TINY STEPS – MUCH MORE TO GO – February 19, 2018
In the budget for 2018, City Council agreed to provide accessible portable toilets at ten unspecified parks this coming summer at a total expense or $6000. While GottaGo! agrees this is better than nothing, we are disappointed that the City still doesn’t yet see the need for an effective network of safe, clean, accessible, easy-to-find all-season toilets. We hope community groups will step up and insist on decorating these ugly, but necessary facilities.
Big cheers for Dovercourt Community Centre, which has installed GottaGo! directional signs outside their building, indicating that they have public washrooms. Says John Rapp, the Dovercourt CEO: “I am happy to join the movement.” We will make sure more signs pop up around the city in the next months.
A reminder that the city has an app to find open toilets at ottpee.ca
More toilet awareness from the federal government? We have noticed that there were portable toilets at Winterlude and at the Parliament Hill skating rink.
And there is a dry composting toilet at Remic Rapids on the SJAM ski trail. You might never know it was a toilet, as it is completely unmarked, but a small plaque says it was built by Algonquin carpentry students in partnership with the NCC.
Keep pushing folks. We may be getting somewhere.
On Wednesday October 4, we installed a homemade sign in Confederation Park pointing to the public toilets at City Hall. With the help of the Raging Grannies, our Core Team and some concerned citizens, the event was a great success. CBC covered it on Ottawa Morning the next day. Radio 1310 devoted part of the Carol Anne Meehan Show to our demands. You can click here to watch a fun two minute video of the event
More signs are expected to appear in the next few weeks.
September 29, 2017.
GottaGo! is aware that the discussions for the 2018-2021 City budget are really heating up.
We have been hearing from many Ottawa residents that they are becoming increasingly frustrated with the lack of public toilets in the city, at major transit stops, in parks and in other spaces. Please call your City Councillor(s) and let them know how you feel.
Having toilets in hub stations of the LRT phases one and two, and having an app that directs people to existing municipal toilets is a step, but certainly not enough. Especially when 47% of the existing toilets are closed most of the time, and when there is no directional signage.
More easy-to-find public toilets are a necessity in a city with an aging population.
Over the past three years, GottaGo! has attempted to accommodate City budget restraints by reducing our ask to more portable toilets in seasonal parks and splash pads, signage pointing to existing public toilets, and a requirement for sports teams to pay for portable toilets when they use City property.
Even these limited inexpensive requests have been ignored, and we are fed up.
There is growing public and media awareness about the need for public toilets throughout the province. There have been numerous news stories and op-eds recently calling for more public toilets, including the five linked below.
The pressure will only build over the three-year term of the next budget and the City should be ready to meet the demands of citizens for these toilets.
Submission to the City budget consultations, October 2106
The GottaGo! Campaign understands that the City is in a budget squeeze that is hurting many people, particularly the most vulnerable.
However, we also understand that an effective transportation system and safe mobility require the provision of accessible, open toilets that are easy-to-find.
Without open, accessible, easy-to-find public toilets:
- The more than 7000 people in Ottawa with Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis or other incontinence issues are afraid to use public parks and splash pads or to take transit;
- Seniors and families limit their use of public parks – often their only access to nature;
- Many older adults and persons with disabilities are confined to their homes.
- People desperate for a restroom look for bushes and back alleys.
This past summer, with the Carlington Community Association’s endorsement and the City’s permission, GottaGo! paid for a decorated accessible portable toilet at the Harrold Place Splash Pad. A local artist painted it with a colourful mural. The community loved it, and there were no complaints or vandalism.
It cost only $580 for a wheelchair accessible unit, cleaned twice a week for four months.
Next summer, let’s make sure all well-used parks and playgrounds have at least one attractive accessible portable toilet that is open!
A research project to assess the quality of Ottawa municipally-funded toilets called Flushing Inequality has found them sadly lacking.
Despite being the nation’s capital, Flushing Inequality is the first systematic examination of the availability, accessibility and quality of public toilets in Ottawa.
