Bright Ideas: A Train Bathroom Unlike Any Others
February 6, 2017
When the first Brightline train to arrive in Florida made its debut in West Palm Beach recently, there was much applause, including for the restrooms in the passenger coaches.
That these facilities got special attention was not a surprise to Danny Taft, senior strategist with the LAB at Rockwell Group in New York. Brightline had tapped the award-winning firm to help develop the Brightline brand and train interiors.
“This shouldn’t be a great train bathroom. It should be a great bathroom. Period,” Taft says. “We wanted to create moments that were very fresh and didn’t feel like a train car bathroom.”
When Michael Reininger, president of Brightline, first talked design for the first new privately-funded passenger rail system in the U.S. in more than 100 years, a priority was that the trains be completely accessible. That meant wider aisles, electronic doors, seamless access from the train platform and yes, big restrooms.
Since Brightline is at the intersection of train travel and hospitality, Reininger also wanted a restroom experience that would be unexpected on a train, more akin to what you’d find in a luxury hotel.
The designers got creative. It’s odd to hear someone wax poetic about a bathroom, but Taft says the resulting restrooms are “a big win.”
Gone is the tiny sink, weak (and often messy) hand dryer and strange, airplane-type toilet that people might expect on existing passenger trains. Instead, the designers set out to create a functional yet welcoming, custom restroom.
“You don’t realize it when you are trying to imagine train travel but when you walk into a restroom and it’s spacious and clean and it’s bright and it really looks different from any space that you’ve been in, it is a great moment,” Taft says. “What’s different here is everything from the walls out.”
Among the landmark features is a keen focus on cleanliness, and a mindful approach to eliminate the “ick-factor” often associated with communal bathrooms. All the controls are virtually touch-less. The door opens, closes, locks with the touch of one button. The toilet flushes with the wave of your hand (or if you forget, when the door opens) and the automated designer faucet by Dyson dispenses water and dries your hands in the same fixture, eliminating any dripping of water on the floor.
A vanity mirror above the sink is angled and carefully backlit in such a way that it’s “comfortable and flattering” to everyone whether you are in a wheelchair, child height or 6’5, while a mirror on the back wall is “the largest you’ll ever find on a train,” Taft says.
Changing tables are recessed into the wall and when opened offer ample space. Hooks for bags and coats have been thoughtfully placed for maximum convenience.
In addition to being 100% ADA compliant, all the items in the restrooms, and in the entire train, are Buy America trains with components from more than 40 suppliers in 20 states.
The two locomotives and four passenger coaches that make up the debut trainset, BrightBlue, are the first of five trainsets built by Siemens in Sacramento, California. Brightline will launch express, intercity passenger train service between West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami this summer.