An unusual scientific study from Cornell University may eliminate one of the last and least-recognized vestiges of discrimination against women in public accommodations. It is "the line."
It materializes outside women's rest rooms but not men's during intermissions at concerts, theater performances, sports events, in turnpike rest stops and other places.Long a source of annoyance to women, and frustration to waiting husbands and friends, the line originates because of a simple but long-ignored fact: Women spend more time in a rest room than men.
"I have yet to understand why architects have never taken this difference into consideration," said Anh Tran, an undergraduate student who conducted what is believed to be the first study comparing public rest room usage times for men vs. women.
Far from being a trivial endeavor, the study is attracting nationwide attention, and its recommendations already are being adopted in the redesign of public toilet facilities.
The study, conducted in cooperation with the Washington state Department of Transportation, concluded that the standard 50-50 ratio between men's and women's public toilet facilities is unfair.
Tran established that it takes men an average of 45 seconds to use a public facility, compared to an average of 79 seconds for women. The study thus recommends a new standard involving a 60-40 ratio of women's to men's toilet facilities.
"It told us quite clearly that for every four toilets and urinals in men's rest rooms we need six toilets in the women's room," said William Melton, manager of the rest area program for the Washington Department of Transportation in Olympia, who supervised Tran's study.
"This is going to save the public a lot of time and annoyance," Melton said, adding the Washington transportation department already has incorporated the 60-40 standard in the renovation of several turnpike rest stops.