Public washroom visits were up by 140% in 2021 compared to the previous year, according to an update from the City of Edmonton.
The increase from about 37,000 visits in 2020 to 90,000 in 2021 (recorded by attendants between Jan. 1 and Oct. 31 of both years) can in part be attributed to more public washroom locations with attendants. But the most used washrooms — Churchill Square, Whyte Avenue, and Louise McKinney — saw significant increases between the two years, and Borden Park, which wasn't open in 2020, was also very busy last year.
The city initially launched its City-Wide Public Washroom Strategy in April 2019 with the aim to improve access, user experience, and management of existing facilities.
Public washrooms have been characterized as an essential amenity for a functioning city and a key part of downtown vibrancy. The incoming council has made it clear that this is a priority, approving funding increases from both its operating and capital budgets to push the project forward.
The latest update on the strategy indicates that the attendant model will continue at the Whyte Avenue, Borden Park, and Churchill Square washrooms this year, along with "enhanced sanitation and custodial services at park washrooms."
Trailer-style toilets will be added by the summer instead of porta-potties, using council's one-time operating budget increase of $2.26 million for the washroom pilot.
The funds will also be used to expand the attendant program to "additional existing city washrooms, to assist in the day to day management of the locations and make connections with the Edmontonians accessing these facilities."
City administration will hire a temporary public washroom co-ordinator to lead the execution of the washroom strategy and connect with businesses that open their washrooms for public use.
More permanent public washrooms and the renovation of existing permanent washrooms to make them accessible to the public will be a priority in parks. These projects are at Warehouse Park in downtown Edmonton, Beaver Hills House and Michael Phair Park, Emily Murphy Park, Kinsmen Park, and Hawrelak Park.
During recent budget deliberations, council approved a capital budget increase of $2 million for the design and delivery of permanent washroom facilities, which administration said will be used to accelerate plans where possible.
The city's community and pubic services committee will receive the 2021 public washroom update on Jan. 17.