Dresser: Put Pay Toilets in Penn Station

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Gerald Neily

Sep 20, 2010, 3:13:54 PM9/20/10
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Today's Michael Dresser Sun column upon his return from a European vacation proposes that Penn Station charge for using the toilets as a way of financing improved maintenance by attendants, rather than taking it out of Amtrak's highly subsidized budget.

He calls the Penn Station restrooms "squalid".

He does mention the downside that it would "pose a hardship to the indigent".

His motto could be: Subsidize trains, not latrines.

I think he's full of the substances involved.

michele rosenberg

Sep 20, 2010, 3:25:31 PM9/20/10
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I remember when they charged for toilets at Hutzlers Department Store.  There was one free toilet.  I don't think there was any difference in how clean they were.

James Hunt

Sep 20, 2010, 3:42:30 PM9/20/10
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Must be "What's Up with the Toilets? Day" at The Sun. There's also a piece by Larry Carson on the absence of 'loos at the Columbia MVA Express. Gotta go to/at the deli next door.


There's no glory in providing a free, clean restroom, but there are places that manage to do it.

Attendants aren't a bad idea. They discourage other and sundry activities in addition to keeping the joint clean. But this should be done as a matter of course, not something that costs extra.

Fritz Ohrenschall

Sep 20, 2010, 8:00:11 PM9/20/10
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(Male perspective)  I would place substantial blame for the state of the men's room on having few, poorly configured and place urinals causing people to use the toilets recklessly and inefficiently.  If you got rid of the last stall, put the sinks where the urinals, and made the wall where the sinks are a row of 5 partitioned urinals I think that would cut down on some of the filth.  Although, if the women's room is just as bad maybe I'm wrong.

I'd pay if it actually made it clean but I don't think that's a particularly good solution.  But, I do agree with the sentiment that this shouldn't be Amtrak's primary problem.

Mary Roby

Sep 20, 2010, 9:18:40 PM9/20/10
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I agree--the women's restrooms at Penn Station ARE squalid. Almost
every train station I have been in have better restrooms than those.

Gerald Neily

Sep 21, 2010, 9:09:49 AM9/21/10
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Yes, Fritz, restrooms are not Amtrak's primary problem, but they're symptomatic of their problems.

MDOT keeps the airport restrooms clean. Yes, they don't have the inner city bums to worry about, but that's just another excuse.

Penn Station is an ambassador to our city and state and needs to present its best face for our visitors. Yes, presenting the best face for visitors is not Amtrak's primary problem either.

Pay toilets would not be a good image to give visitors - Baltimore: The City that nickels and dimes you to death (in addition to its murder rate).

Nor should we treat our indigents with that indignity either. Access to public toilets are a real amenity for them, since non-paying customers using restuarant and retail restrooms leads to further harassment.

All of which argues that MDOT would have much more reason to keep rest rooms clean than Amtrak does.

MDOT/MARC should take over all of the operation and maintenance of Penn Station from Amtrak. This should be another item to negotiate the next time they renew their operating agreement.

This is also symptomatic of other problems with Amtrak in the northeast corridor. Amtrak simply does not have the incentive or wherewithal (financial or otherwise) to raise northeast corridor rail service to the level it requires.

This is another argument for Amtrak being replaced by a regional authority comprised of MARC, SEPTA, NJT, MBTA, VRE, NYMTA, etc. in the northeast corridor.

Bradford McCormick

Sep 21, 2010, 1:43:02 PM9/21/10
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The restrooms in NY Penn Station are disgusting, too, which is
slightly more understandable because of the amount of traffic, but
still unacceptable. The Philly restrooms are crummy, but not quite as
bad. I know I have been in the Union Station restrooms too but don't
remember them.

Gerry is right that Amtrak just doesn't have the incentive to do any
better. I don't know exactly how his regional rail authority
suggestion would work out, but certainly there needs to be an
intelligent reassessment* of Amtrak and the Northeast Corridor in
particular. Amtrak is trying desperately to squeeze every last penny
out of the Northeast Corridor to cover its losses elsewhere.

*By "intelligent reassessment" I mean one that doesn't start with the
hypothesis "rail should be fully privatized and get no federal
subsidies whatsoever."

James Hunt

Sep 21, 2010, 1:57:31 PM9/21/10
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How cool would it be if there were were a rebellion against filthy toilets that spurred a reassessment leading to a realignment?

If there are other fora similar to Baltomorrow in the Boston-Washington rail corridor, we should contact them and foment the "BosWashroom Revolution."


Gerald Neily

Sep 21, 2010, 3:48:22 PM9/21/10
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Funny, Jamie.

We could compare the major rail stations owned by Amtrak (Penn Stations, 30th Street) with those owned and/or run by others (Grand Central, Market Street Philly), but no matter what the result, my premise is the same.

All politics is local. So all governing should be as close to local as possible, and Amtrak could be a lot more local than it is.


Sep 22, 2010, 6:36:23 AM9/22/10
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I have been in a number of train stations in Europe where the bathroom
facilities were "sponsored" by advertising companies. I remember in
particular some bathrooms that were a "T-Mobile" theme, complete
company colors and logos on everything - and these bathroom was
immaculate of course. Perhapse we can get cell phone / wireless /
etc. companies to sponsor rail transit bathroom facilities in the USA
as well. - Lee

On Sep 20, 3:13 pm, Gerald Neily <geraldne...@gmail.com> wrote:
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