What’s the Deal with Metro Restrooms?


I saw the above sign at the Rosslyn metro and I know it’s been mentioned in the past – but are there now public restrooms in all metro stations? Has anyone used one? Do you have to get a key? Where are they generally located (or can you just ask the station manager?)

Here’s an interesting press release from WMATA back in 2004:

“Several new restroom initiatives at Metrorail stations that were implemented at the beginning of the year, combined with the new automatic public toilet pilot at the Huntington Metrorail station, have proven to be successful, Metro managers told the Board of Directors today. The automatic public toilet that was installed at the Huntington Metrorail station in early October 2003, is used approximately 85 times a day since being installed six months ago. Also, since opening up its rail station restrooms to the public on January 4, there have been 1,600 requests granted to use them (through March 18). The single-stall, self-cleaning public toilet at the southern end of the Yellow Line was installed last fall inside the Huntington Metrorail station’s north mezzanine as a one-year test to determine customer acceptance and feasibility, as well as safety and cleanliness.

The unit, which costs Metro $39,600 per year to lease (three-year lease), costs an additional $55,000 for site renovation, installation, and water, sewer, and electric power hook-ups. There is an additional $14,400 per year for routine service/ maintenance, bringing the 12-month project cost to approximately $109,000. The vandal-resistant portable unit offers customers the use of a toilet, soap, toilet tissue, water dispensing and hand drying. There is an automatic interior chemical spray cleaning cycle after each use. Metro Board members have to decide whether to continue or expand the pilot in the future.

They also are considering whether to move the unit to Vienna/Fairfax-GMU Metrorail station at a cost of $75,000 (removal, restoration and installation costs) since that station’s existing restroom is not available to the public due to its location near safety-sensitive equipment. In November 2003, Metro managers took several steps to alert the public that starting January 4, 2004, the Metrorail station restrooms would be available for public use for the first time in the 28-year history of the transit system. Signs were posted in stations indicating restroom availability (except at a few locations deemed security-sensitive” Pentagon, Vienna/Fairfax-GMU, Arlington Cemetery and Addison Road-Seat Pleasant); officials specified conditions when customers could be denied requests to use the restrooms; and maintenance personnel repaired back room locks and cabinetry during the conversion of restrooms from employee-only areas to areas accessible to the public.

However, on March 18, Metro officials informed the Board that station restroom procedures were changed to allow the Metro Transit Police Chief to close the restrooms for public use during heightened security levels for a period of 30 days. Police Chief Polly Hanson temporarily closed Metro restrooms to the public on March 19, for security reasons. They were reopened on April 19.

News release issued on May 27, 2004.”

15 Comment

  • I used one at Metro Center in 2011. It was pure gold-plated ecstasy.

    Well, not quite, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many active rolls of toilet paper in one place. I think I counted 15.

  • I’ve used Metro restrooms on several (emergency) occasions. You have to ask the station manager to unlock it for you. They are generally disgusting and not recommended except in above mentioned emergency circumstances. Each station is supposed to have one.

  • Yup, they exist in most stations. Ask the station manager and they will lead you through the wormhole to a magical place previously though impossible to the public transportation hardened.

    The station manager must unlock it with their key, and you will want to talk to them anyway, because they will let you out and back in again without paying if you have already passed the turnstile.

    I rode for many years without building up the courage/in a dire enough spot to ask about the signs. Now that I have experienced them, I just know it’s another useful tool in DC living/commuting.

  • It would be way cheaper to just get port-o-potties instead of this self cleaning nonsense. I live @ Huntington, and the thing is always a mess.

    As for the rest of the system, I’ve used a lot of the bathrooms. Only one I know of that you cannot use is the one @ Pentagon. Sometimes they’re closed, but the customer bathrooms have been there for years. All you have to do is ask.

  • Metro stations were designed with some of the pitfalls that other transit systems faced in mind, specifically crime. For example, Metro uses curved corners rather than straight corners because it is easier for those walking to see who is in front of them (you don’t get surprised by a criminal quite as easily when you can see along a curved surface). Public bathrooms were another feature that Metro went against, ostensibly for crime deterrent purposes. If the restrooms are not made public then you don’t have to worry about persons willing to commit crimes hanging out inside, waiting for a Metro rider to go into the restroom area.

  • justinbc

    I didn’t even know they existed. I can’t imagine ever using one, I always try to empty the tank before I depart wherever it is I’m at prior to heading to Metro.

  • jim_ed

    I’ve actually found most metro restrooms to be surprisingly clean, which I always assumed was due to lack of public knowledge about them. I’ve intentionally waited to use Metro’s restroom late at night rather than the disgusting bar bathroom covered in a multitude of bodily fluids on a weekend night.

  • I’ve used many of them. I have Krohns and when I need a restroom, I need it. You just ask the manage, sometimes they give me a key sometimes they let me in themselves. I’ve used them all over the system, not that I’m proud. They aren’t special, but I’ve never been in a terrifyingly dirty one.

  • skj84

    I’ve had to use Metros restrooms on a few emergency situations. The ones I used were pretty clean, if not a bit creepy. You do have ask the station manager if they are available. Most times they will say yes. The last time I had to use one because I had a bad reaction to a medication and was incredibly nauseous. To the point that I thought I wasn’t going to make it off the train. I got off at Cleveland Park and the Station Manager was very helpful. I didn’t get to say thank you when I left, but I was very grateful for his assistance.

  • I have asked to use the restroom twice during my decade in DC. Both times the manager told me no. One of the managers had been napping, though, so I completely understand his reluctance. Regardless, that is wwwwaaaaaaayyyy too much money to spend on toilets.

  • I was walking with a friend into the Farragut West station and she stopped and said, “I can’t wait, have to do this now!” and was led by the station manager to a restroom. They’re there for emergencies.

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