Saturday, July 19, 2008

To Pee or Not To Pee

I was reading a piece in the NY Times a couple of days ago that struck near to my, uh, heart. Apparently the city of Seattle is removing all their public toilets.
In the end, the restrooms, installed in early 2004, had become so filthy, so overrun with drug abusers and prostitutes, that although use was free of charge, even some of the city’s most destitute people refused to step inside them.
Living in the City of Big Shoulders, I have asked myself plenty of times why there are no public toilets in this windy city. I first thought it was a way for the city to make money. There are three big colleges, and many smaller ones, located in Chicago proper which equates to a large number of drunk students "celebrating" their "freedom" which leads to public urination which leads to tickets which leads to revenue. I don't think there's a burrito place in the city that doesn't have the stench of PBR laced urine and vomit in the alley next to it. However, I've never seen anyone ticketed and I waited in alleys to watch.

My next thought was that it must be to prevent what is happening in Seattle. These bathrooms became dens of inequity. And why not? The door shuts behind you and no one can see what, or who, you're doing. Essentially they're alleys with privacy.

A simple way to solve this problem is to make this a pay as you go system rather than tax payer supported. As the article states:
$1 million apiece over five years, which because of a local ordinance had to be borne entirely by taxpayers instead of advertisers.
Some stupid law in Seattle made it illegal for advertising agencies to use the toilets to post ads, thus tax payers had to foot the bill. Since the toilets were now "free" anyone could use them, they became disgusting, and the tax payers no longer wanted to pay. This does not mean that citizens don't want public toilets.

In European countries they have public toilets, but they're pay as you go, literally. It costs a certain amount of money to use the toilet which allots to two minutes of time, if you want longer you have to pay more. This would make it more expensive for drug users and prostitutes.

Also, these toilets aren't some carnival-style porta-potty. They look decent and are self-cleaning, which means you don't need to see/smell/feel the last 40 attendees.

So bring on the pay-as-you-go toilets. I think a couple of bucks is worth having alleys that don't reek and not having to purchase an item in a store just to use the bathroom.


R. Enochs, Esq. said...

I'm assuming you have to pay in order to enter the toilet but if you went beyond the 2 minutes and don't pay more, what happens? If it merely unlocks and leaves you vulnerable, skirting around that would mean having someone simply guard the door, right? Or, does it just start spraying water and ringing a loud alarm? Are there port-a-potty maids to ticket violators? I am thoroughly intrigued with this, as you can tell.

Eric said...

Yep, if you don't pay the doors automatically open and the clean up begins. I'm not sure if there would be ticketing as the toilets are from private companies not the government.