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Better to just hold it at TTC pit stops

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JACK LAKEY/TORONTO STAR
The toilet paper dispensers in two of the three stalls in the men’s washroom at the Finch TTC station have been torn from the wall — and not recently by the look of them.

Mar 10, 2008 04:30 AM
Jack Lakey
Staff Reporter

When you’re on the subway and you gotta go, you may not want to go in a TTC washroom.

Of all the public washrooms in the city, it is unlikely any are used more often - and show more wear and tear - than the privies scattered throughout the TTC’s 69 stations.

With 1.5 million riders on weekdays, the number of pit stops in them is astounding to contemplate. It adds up to a whole lot of flushing, at least by those who bother.

We’ve had dozens of complaints about TTC washrooms dating back to 2004, ranging from broken fixtures, mounds of litter, pee puddles on grime-crusted floors and stomach-turning odours, particularly at Yonge-Bloor, which defies all efforts to purge it of smells, even daily hosing with a power washer.

Before taking the TTC to task, a finger needs to be pointed at the culprits responsible for most of the problems - the riders. It’s clear that people do business differently in a public washroom than they would at home. How else to explain the unspeakable messes we’ve all occasionally stumbled across?

“Some of them are disgusting, they really are,” concedes Gary Shortt, the TTC’s superintendent of plant maintenance. “Part of the problem is the customers, but it’s our responsibility to keep them clean no matter what people do.

“If you walk in and the tap doesn’t work, maybe they beat the hell out of everything else in there.”

In visiting washrooms for our series on TTC stations, we observed a large variation in cleanliness. Several we went to yesterday were mostly free of litter, not particularly plagued by powerful pungency, and were blessed with taps and toilets that worked. During the afternoon rush on weekdays, it’s often a more gruesome story.

But riders needing to sit in a stall in the men’s room at Finch station had better hope to win the toilet paper lottery. Of the three stalls, the toilet paper dispenser in one was fully loaded, while the other two had been torn from the wall - and not recently, by the look of them.

Anyone who hurried into the other two and took a load off their feet before checking on the supply would be out of luck.

STATUS: While short-term problems will continue to plague the washrooms, the long-term plan shows relief is in store. Over the past year, tap and toilet fixtures have been converted to an automated design, “so there’s nothing to push,” said Shortt.

“People didn’t like to touch the flush handle so they used their foot and broke off the handles,” he said, adding that repair calls to washrooms have since decreased by 60 per cent.

A six-year capital plan is in place to refurbish the washrooms, with $800,000 to be spent in 2009, and $1.2 million annually through 2013, which will eventually make them more welcoming.




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