News & Politics

I Toured Metro’s “Newly Renovated” Bathrooms. Here’s What I Found.

Spoiler alert: You're probably looking for a "Fire Equipment Cabinet."

Photograph by Arya Hodjat.

Last Monday morning, I started my shift like I do many others—scrolling through Twitter (fine, X) looking for a story. Then something caught my eye: an announcement from WMATA proclaiming “HOORAY! After 14 years of hard work, all 169 Metrorail restrooms have been completely renovated.”

Now, as someone who was in the top 2% of Metro riders in 2023, this obviously interested me: So much time! So many bathrooms! How come I hadn’t seen any of them? A quick scroll through the Twitter replies assured me I wasn’t alone in my bewilderment. 

So, on Friday, I set out from my home station of Bethesda. My final destination: Crystal City, the site of WMATA’s final restoration of the project. But I would make many potty stops in between. Here’s what I found.



Like I said, I’m a seasoned Metro rider, and this is my home station—and I have never seen any hint of a bathroom here in all my years of traveling. So, after making my way down the second-longest escalator in the Western Hemisphere and past two signs labeled “Elevator” and “Fire Equipment Cabinet,” and zero labeled “bathroom,” I do what any good journalist does: I ask.

Specifically, the station manager. I’m bemused when he walks me to the “Fire Equipment Cabinet” door and swipes me in. I’m shocked when the door swings open and reveals less of a fire equipment cabinet and more of a breakroom. But this isn’t any breakroom, of course—it has several doors, one labeled “Employee Restroom,” and one labeled “Customer Restroom.” Truthfully, I don’t need to do business there, so I just wash my face and hands before shuffling out. 1 down, 168 to go.

Rating: 6/10. Could be cleaner.


Van Ness

The door to the bathroom at the Van Ness WMATA station.

By the time I’m finished writing up my Bethesda review, this is the next stop on my itinerary. I can count the amount of times I’ve gotten off at Van Ness on one hand, so I’m excited to explore its wonders—and its bathroom. But as soon as I make my way past the turnstile and am greeted by my old friend, the Fire Equipment Cabinet, I see bad news. A sign reads: “RESTROOM BEING CLEANED REDLINE [sic]”

Rating: ?/10. See you, space cowboy.


Cleveland Park

The bathroom at the Cleveland Park Metro station.

The layouts of the Van Ness and Cleveland Park stations are pretty much the same, so after I pay my fare and exit—in all the stations I visited, the restrooms were outside the fare gates—I know what to expect. I see the Fire Equipment Cabinet, and this time, there is no foreboding sign. But I’m not about to go jimmying open random doors lest they actually lead only to fire equipment, so, sheepishly, I ask the station manager if he can point me to the restroom. He obliges, and opens the Fire Equipment Cabinet for me, confirming my suspicions. 

“Second door on the left,” the station manager says, and this time I’m met with not a breakroom but a rather dingy hallway. When I get to the aforementioned door on the left, I find it incredibly difficult to close. Almost as if it’s being propped open. After 30 seconds of struggle, a wooden plank comes crashing at my feet, and the door swings shut. A more cowardly man may have become incontinent from fright in this moment, but not I; I still didn’t need to use the restroom. I wash my hands and head out. As I make my way out, the station manager, who had heard the bang, seems as confused as I am: “I think someone must have left that there?” he offers. “You’re good though,” he assures me.

Rating: 4/10. The tiles were nice. The debris was not.


Farragut North

I choose my next stop out of utility; it’s where I get off to go to the Washingtonian office. I’m really only here during rush hour, so the chances of me actually using this bathroom in the moment are slim, but a boy can dream. After paying my fare and making my way to the K Street exit, it’s not immediately obvious to me where a restroom—or, at this point, a Fire Equipment Cabinet—may be. Dismayed, I go for a walk around the block. (It’s only on the way back do I realize it was 180 degrees from the turnstile.) At the L Street exit, the Fire Equipment Cabinet is more apparent; it’s to my left as I make my way toward the station manager’s booth. He lets me in, and past a rather narrow entrance next to a filing cabinet, there’s my oasis: the bathroom. This is the first one in my tour to have a urinal in addition to a toilet; real lap of luxury.

