to maintain, and are resource efficient. Design choices can be made that allow for easy cleaning and management, resistance to vandalism, and low maintenance requirements. Other capital cities can do this, why can’t Ottawa? The increased staff required to maintain these toilets in a pristine condition could be a key employment generator. Advertising on the toilets can help defray costs.
“Public toilets represent society’s finest aspirations about responsible civil behaviour. A great city has great public toilets” (Bridgeman).