This week, Metro received notice from Washington State Department of Labor & Industries, citing us for not providing transit operators with unrestricted access to bathroom facilities when operators need to relieve themselves. L&I has directed Metro to correct this issue and Metro will.

We take this basic need seriously. All operators have the right to stop their bus when they need to use a restroom.IMG_3103

We remain committed to making sure our employees have access to restrooms. We currently have a network of about 280 comfort stations along about 200 bus routes across the county that operators have access to when they need. They are comprehensively listed and mapped in operator’s route books. IMG_3113

Of those about 50 restrooms are Metro owned and maintained. Others are located at public facilities, but most are inside private businesses.

We are creating an action plan to identify gaps within this network and work to fill those gaps by identifying locations and creating agreements for use of restroom facilities. A Metro staff person will ensure the ongoing availability of restrooms along all of our routes and will work directly with operators to make sure their needs are met.

We also will perform a comprehensive update of the status of all existing facilities along our routes so we have a clear understanding of what’s available, including hours of operation.

We will make sure our operators have written updated information on the status of restroom availability throughout our service area.

Longer term, we’ll also look at the feasibility of adding more Metro-owned restrooms (in addition to the roughly 50 we already own and operate), if other alternative facilities are not adequate.

Operators are working under schedules that were tightened as a result of a 2009 performance audit, which limited break times to reduce Metro’s costs. Operators have said they often must make a tough choice between taking a bathroom break or sticking to their schedule.

We have been working with Amalgamated Transit Union 587 since that audit, and an internal scheduling committee has worked to balance the need for break times and bus scheduling. We’ve spent $4 million to address scheduling and break time issues – and we have improved pending labor contract language to deal with these concerns.

We anticipate that Prop. 1 bus service slated to be added in Seattle will improve schedule reliability, in line with our Service Guidelines, which further helps operators get the break time they need.

Again, Metro is committed to making sure our operators have access to adequate restroom facilities. If there are insufficient restrooms, Metro will find an accommodation, including expending additional resources if necessary.

–Kevin Desmond, Metro Transit General Manager