Sudbury woman calls on city to reopen bus terminal toilets
The pandemic has closed the terminal's indoor waiting area and washrooms
Nicole Gallant takes the bus in Sudbury nearly every day, commuting to and from the hospital where she volunteers, going to doctors appointments, and getting groceries.
But throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, her transit experience has been stressful.
Gallant has a kidney condition, which means she needs frequent bathroom breaks. She's had a number of recent occasions where she's had to hold it.
"There is nowhere to go, everything's closed," Gallant told CBC News.
At the downtown terminal where she transfers between buses, the washrooms have been closed to the public for months — a decision by the city that Gallant would like to see changed.
'A lot of anxiety'
In a statement to CBC News, a spokesperson for the City of Greater Sudbury said the washrooms and public area at the bus terminal are closed to the public "until further notice" due to COVID-19, in order "to allow for additional space to accommodate physical distancing measures for transit operators."
Gallant says she understands the need for employees to have space to physically distance, but she wants the city, and others, to understand that "not everybody can hold it" — and she would like to see some kind of compassionate solution.
When she's at home, Gallant says she often goes to the washroom every 40 minutes or so. While she always uses a washroom before heading out, she says completing a journey — including a bus transfer — without a bathroom break can sometimes be challenging, particularly if there are delays.
"Having to wait that half hour or an hour for the bus makes a big difference," Gallant says.
And Gallant isn't alone. Sherry Pang, with Crohn's and Colitis Canada, says the pandemic has made life even more challenging for people living with inflammatory bowel diseases, who often need urgent access to toilets.
Pang says there are about 270,000 Canadians living with Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis, and as someone living with Crohn's disease, she knows first hand the importance of access to public washrooms.
"The urgency it's just, it's overwhelming, and it does cause a lot of anxiety for people living with these diseases," Pang said.
With some businesses still closed — or open but with limited access — and some municipal facilities also not fully reopen, Pang says the lack of washroom access is "another really huge barrier to trying to get by in these really trying times right now."
City exploring options
Gallant shared her concerns with Coun. Robert Kirwan, who says he has contacted the city's chief administrative officer and transit director to ask about reopening the washroom facilities at the bus terminal.
"I'm on the senior advisory panel, I know how important it is to have access very quickly to washroom facilities, whether you're a senior or whether you're a young child," Kirwan said.
"That's a high traffic area, we have to get that back open to the public as quickly as possible."
In its statement to CBC, the city said it is "currently in the process of exploring alternative space options," for physical distancing for transit operators.
The city also said many transit riders have been using washrooms at nearby businesses.