A man walks by a public toilet
A man passes a public toilet on Park Avenue, between Forrest Avenue and High Street, in Portland on Tuesday, May 3, 2022. The city has few such restrooms and none are downtown. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

PORTLAND, Maine — The city’s bustling downtown has many attractions, from fancy restaurants, to sumptuous museums to stately 19th century brick architecture. There’s plenty of places to get a mug of local craft beer or a frilly cocktail decked out with local spirits, too.

What downtown Portland doesn’t have are many places to pee.

Public toilets are famously hard to come by in the city. The few available are mostly located at scattered locations outside the city center. But plans are underway to remedy that, a little.

On Wednesday night, the city hosted a public toilet forum along with Portland Downtown and the Portland Society for Architecture. At the meeting, officials unveiled plans for three new public restrooms and also took questions and feedback from the public.

The three new toilets will be single-stall affairs located at the entrance to the Portland Fish Pier on Commercial Street, behind the Central Fire Station on Federal Street and just off Monument Square.

“We have been advocating for public restrooms for a while, particularly since the pandemic,” said Portland Downtown Executive Director Cary Tyson.

Portland Downtown is a nonprofit public improvement district. It is primarily funded through a tax assessment paid by property owners within the district.

Last fall, the Portland City Council approved $600,000 in federal American Rescue Plan funds for new restrooms. At the same time it asked Portland Downtown and the Society for Architecture for their input.

The proposed new restrooms are essentially upscale portable toilets made of aluminum instead of plastic. They will be non-flushable, with plastic holding tanks, ventilation, solar-powered lighting and secure boxes for sharps. Similar city-owned toilets were previously installed at Fox Field, on the Eastern Prom and on Park Avenue, between High Street and Forrest Avenue.

The handicap-accessible toilets will be bolted to the ground but easily moveable, according to a slideshow provided by Dena Libner of the City Manager’s office.

Libner said finding locations for the three new toilets was not easy.

“We needed this to be on city-owned property — undeveloped is preferable,” she said. “That sort of property is very, very scarce.”

The proposed toilet plan goes before the city council in June and officials hope to have them installed by July 1.


In the meantime, here’s a list of current public toilets in Portland.

Spring Street Garage

This public restroom is accessible from the Free Street side of the garage. However, it’s only open May through December, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Casco Bay Lines Ferry Terminal

These spacious bathrooms are open when the first boat leaves at 5 a.m. until the day’s final sailing, which is 11:30 p.m. most of the year.

Portland Public Library

This popular facility operates when the library is open. Hours were slashed during the pandemic but went back to normal last week. The library doors are open 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. every day but Monday, when it’s open until 6 p.m. and Saturday, when it closes at 3 p.m.

City Hall

There are restrooms here, on the first floor. City Hall is open 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.

Fox Field

An upscale, aluminum holding tank-type toilet sits on the edge of Fox Street, by the basketball court. It’s always open.

Deering Oaks

Always-open porta-potties are available at both ends. There are three by the farmers market, close to Deering Avenue and one more down by the playground.

Payson Park

This park between Baxter Boulevard and Ocean Avenue sports wooden-framed, concrete pit toilets resembling those you’d find at a state park. You’ll also find plastic, portable units here, too.

Dougherty Field

There are portable toilets here, on St. James Street, during the warmer months.

Portland Skate Park

A year-round pit toilet provides relief to folks grinding and running the halfpipe here.

Eastern Prom

A newer, aluminum restroom sits by the tennis courts. It’s available 24-hours-a-day.

East End Beach

Several plastic portable units are here, all year long.

An inside of a public toilet is shown with graffiti on the walls.
Sun shines in louvered panels near the ground in a public toilet on Park Avenue, between Forrest Avenue and High Street, in Portland on Tuesday, May 3, 2022. The city has few such restrooms and none are downtown. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

Here are the proposed new locations:

Federal Street

This is a proposed location. It’s thought the new toilet will be somewhere behind the Central Fire Station, across from the federal courthouse.

Portland Fish Pier

This is also a proposed location. It would be on Commercial Street, in front of the entrance to the Fish Pier complex.

Monument Way

A third proposed toilet is planned for here, somewhere on the pedestrian walkway between Monument Square and Free Street.

If desperate, you could also try

The William B. Troubh Ice Arena on Park Avenue is city-owned and opens early. Downtown Portland is now dotted with many fine, upscale hotels. Most have restrooms in the lobby. Just act cool and be tidy. Coffee shops and fast food joints are always possibilities, as well.

Troy R. Bennett

Troy R. Bennett is a Buxton native and longtime Portland resident whose photojournalism has appeared in media outlets all over the world.