Our pilot program to test restrooms for riders and staff begins this month at four Metro stations

A Throne restroom as seen at one of the firm’s locations in the eastern U.S. Credit: Throne.

One of the challenging issues that we’ve grappled with over the years is the frequent request by riders for Metro to add public restrooms at stations. Quite understandably, riders want to be comfortable — especially on long trips across our huge service area.  

The interior of a Throne unit.

Beginning this month, we’re launching a six-month pilot program that will add toilets at three busy stations for riders — Westlake/MacArthur Park on the B/D Lines, Willowbrook/Rosa Parks on the A/C Lines and Norwalk on the C Line. We’re also adding a non-public Throne at the Sylmar/San Fernando Metrolink Station for bus operators taking breaks. 

These will join the public restrooms that we already have at Union Station, El Monte Station and Harbor Gateway — three very busy hubs for sure but a fraction of the hundreds of rail and bus stops that Metro uses across L.A. County. 

The pilot program is in partnership with a start-up company called Throne, which is trying to solve a problem that is prevalent in many parts of the world: a severe lack of public restrooms.  

Each Throne unit is portable, ADA accessible, touchless and includes a flush toilet, a sink with running water and robust ventilation system. The units run on solar power and require no connections to water, sewer or electricity; each unit has a freshwater and wastewater tank that is more than four times larger than what’s found in a regular portable toilet, according to Throne.   

Here’s how it will work:  

  • The toilets will be free and can be unlocked via QR code or by sending a quick SMS text message with a cell phone — a smartphone or flip phone will work (our most recent customer survey shows that 92 percent of riders have a basic cell phone or smartphone). Tying use to a phone number allows Throne to add accountability to public restrooms by warning or restricting access to users that break rules or damage the restrooms.
  • Toilets will generally be open 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week. Exact hours may vary by location. All visual and audio instructions are provided in English and Spanish.
  • Users can rate their Throne experience with their phones.

    Each Throne unit is equipped with 21 internet-connected sensors that allow Throne to know if everything is working — and when units need cleaning. In addition, users will be asked to rate their restroom experience and let Throne know when there are issues that require attention.

  • Throne use is limited to 10 minutes, which is consistent with other automated restrooms such as the ones at El Monte and Harbor Gateway. Visitors are made aware of the time limit when entering the restroom and the door automatically opens after 10 minutes with ample warning to the user. The door will stay open until the user exits.
  • Metro Ambassadors will have the ability to open toilets if not in use and will be monitoring the toilets to help riders access them if needed.

Public restrooms have long been a contentious issue, especially on public transit. Riders often say they want them, while transit agencies often cite the expensive burden of keeping restrooms clean, safe and free of inappropriate or illegal activity. This New York Times article from earlier this year looks at the dearth of public restrooms in the United States and beyond — and some of the new approaches that cities and public agencies are taking.   

The pilot is made possible by Metro’s unsolicited proposal process overseen by our Office of Strategic Innovation. Unsolicited proposals have proven to be a good way to quickly get good ideas in the door and out on the system.   

We expect to learn much from the pilot, specifically how the public toilets perform, the demand for them and public acceptance. The findings will help guide us when it comes to public restrooms in the future. Restrooms has been a much discussed issue in the past on The Source; comment away please! 

18 replies

  1. 10 minutes to use the bathroom automatically makes this NOT for people with disabilities.

    If there is someone with irritable bowel syndrome, crohn’s disease, or other gastrointestinal issues, they will need more than 10 minutes.

    Possibly people with mobility limitations may also need more than 10 minutes!

    So the doors will open and humiliate people who are still pooping??? That’s insane.

    Do what metro should have been doing all along which is staffing all bathrooms – and all trains/buses for that matter – to have them cleaned MULTIPLE TIMES A DAY and to ensure safety!!!!!!!! Take a hint from Japan already!!!!

  2. As a mom who has had to dash out of a train station because her child started doing the potty dance (anyone with young children has totally been there!), I am so appreciative of the agency’s willingness to do this pilot. Fingers crossed for lessons learned and setting a culture of cleanliness.

