Transit’s missing link: The public toilet

Kitsap Transit’s sparkling new North Viking Transit Center fails to serve their regular customer who is on a short “bladder leash”.  Unless they are able to “hold it” for nearly two hours, riders transiting between the Bainbridge Island ferry terminal and Port Townsend are out of luck.  This is a classic illustration of how the public toilet is so often the missing link in the success of a transit system.

UPDATE Thanks to rider pushback, Kitsap Transit placed a portapotty at the new North Viking Transit Center on March 9, 2017.  While making it possible for many more passengers to use the service, this does not excuse the lack of provision of a proper public restroom in the first place.

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Kitsap Transit bus 90 meets Jefferson Transit Line 7 at the new North Viking Transit Center.

Why has this suddenly become an issue?  In late 2016, Kitsap Transit opened a large Park and Ride facility in the middle of nowhere.  This replaced a more modest bus platform where the passengers transferred between Kitsap Bus 90 and Jefferson Transit’s #7. It was served by a simple portapotty used by both drivers and passengers alike.  Moreover, it was near restaurants and shops where riders could shelter in the event of a major transit disruption.

No expense has been spared on the new North Viking Transit Center. Except on the restroom that is.  A sweeping pavilion accommodates four full size buses at once. It’s surrounded by a huge parking lot equipped with numerous spaces with outlets for electrical vehicles. An ample number of spaces serve disabled drivers, including those who need additional room to exit their vehicles. (See photos at end of post.)

The pavilion is festooned with attractive welcome banners in four languages and large easy-to-read digital clocks.  Current transit schedules are posted.  Architects clearly paid attention to CPTED (Crime Prevention through Environmental Design); there are clean sightlines and windowed walls. While there are no corners where an unsuspecting customer can be trapped,  there is likewise no shelter from winter winds.

Fruit trees have been planted around the property to symbolize the “commitment to being part of the solid roots that Kitsap Transit has within the community that we serve now and for years to come.” Expensive, solar powered Big Belly trash compactors manage the solid waste that riders generate but there is no provision for human waste or for human dignity.

According to Kitsap Transit Customer Service specialist Trudy Stacy, “The decision not to have public restrooms available at our new North Viking Transit Center and Park & Ride was one made by our Board of Directors.  It costs so much in staff and labor to properly maintain and keep them safe and secure, that they opted not to do that at this facility.”  She added however, that the decision was being reconsidered.

Now is the time to let Kitsap Transit know the discomfort and humiliation that their lack of a restroom causes regular commuters, to say nothing of the visitors-without-cars that Port Townsend would like to attract.

It’s also important to get the support of Jefferson Transit’s board as it’s their early morning commuters to Seattle that suffer the most.  Jefferson Transit is now a better ally because they have finally put a porty potty at Haines Park and Ride.  The preferred option would be a separate entrance in their customer service building, but the porta potty is a start.

Here’s what we can do:

  1. Speak out to Kitsap Transit.  Go on line here and express your dismay at the lack of a restroom or simply send Ms Stacy an email or ring her at 360-475-0824. Emphasize the the discomfort and anger riders feel as they wait in the cold and watch drivers walk away for breaks in the warmth and comfort of the restoom-equipped Kitsap Transit headquarters
  2. Write to the Kitsap Transit Board of Commissioners and attend a twice-monthly Tuesday meeting.  The Clerk of the Board is Jill Boltz, available at 360-478-6230 or via email.
  3. Write members of the Kitsap Transit Citizens Advisory Committee and attend one of their monthly meetings.  Read manual Transit 101 for the CAC.
  4. Get the support of the Jefferson Transit Authority Board. Monthly meetings are on third Tuesdays at 1:30pm.
  5. To support local transportation goals and the Jefferson County climate action plan, get the City of Port Townsend, the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, Fort Worden PDA, the Historical Society, the Marine Science Center, and all of the festivals organizers to tell prospective visitors the options for getting to PT by public means.
  6. Bring attention to the car-centric directions on websites of these local players, make the case for change and provide the necessary information so they can make information available.
  7. Ask Enjoy PT to target the growing audiences in Seattle, Victoria, Portland and Vancouver that do not own cars or prefer not to drive them. Invite them to use transit and other means and tell them how.
  8. Think in terms of increasing demand first and letting supply follow.
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Riders must wait in outside in the cold while the driver of Jefferson Transit Bus 7 takes a break in the warmth of the nearby restroom-equipped Kitsap Transit headquarters.

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Drivers’ bathroom is in Kitsap Transit’s headquarters building,  which is off limits to riders.

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Mean

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Solar powered Big Belly solid waste compactors mix trash and recyclables.

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Attractive banners welcome riders in several languages.

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Drivers of electric vehicles are accommodated at the bus bay platform.

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Multiple spots serve handicapped drivers. Note extra space for vans with lifts and ramps.

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Kitsap Transit may be committed to sustainability and fruit trees                               but what about the comfort and health of their customers?

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