Using feedback from an advisory committee of community members, the researchers created a comprehensive visual assessment tool to assess the availability, accessibility and quality criteria of a sample of 92 public toilets owned, operated and maintained by the City of Ottawa. (almost 1/2 of the “public-facing” toilets the City operates). The surveys were conducted between December 2015 and February 2016 by a team of five graduate social work students.
To ensure consistency of responses, the research team visited all facilities in pairs during standard hours of operation, Monday to Saturday between 9:00 am and 5:00 pm.
KEY FINDINGS OF THE STUDY
- While 82% of public toilets in the City of Ottawa are equipped with sanitary waste disposal units, only 4% are equipped with biohazard waste disposal units.
- 63% of public toilets in the City of Ottawa deemed to be “wheelchair accessible” pose at least one accessibility barrier to service users with mobility challenges.
- Only 21% of public toilets in the City of Ottawa are equipped with a gender neutral or family facility
- Although assessed during standard operating hours on weekends and weekdays, at time of survey, 45% of the City of Ottawa public toilets were unavailable for access, either due to seasonal or daily closures.
- Among public toilets located within 100 metres of a transit stop, 25% of these public toilets were closed to the public at the time of survey.
- 85% of public toilets lacked signage outside of the facility to indicate presence of a public toilet.
From the point of view of GottaGo! the study makes it very clear that the city needs more and better public toilets with clear directional signage, and it needs them NOW. Call or write your Councillor and let him/her know that the situation has to change.
Flushing Inequality – full report
Flushing inequality executive summary
The City has released the data on municipally-owned toilets in Ottawa.
There are 190 listed for the whole region. Many are open only for a few weeks in the summer or only during program hours; there are no adult changing stations and only a few baby-changing washrooms. The categorizing of “accessibility” is on a scale of 1-3, with no indication of what this means.
Most of the toilets are in community buildings.
Currently, there is a team of students from Carleton University’s Masters of Social Work program “ground-truthing” these City washrooms. Working with a sample of 100 of the City’s toilets (more than half as it turns out), they are investigating the toilets’ actual conditions, availability, locations and accessibility. Standby for the results sometime in April.
A real-time up-to-the minute map of the sites has been created by Kevin O’Donnell at http://ottpee.ca
The open data can be accessed here: http://data.ottawa.ca/dataset/publicwashrooms. Other apps and maps are more than welcome!
In December 2015, City Council – exhausted by extensive and contentious budget debates – delegated their authority to the Mayor, the City Manager and the Chair of the Transit Commission to make the decision on what kind of toilets would be installed at the Bayview and Hurdman LRT stations, including revisiting pay for use. All necessary decisions can now be made by this tiny group. Only if the recommendation is pay-for-use will it go back to City Council for a decision.
The actual motion states:
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT City Council delegate the authority to the Mayor, Chair of the Transit Commission, and the City Manager to evaluate the options for the installation of public washrooms at the Bayview and Hurdman Stations and approve an alternative to the proposal in the Stage 1 and Stage 2 of Light Rail Transit (LRT) – Provision of Public Washrooms report (ACS2015-CMR-OCM-0031) report that reduces the capital and operating costs to the greatest extent possible while maintaining the location within the fare paid zone, as described in this motion; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that City Council delegate the authority to the City Manager to undertake all necessary actions to implement the decisions made as part of this process, in consultation with the City Solicitor, including whether to implement a user pay option and the potential social impacts of such an option, and report back to Committee and Council on the exercise of this delegated authority on the understanding that, should the user pay option be recommended, the recommendation would be presented to City Council for final approval.
We understand that the city is currently collecting the data and constructing the municipally funded public toilet app.
GottaGo! is continuing to try to track these developments and to press for the extensive network of toilets that we want: including more access to existing business and public toilets, signage and changes to public policy.
Today’s Ottawa Citizen carries an excellent column by Adam Feibel, Public toilets are a public good and should be publicly funded