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Out of order for two decades, Powell Street BART bathrooms reopen to the public

The first flush in more than 20 years at BART’s Powell station took place Wednesday morning when BART board Director Bevan Dufty pushed the toilet flusher inside the transit agency’s reopened public restrooms.

BART’s restrooms have remained closed at Powell station for security reasons after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. On Wednesday, BART officials held a toilet paper ribbon cutting ceremony on the reopening of the restrooms.

Bob Powers, the general manager for BART, said reopening the restrooms at Powell has been a long time coming and has heard from riders asking about when the agency planned to reopen the restrooms:

The system is for the riders. It’s for the Bay Area. They wanted these restrooms reopened.”

Janice Li, vice president of the BART board, said it was far too long for the agency on keeping the bathrooms closed, adding that she was just entering high school when the restrooms were shuttered:

It’s about time BART changed to meet our riders where they are and address the real world concerns. When you gotta go, you gotta go.”

There are two all-gender restrooms with each having a stall while the sink and soap to wash hands are located outside of the restrooms. BART officials said the design is similar to that seen at the San Francisco International Airport where there is not a front entrance door but instead a wide open entrance. Additionally, there is a water drinking fountain and bottle filling station.

Staff from District Works will serve as attendants for at least two months to report any issues to BART staff, but are not serving as janitors or security, Dufty said. A list of bathroom guidelines are posted near the entrance.

BART is planning for a phased approach in reopening other station restrooms. The second station to reopen its restrooms will be the 19th Street station in Oakland on Feb. 25.

Other restroom stations, including Lake Merritt and Montgomery Street stations, could be opened by summer of this year. In the following year, Downtown Berkeley and Embarcadero stations could see their restrooms reopened.

Officials said it estimates BART will need $14 million through 2026 in order to reopen all of the closed restrooms, funds the agency said it does not currently have. Funding to for the restrooms at Powell came from various sources.

BART board President Rebecca Saltzman, who has been pushing the agency to open the restrooms, said the opening of restrooms at Powell was symbolic of a “new era” at BART:

​​Restrooms are essential to everyone and opening them is one of the many steps we’re taking to improve the BART rider experience.”

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