Access to more public washrooms in parks and transit stations should be included in the city’s updated seniors strategy, officials said Wednesday during a day-long planning session at Ottawa City Hall.
For months, the citizen-led GottaGo! campaign has been calling for the creation of a network of clean, safe and accessible public toilets. The group wants existing toilets fixed up with better signage and longer hours, and also wants to see toilets and water fountains installed in new light-rail transit stations along the Confederation Line.
But the GottaGo! campaigners don’t appear to be the only ones.
Seniors themselves say barriers such as inaccessible washrooms in city buildings and a lack of “age-friendly features” in parks can discourage some from leaving their homes.
Bay ward Coun. Mark Taylor says the issue is on the city’s radar.
“It’s clearly a need that emerged. Probably something we all knew existed for a long time,” he said, adding the challenge now is to figure out the path forward.
Adding washrooms to city-owned spaces are “easy wins,” Taylor said, but transit stations are more complicated because they would need to be built into the financial model. Cleanliness and security are also concerns.
“I think there are plenty of opportunities. We’re just going to have to plan out how and where we execute them,” he said.
Reopening the LRT contract with the Rideau Transit Group to add washrooms at Bayview and Hurdman — which are the farthest from any public-access toilets — could cost as much as $3 million, the city said, noting the figure was a rough estimate only.
There are washrooms planned for Tunney’s and Blair stations — located at either end of the line.
Kanata North Coun. Marianne Wilkinson said washrooms and benches are vital if seniors are to use parks regularly, as many would like to.
“We’ve put a johnny-on-the-spot on some of our playing fields so that the children who are playing soccer can go to the washroom. We should be looking at that for the seniors as well,” she said.
Wilkinson said she’d like the city to launch a pilot study in a few parks to see how it goes.
Wednesday’s meeting — which included a morning session inside council chambers and breakout discussions in the afternoon — was designed to look at the successes of the city’s Older Adult Plan, which was approved in 2012 and now needs to be refreshed for this term of council.
There were more than 115,000 seniors (65 and over) living in Ottawa, according to the 2011 census. That’s about 13 per cent of the population, but that number is expected to rise steadily in the coming years. By 2031, more than one in five Ottawa residents will be over the age of 65, the city says.
Some of the key achievements so far include:
- Retrofitting 18 city facilities with additional automatic door openers and washroom grab bars
- Installing additional pedestrian signal technology at 12 intersections
- Buying and/or installing 34 new benches in areas of the city with high concentrations of seniors
The city released details of the plan late Wednesday: