Metro Bathroom Breaks: Bus, Rail Operators Developing Health Problems

WASHINGTON -- Metrobus drivers are urinating in cups and train operators are using the tracks as a lavatory. The Washington Post reports that Metro transit operators aren't given enough bathroom breaks and that it's affecting their health:

Some operators say they have had to relieve themselves in a cup or bag at the back of buses or in doorways. Train operators have reportedly used pocket tracks on the rail system as "a lavatory" because they had "inadequate time" to have bathroom breaks, according to a Metro inspector's general report last year.

"There's not enough time allowed in the schedules for operators to use the restroom," said Jackie Jeter, president of Amalgamated Transit Local 689, which represents most Metro employees. "It's not something the managers at the Jackson Graham Building give much thought to because they can go right down the hall whenever they want to use the bathroom," she said, referring to Metro's headquarters.

Jeter told the Post that "she hears of at least one incident a quarter where a Metrobus operator has developed a problem, usually a urinary tract infection, related to having to wait too long to use a bathroom."

The issue of using pocket tracks as a restroom was reported on about a year ago, when an inspector general report found that "there are safety and health risks associated with using the pocket tracks (an area where the train can park and permit the train operator to reverse ends and travel in the opposite direction) as a lavatory."

This safety and health hazard is the result of inadequate time being allowed at the end of the line for train operators to have bathroom breaks. This practice causes delays in performing maintenance inspections on some ATC equipment.

The report went on to recommend that Metro managers "[r]eview the schedules of train operators to ensure that there are adequate allowances for bathroom and other personal breaks at the end of a line."

Metro's chief spokesman, Dan Stessel, told the Post that procedures are in place for Metro operators to use bathrooms, rather than tracks or plastic bags, when nature calls. But Stessel also acknowledged that operators "might not have adequate time for bathroom breaks."