One problem faced by NJT rail riders is finding clean restrooms before, during, and after their journeys. Few stations have toilet facilities at all, outside of major terminals; those that do are often closed outside of commuting hours; and toilets on-board trains are legendary places to be avoided if at all possible. Even some major terminals such as Newark Broad Street close their toilets at night, and Hoboken has made do with temporary facilities since Hurricane Sandy in October 2012.
One place riders can count on finding an open restroom has been at New York Penn Station, where Amtrak, Long Island Rail Road, and NJ Transit all maintain restrooms—but how good are they? NJT has the newest restrooms, in its 7th Avenue Concourse, but the quality of those facilities was brought into sharp focus at NJT’s July 12 Board meeting by rider Albert Papp, Jr., who is director of the NJ Association of Railroad Passengers and past Chair of the Lackawanna Coalition. Papp first brought to the attention of NJT in June the deplorable condition of the NJT restrooms, citing missing soap dispensers, water in the sinks that doesn’t flow, and toilet paper dispensers held up by duct tape. Apparently, little or no action was taken, so Papp brought up the issue again at the board meeting, according to reporting by Mike Frassinelli (Star-Ledger, July 12). According to Frassinelli’s report, both NJT Executive Director Jim Weinstein and State Transportation Commissioner Jim Simpson were red-faced with anger and embarrassment at the report of the persistent problems. Weinstein vowed action, and Simpson, told that a third party maintains the facilities, said, “Well, fire the third party. Tell the third party that if this happens again—can them and find somebody else.” Rider Papp was not impressed, noting that NJT was going ahead with a plan to offer Wi-Fi access: “While you can go ahead and put Wi-Fi in the trains for the thumb people, it would help if some of the basic necessities of the human individual are attended to,” he said. And passenger Shelia Long, told that NJT has a person responsible for maintenance of the area, said, “I think he’s in Dunkin” Donuts.”