Rating: 7/10. Smelled nice.


Gallery Place

The bathroom at the Gallery Place WMATA station.

Here comes a real stress test: the system’s fourth-most-traveled stop, and, if you believe Ted Leonsis, a locus of crime. If anywhere should have a public bathroom, and paradoxically be forbidden from having one, it’s here. I fondly remember hunting the neighborhood for a potty while watching the Capitals win their first Stanley Cup. Both Alex Ovechkin and I were relieved of a deep burden that night.

Alas, as I exit at 7th and F streets, there’s no Fire Equipment Cabinet in sight. (Or bathroom, for that matter.) It’s only at the 7th and H entrance do I spot my old friend. But when I ask the station manager to use the restroom, I’m surprised when she leads me to what’s labeled a Service Room, which I suppose makes more sense as a place to put a bathroom than a fire equipment closet. Past a small foyer that reeks heavily of bleach, I’m met with easily the biggest bathroom of my adventure yet. As I sit on the toilet, I can hear the whir of trains below me, carrying countless numbers of my fellow Washingtonians on their commute. It’s oddly soothing. And, to be frank, cleaner than I expected. If only I’d known that night in June of 2018.

Rating: 8/10. The smell could be a bit more pleasant, but I’m really being nitpicky.


Metro Center

The time has come for me to transfer from the Red Line, and venture toward Virginia. After I enter the Metro Center station from 11th and G streets, the station manager leads me—surprise surprise—to the Fire Equipment Cabinet when I ask for the restroom. It’s just as spacious as the restroom in Gallery Place, but I don’t stay for long; it’s positively balmy, as there’s a heater running nonstop.

Rating: 5/10. I’m sweaty enough as it is, okay?



Perhaps the naming conventions are different here, I muse to myself as the train lurches across the Potomac and into the Rosslyn station. As I make my way up to street level, my suspicions are somewhat confirmed: There’s no Fire Equipment Cabinet, nor a Service Room. Perplexed, I ask the station manager for the restroom. 

“There’s one at the store upstairs, and one across the street,” he informs me.

“So none actually in the station?” I ask.


Rating: 0/10. Virginia may be for lovers, but not for guys with tiny bladders.


Pentagon City

The bathroom at the Pentagon City Metro station.

Having struck out in Rosslyn, I thought maybe some retail therapy could make me feel better—and, if nature did call, at least the mall was right there. Which is just what the station manager tells me when I ask for the restroom.

“Are you sure you don’t just wanna use the one by the Chick-Fil-A at the mall?” he asks, a hint of skepticism in his voice.

“I’m sure,” I say, meekly, knowing any other day, that’d be the option I’d take. But I have a job to do.

“Make sure you lock the door behind you—we got a lot of people coming through,” he tells me, leading me to a dingy room at the end of a hallway labeled “Service Corridor.” His warning wasn’t just pithy, as I stumble upon what has to be, let’s say, the most well-loved restroom of my tour yet; both the toilet and floor were already damp. There was also a rather cartoonish electric switch out in the open, along with a a box labeled “Sewage Eject.” I didn’t dare touch either.

Rating: 1/10. Definitely felt like I was in the first few minutes of a Law and Order cold open.


Crystal City

It’s my final stop, and I’m hoping to find a bathroom as pristine as its name suggests. I made my way to the mezzanine level to find the station manager already leaving his post. “Excuse me, sir, is there a bathroom here?” I inquire.

He laughs. “Yeah, I gotta go too. Let’s go.”

We make our way to the Fire Equipment Cabinet—fancy seeing you here, old friend—where I find, by far, both the nicest and most cramped bathroom on my tour. The recently installed tiles are pristine. I just have to twist my way through a U-shaped corridor to get to the toilet.

Rating: 8/10. You could honestly forget you were on WMATA property here, if not for the fact they found a way to make you feel like you were on a crowded train.


All in all, I’m glad that WMATA took the time to renovate their bathrooms—it’d just be nice if people had a way of finding them, or a way of getting to them that didn’t involve narrow passages or falling debris.

Arya Hodjat
Editorial Fellow