The Village is a Russian-language publication in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Kiev that seeks to inform locals about their various cities, upcoming events, urban changes, and history. The following is an interesting entry from a series of short articles geared to answer the “strangest questions about city life” in the cities covered by the publication. This has been translated for the first time into English by SRAS Translate Abroad intern Brian Jacoby-McCurdy.
Question: Where are all the subway toilets? Read the original Russian here.
It’s the year 2013 and, despite the fact that Port-A-Potties have popped up even on Mt. Everest, you’ll find nothing of the sort in the subways of Kiev, Moscow, or St. Petersburg. To find out why the subway lacks something as essential as a restroom, The Village turned to two people: the press secretary for the St. Petersburg metro system and the founder of Tualet.ru (a website devoted to the topic of public toilets).
Yulia Shavel, Press Secretary of the St. Petersburg Subway
There are no restrooms in the subway system and there will not be any so long as the train rides are as short as they are. St. Petersburg’s trains travel the longest line, the red line, from one end to the other in 40 minutes. Space for toilets was not set aside when the stations were being constructed. Also, there are no employees to keep them clean. Distance between bathrooms is only regulated on railways.
If infants, the elderly, or pregnant women need to use the toilet, all they would need to do is ask the nearest subway employee to use the service toilets. We’re all people and we’ve all been in a situation like that before.
Vladimir Priorov, Founder of the site www.tualet.ru
Subway construction was begun before the war, when lines were short and there was no need for toilets besides those for the employees. However, service restrooms in most subway stations are located in the tunnels. There are restrooms in accessible locations (near the entrances), but there are too few and they are usually only in new stations. Passengers are not allowed to use them and the toilets in the tunnels are inaccessible; it is too dangerous to get to them.
The press office for the Moscow Metro usually responds to the subject of placing restrooms for passengers in the subways by saying, “The installation of passenger-accessible toilets in the subways violates sanitary standards, which stipulate the construction of toilets for subway passengers only when travel time exceeds 60 minutes.”
In fact, the standard requires that toilets be installed in transportation when travel time exceeds 60 minutes, but it does not forbid installing toilets when the duration of travel is less than 60 minutes. And so today we are without toilets, underscoring the attitude the Metro system leadership takes towards passengers.
You have to consider that, including visitors, there are about one million people in Moscow who suffer from urinary conditions and for whom going to the restroom at stations is an urgent need. Restrooms in metro subway stations are a social necessity. There are restrooms in the subways of other countries, and there weren’t any regulations to get in their way. For example, in Seoul and Beijing every subway station is equipped with free public bathrooms that are clean and include private stalls for the disabled. The Toronto metro system has public bathrooms and the subway-goers of most European cities are well aware that if you need a bathroom, you just look for the nearest subway station.
As for the Kiev subway, as far as I know, there are service restrooms just like in Russia but they are usually off-limits to passengers.