In the mezzanine level of the Chicago Blue Line stop, there are two doors: One reads women and the other men. Is this the CTA-employee bathroom hub, or can the public use them, too?
The markers, painted onto the bricks, date back to the station’s opening in 1951. In those days, public restrooms were part of CTA rail hubs. Chicago and the other stations along the stretch of the Blue Line known as the Milwaukee–Dearborn subway (which runs from Clinton north to Division) were the last to open with washrooms, says CTA spokesman Brian Steele. In the ’70s, the agency decided to close all its public bathrooms “due to a lack of funds to maintain the facilities and concerns over security.” The Chicago station’s toilets are slated for repairs later this year and will open for employee use only. But under the Illinois Restroom Access Act, Steele notes, CTA personnel must allow customers entry to the company commodes if the following conditions are met: The person has a medical condition that requires an immediate toilet trip; there is no public restroom in the vicinity (“within a half block,” Steele says); and three or more employees are on duty. A late-night attendant at the Chicago stop told us he can’t wait for the spiffed-up johns to become active. “I have to make sure I do all my business before the Subway [restaurant] on the block closes at ten,” he complained. So he must keep an empty Mountain Dew bottle on hand for those 2am yellow-line emergencies, right? “Nah, never done that,” he replied with a knowing smile.