If you want it, the potty will come.
A new public toilet could be installed near Ashmont station as part of a citywide “street furniture” project— if neighbors ask for it. About 20 area residents weighed the pros and cons of a public bathroom at last Thursday evening’s meeting of the Ashmont-Adams Neighborhood Association.
Peter O’Sullivan, a Dorchester resident who is the project director for the city’s Street Furniture program, explained the concept.
The toilet – one of seven presently in service in the city—is about 19 feet long, 8 feet wide, and 8 feet tall. It has a payphone on one side with a maintenance number on speed dial. A quarter buys fifteen minutes of bathroom time.
When the user leaves, the walls open and the floor drops out for a 50 second cleaning cycle. The sleek design fits into the streetscape, dark green with black and silver details, and billboards on the sides.The toilet in question would come to Dorchester from Copley Square, where one has been in service since 2002. O’Sullivan explained that the public toilet needs to move as renovations to the city’s main library proceed.
“The community benefit for this is huge, especially at the T station where there’s people coming and going, maybe 20,000 plus a day,” said O’Sullivan. Though there is a public bathroom inside Ashmont station, it is small and generally reserved for MBTA employees.
There are seven other public toilets like in Boston now: 1 City Hall Plaza; 35 Commercial Street; 197 Eighth Street; 206 Atlantic Ave; 12 Drydock Ave; 2 Long Wharf; Dudley Square.
The newest of those, in Dudley Square, had problems with vandalism and graffiti until the cab drivers, who use it often, took ownership. They keep it working by promptly reporting issues to the police and to the company that maintains the toilets, J.C. Decaux.
“Anything out in the public realm is going to be used, abused, misused, overused. It just happens,” O’Sullivan said. “It’s being used way more by people who need it than by people who abuse it.”
There are ten toilets on a city contract that end in 2026. Two new toilets are slated to be installed along the Rose Kennedy Greenway. The toilet currently situated next to the Aquarium (2 Long Wharf) is one of the most used public toilet owned by J.C. Decaux, which manages facilities in cities all over the world.
Finding good spots for these public toilets in Boston, where they will be best shared, has been difficult.
“This is something that’s supposed to be an amenity, so if we’re going to have it, let’s find the perfect place for it,” O’Sullivan said. “If we put it out there, and it’s out there for a couple of years, and there are issues, we would take it out and put it someplace where where people are going to use it properly.”
The proposed placement discussed at the meeting was on the Ashmont street side of the station’s northern plaza — and it bothered several people. One resident from Ashmont Street suggested placing the toilet further down along Dot Ave, toward the trolley line, where the buses enter the station. He pointed out that over the summer the plaza area in front of the station is used for farmer’s markets and public artwork.
“It’s not even just because of the (Sleeping Moon) sculpture, but the openness of the whole thing,” he said.
“The placement is by no means set,” O’Sullivan replied. “Even inside the station might be perfect.”
Before it’s placed, engineers will have to assess the depth of the foundation as well to make sure it will fit above the tunnel.
Much of the available land around Ashmont Station is owned by the state, requiring an extra application process and coordination with the MBTA. O’Sullivan said his counterpart at the MBTA thinks that Ashmont is a perfect spot for the toilet.
If the community asks, the toilet is very likely to be installed. Email Peter.O’Sullivan@boston.gov with comments and suggestions.