Toronto is opening up 79 new washrooms for public use this winter

Lauren O’Neil

Toronto may see slightly less yellow snow than usual this winter thanks to a slew of new toilets at parks, stadiums, fieldhouses and other city-run locations where washrooms are normally inaccessible during the colder months.

The city announced on Friday that 79 new “winter washrooms” would soon open in Toronto on top of an existing 64, more than doubling the supply of public winter restroom facilities available.

With COVID-19 keeping businesses either closed or terrified to let anyone come in and use their toilets, the move couldn’t come at a better time — and let’s be honest: finding a public bathroom to use in downtown Toronto was hard, even on a good day, long before the pandemic hit.

With pandemic restrictions in play, public toilets have become increasingly crucial for the well-being of vulnerable residents and anyone who can’t “hold it” for hours while spending time outdoors.

Of the new washrooms set to open for this coming winter season across Toronto, 28 will be in parks that have been deemed eligible for winterization.

“Given the resurgence of COVID-19 in Toronto and the increased need for access to outdoor space through the winter months, staff have determined that an additional 28 park washrooms can be kept open,” reads a release from the city announcing the news.

“These additional locations were inspected to ensure they can remain open without damage to the infrastructure, and in some cases minor retrofits were made to support winter use.”

“Additionally, portable toilets will be deployed to 51 high-use locations where winter activities will occur,” reads the city’s release. “Washrooms will be also be available at 47 outdoor rinks once the season begins in late-November, weather dependent.”

In total, 143 washrooms will be available for public use across the City of Toronto this winter — and you don’t have to purchase something to use one (or be told that the bathroom is “out of order” after you buy something).

“This more than doubling of access to public washrooms in parks throughout the winter will be of great benefit to residents who will want to safely enjoy the outdoors more often,” said Toronto Mayor John Tory of the move on Friday.

“We know the increase in park use during the COVID pandemic will continue and it is essential that the city provide services that support these changes in behaviour.”

“I applaud city staff for quickly creating a viable plan to increase access to washroom facilities in our parks,” said City Councillor and Chair of the Infrastructure and Environment Committee James Pasternak similarly.

“This will help make the winter park experience much more comfortable for all.”