DC considering public restroom task force

Does D.C. need a toilet task force? It may sound silly, but when you have to go and have trouble finding a public restrooms in the city, you may be in trouble.

Now, the D.C. Council is considering the formation of a group tasked with identifying the locations most in need for public restrooms.

Whether you are a tourist exploring the nation's capital, a parent with a young child or even a taxi, Uber or Lyft driver, a restroom can be tough to come by when you need it the most. But the People for Fairness Coalition wants to make it easy enough for people to find a safe and clean public restroom that will not require a person to walk more than 10 minutes in commercial parts of the city to find one.

"If you travel to many European capitals and Asian capitals, not only will you find that there are clean, safe standalone restrooms that are open 24/7, but you will be able to have an app or go to the city or borough's website and be able to know exactly where they are," said Marcia Bernbaum of the People for Fairness Coalition. "The issue here in D.C., where there are only a few restrooms available, is people don't even know they exist."

With many museums, the National Mall is actually one of the best places in D.C. to find public restrooms during the day. But off the National Mall, there are only five public restrooms in the District - with the Lincoln Memorial and the Thomas Jefferson Memorial being the only two that are open 24 hours.

The People for Fairness Coalition has been working with the D.C. Council on legislation that would provide incentives for any business that opens its restrooms to the public and advertises it with a special decal on storefront windows.

The bill also calls for a working group of 14 people to select locations for two standalone public restrooms, perhaps modeled after the Portland Loos, which have had success in Oregon.

Possible locations for these include Gallery Place, Columbia Heights, Georgetown,
K Street NW and Dupont Circle.

The People for Fairness Coalition has a petition on its website titled "Let's not hold it any longer!"

Many people we spoke with on the streets in D.C. were all for it.

"I never really thought about it, but it makes sense to me," said one resident. "I think a lot of other cities do it. It's good for tourists, good for individuals experiencing homelessness."

So far, the legislation has already made it through the Transportation Committee and it passed the Health Committee on Wednesday. It is expected to go before the full council for a vote early next month.