  3. Go to Europe and most bathrooms anywhere are generally well kept.
    Here they are vandalized, graffiti, etchings, paper and filth everywhere.
    And I have seen that even in airports , as well as fast food restaurants.
    We don’t seem to be able to have nice things– including our subway and light rail cars too.

  4. Such a great idea, thank you! Norwalk Station is a good idea, because that’s where the very long 460 line stops.

  5. Marvelous idea, and restricting and controlling access is the innovation which will make it work. If just open to the public, each would quickly become a permanent home for unhoused persons. As an added thought: How about making them respond to the Metro TAP card? That would work, too.

    • I like the TAP card idea. You could open with the card, and close with the card, and your times would be documented. If you go over 15 minutes a certain amount of times, access would be denied.

      I don’t like the 10 minute limit, and I certainly don’t like that the door would open automatically. There are sure to be times when a person becomes ill and needs more than 10 minutes.

    • This could only work if the TAP card is actually registered. Anyone can easily buy new TAP cards, keep them unregistered and continue to vandalize restrooms.

      I have to give it to Metro for this one: Call it discrimination, but limiting access to those with some sort of traceable phone will actually reduce vandalism and actually call those people out.

  6. With the door propped open, what will stop a homeless person from literally squatting in it and making it a home? Or a homeless person can enter it immediately and prevent the next person from using it. The judges deciding eviction will find any reason to not evict. That’s today’s reality in California. The homeless crisis made worse by squatters. Nonetheless, I don’t expect these restrooms to remain clean and hygienic.

    • Well the article does state that it would only remain open for ten minutes, considering that it’s now owned by metro it’s not considered public property so authorities can get them out if need be.

      • 10 minutes is way too long and more than enough time to allow squatters.
        Judges are not allowing evictions from PRIVATE PROPERTY like private apartments and single family homes. Privately owned toilets are no exception and judges will find a loophole with some good lawyers the squatters will find.

        • And defendant can also find loopholes since now the owner can use the same loopholes on a judge. I’ll admit it’s a never ending argument, but it’ll be up to the judge to end that cycle. If the judicial system wants to play that game, so can civilians and public agencies.

        • “With the door propped open, what will stop a homeless person from literally squatting in it and making it a home?”

          Already 2 loopholes closed right there, if it was propped open, the last person to open the door pays for the damages,

          Or if a homeless person forces the door to open that is criminal trespassing, illegal no matter what and no state judge will be able to get around that. And if you don’t believe that go ahead and have a homeless person illegally break into someone’s property and see how that plays out.

          • Hi Dave —

            There are multiple sensors on each Throne that can help identify issues such as this.

            Steve Hymon
            The Source

          • The door is propped open automatically for ten minutes. Damages can’t be traced to the last person using it since he wasn’t the one keeping the door open. The squatter won’t use the app so his identification won’t matter until too late and gains squatter rights. The next person using the app will find the squatter in there and promptly leave. Or not try to use it since the squatter will be seen inside. So will they charge the innocent users for the squatter? That’s what judges are doing to the poor landlords who won’t allow evictions.

  7. Not every rider has a cell phone, but I guess this is better than nothing. The “robust ventilation system” and cleaning notifications will be a good thing, as these are two problems I’ve noticed in the restrooms at Union Station.

  8. Not gonna work. Too many crazies out there. These toilets will be damaged and quickly overrun with filth. Waste of resources.

  9. This is amazing. The Harbor Gateway Transit Center definitely needs more restrooms. Last Fall, when I was waiting for the bus to take me home from Carson, there was only one bathroom available as the other one was out of service. I did not want to wait for bathroom as my bus was already arrived.

    Look at the Redondo Beach (Kingsdale Av) and Torrance (Crenshaw Bl at Del Amo Bl) Transit Centers. They multiple restrooms. The former has four unisex restrooms (two of which are installed with sanitary receptacle containers for used feminine hygiene products) and the latter has multi-user restrooms (each restroom–Men and Women–has 4 toilets for customers).