America’s public toilet problem

This in-depth, well-researched New York Times story about problems with public toilets in Seattle and other cities states everything but the obvious: You can have safe, clean, convenient public toilets in big cities if you have attendants working at them who are decently paid. Apparently nobody in Seattle is willing to work as a public toilet attendant; or, the city would prefer not to pay such people, and finds a $1 million outlay per toilet (!) to be less expensive. I’m trying to figure out why affluent cities overrun with homeless, out-of-work people need toilets that clean themselves.

5 thoughts on “America’s public toilet problem

  1. TourPro

    A crappy situation for sure. A business’ public restroom often is a indicator of its organizational culture. It really is hard to find places that take pride in their bathrooms.

  2. Josh

    Slate had a really interesting piece on public toilets recently. Essentially, pay toilets (which apparently are very prevalent in some larger cities), are one of the few places where people of means get burned. If you’re wealthy, you pay lower interest rates on credit and get higher interest rates on savings; you can afford an expensive accountant to find loopholes in tax codes and pay a lot less than ‘normal’ folk.

    But you’ll pay a quarter, or 50 cents, or maybe even a couple of dollars to use a clean public restroom, while someone urinating in an alley gets to do so for free. It’s one of the few places in the law where we give people a monetary incentive to do something illegal.

    In India, though, they’re paying people to use public toilets to do experiments on the waste (and, presumably, to keep people from using alleyways).

  3. Ellen

    Interesting article, thanks. But it blows the premise of the musical “Urinetown” completely out of the…er… water.

  4. Robinia

    You’ve entirely misunderstood the problem. Reframe it and it all makes sense: how can we keep all these engineers, architects and plumbers employed (‘cuz, lord knows, we would NOT want to have our kids grow up to be janitors!!!).

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