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T Riders: If You 'have to go' You're in Luck!

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T commuters, if you have to go, you may be in luck


By Noah Bierman, Globe Staff | September 20, 2007



Toilets at MBTA stations, long available only to those who knew enough to ask to use them, are having an unveiling this week.



No ribbon-cutting ceremony is planned, but in a pilot project in Cambridge, signs are being posted to alert riders that bathrooms are available, and employee bathrooms in some Cambridge stations have been spruced up for public use.

Would-be users need to ask MBTA customer service agents to let them in, a step officials say is necessary for safety. Bathrooms at most other T stops have long been known only to the desperate and the adventurous. It turns out that MBTA employees are authorized to let riders use the spare, often-fetid employee commodes "on a case-by-case basis," said Daniel A. Grabauskas, general manager of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.

But even those who know about them are tentative. "I avoid them at all costs," said rider Daniel Stone, 25. "I don't like things that aren't clean, and I assume they aren't clean."

This summer, the MBTA spent $30,000 refurbishing the employee bathrooms at Central Square, Harvard Square, and Porter Square after Cambridge City Manager Robert Healy insisted that commuters in his city should not have to hold it. A few larger stations - Alewife, Back Bay, North Station, and South Station - already have public restrooms.

Grabauskas says the dearth of options at other stations has led some riders to improvise on the stairs and in the elevators. He is hoping the pilot project in Cambridge demonstrates that riders will help keep the facilities clean, so he can open more of them.

The Cambridge toilets were installed when the stations were built and before this summer had not been updated in decades.

Conditions in employee toilets not included in the pilot project vary, said MBTA employees.

An older bathroom at the JFK/UMass station was not unpleasant during a visit yesterday. The black seat was mostly dry. The floor was muddy, but not sticky. Used paper towels were left in a bucket that served as a rubbish bin. The faintest odor of cleaning fluid tinged the air.

Ken Sicairos, a 22-year-old University of Massachusetts student, stood just 20 feet away, but he said he had not known there was a bathroom within range. In 10 years riding the T, he has used a station restroom only once, in an emergency, at North Station.

"You don't find a lot of them," he said. "They keep people in the dark about that."

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