Category Archives: Uncategorized

Downtown Ottawa’s Hidden Public Toilets

GottaGo has identified 22 Public Toilets in Ottawa downtown but zero street level signs to help visitors and residents locate them.

There are 3 Public Toilets (i.e. unrestricted access when not closed)

  1. ByWard Market
  2. Major’s Hill park
  3. East side of Parliament Hill

And 12 Toilets in Public Buildings (access through a building built to provide a service to the public)

  1. Tourist Information Kiosk
  2. Ottawa Art Gallery
  3. Supreme Court
  4. Library and Archives Canada
  5. National Gallery
  6. Bank of Canada Museum
  7. The Mint
  8. National Arts Centre
  9. City Hall
  10. Arts Court
  11. Ottawa Public Library
  12. Bytown Museum

And 7 toilets in commercial and other buildings (as listed in the Canadian Heritage Tourist Map)

  1. Chateau Laurier
  2. World Exchange Plaza
  3. The Ismaili Imamat
  4. Lord Elgin Hotel
  5. Government Conference Centre
  6. Shaw Centre
  7. Rideau Centre

What planning logic decides that these are built and maintained but provide no help to people seeking one?

What does a way-finding sign affixed to a lamp post cost for the city to install? A few hundred dollars at most.

The 15 buildings in the first two categories should also have a Public Toilet sign on their exteriors.  The ‘guerrilla’ signs that GottaGo has occasionally erected cost us less than $10 each.

We have ten million visitors and one million residents – how do they find a toilet?

A modest investment on street and exterior signs would help make Ottawa a people-friendly city.

Public Toilets in Ottawa: A Status Report For World Toilet Day (19 November 2018)

Toilets On The Transit System

4 toilets for 13 LRT stations

Ottawa city council agreed to provide an additional two toilets in the hub stations of Hurdman and Bayview on Phase One of the Confederation line and to do the same for hub stations in the next phases.

Zero toilets at Park and Ride

No toilets at any of the 13 OC Transpo Park and Ride locations

Downtown Toilets

In Public Buildings

There are at least 17 downtown public toilets in public buildings (National Gallery, NAC, City Hall, Archives, Supreme Court, Library, etc.) displayed on the maps produced by Ottawa Tourism; some with security guards.  There are zerostreet level signs.  Ottawa Gatineau has 10 million visitors every year – how do they easily find a public toilet?

Coffee shops

Apparently led by Starbucks and followed by BridgeHead, Tim Hortons and others, coffee shops and similar are increasingly making their toilets somewhat more available.  That’s not to say that everybody is comfortable asking for a code or key (or will readily be given one).

There are zero public toilets on a sidewalk.  Meanwhile, Montreal is building 12 public toilets along pedestrian high traffic sidewalks.

At any one time, about half the approximately 200 toilets listed by the City are closed. (Flushing InequalityResearch by Carleton U students in 2016).

Parks And Sports Fields

 There are 108 splash pads and dozens of sports fields, not all of them have toilet access.  City council approved an additional ten porta-potties for summer 2018.  These each cost $5 a day, which includes cleaning twice a week.

People With Disabilities, Those With Health Issues And The Un-Housed

Washrooms in some older buildings make inadequate provision for wheelchairs or require users to enter by a back door.  Washrooms do not provide for transgendered people who risk harassment using their preferred toilet.  People living on the street must urinate and defecate in doorways and alleys when the public toilets are closed.

Women And Girls

Require the space of a stall and more time to adjust their clothing, manage feminine hygiene and empty their bladders.  Yet many buildings continue to provide the same area washrooms for both men and women.  The new toilets in NAC are an exception.


Malls and other public buildings use the same or similar characters for both elevators and washrooms.  It would be less confusing to use the ‘holding it in’ graphic below.  We loved the toilet sign at the new Ottawa Art Gallery, which uses an outline of a toilet seat and water closet, and is also in braille.


In July, GottaGo was invited by the Ottawa Citizento be an ‘armchair mayor’ for a day and make the case for a low cost change that would make Ottawa a better city.  We used that space to advocate for more street level signs showing directions to public toilets in downtown.

In November, GottaGo was featured at the Ottawa launch of ‘No Place to Go – How Public Toilets Fail Our Private Needs’by Lezlie Lowe; a wide-ranging discussion of public toilets in Canada, the USA and elsewhere, published by Coach House Books.

Apps And Web Pages

We welcome the fact that web pages and apps such as, Flush, GoHere, Quench and ToiletFinder are available for those with smart phones and who know these tools exist.  The last times we checked there were still lots of gaps for Ottawa.

Overall Assessment And Grade

Some progress made on the LRT and welcome progress by many coffee shops.   Small advances with porta-potties. Many outstanding needs for more signs, more sidewalk public toilets, and more porta-potties at sports fields and park-and-ride locations.

We give Ottawa a ‘C’– the city needs to try harder and commit more resources.  We are looking to the new City Council to take the need for public toilets more seriously.

GottaGo Campaign, Ottawa, November 2018


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

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.



GottaGo! guerrilla signage

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.

gottago points the way


More portable toilets and signs pointing the way: surely the City can do this?

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!

Flushing Inequality (May 2016)

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.


  • 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