BART has been in the news a lot lately. From BART police shootings to the multiple protests of those angered by BART’s decision to shut down cell phone service during a protest, the transit system is in need of some relief.

Unfortunately, so are some of their passengers. Only, they aren’t able to find it.

That’s because BART has said it won’t be unlocking bathrooms at some of their busiest stations, even 10 years after they were first locked.

The Bathroom Patriot Act?

After the 9/11 attacks, many security measures were put in place around the country including here in San Francisco. Based on “heightened station security” and fears that terrorists may try to leave a bomb in the bathroom of an underground station, BART moved to seal off the potential for an attack by closing bathrooms. Twelve of them, at underground stations in San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley are now permanently closed, according to The Bay Citizen.

While it’s certainly understandable that transit security is still an extremely tenuous issue in this country – especially after attacks in Madrid and London over the past decade – it may be time to re-evaluate this particular issue, at least according to one BART board member,Tom Radulovich.

Time to Re-Evaluate

Radulovich calls the locking of bathrooms a “bit of an overreaction” and thinks it may have more to do with the fact that BART doesn’t want to have to pay to clean the bathrooms as opposed to fears of an imminent attack.

Jim Allison, a BART spokesman maintains that, despite the inconvenience for riders, BART takes the “better safe than sorry” approach.

But what about the needs of customers and the ability of the Bay Area’s major transit system to accommodate them? Using the restroom is a basic human need and while the arguments have been made for and against reducing civil liberties in the wake of 9/11, preventing someone from “going” when they have to “go” seems almost a bit too far. BART has police, K-9s and cameras. All of those could be used to monitor bathrooms while allowing them to be open to the public. Airports and airplanes are certainly terrorist targets and bathrooms in and on both of those remain open – under security.

September 11 ushered an entirely new era into the American consciousness. We take our shoes off at airports now. We go through thorough detections at sporting events. It’s clear – things are different than they once were.

But BART’s resistance to unlock bathrooms at some of the busiest stations is an almost Orwellian overreach (similar to cutting off cell phone service, now that we think about it…).

BART’s primary concern needs to be the safety of its passengers – that’s clear. But that safety needs to extend to their health and well being while utilizing BART. Permanently locking bathrooms is certainly an easy way to prevent a terrorist attack, but look at the cost. As we reached the anniversary of 9/11, isn’t it time to take another look and provide passengers with some much-needed relief?