The New York Times reports another failure of the European automatic public toilets, or APTs. This time the 34th Street Parternership, an NYC business improvement district, learned the hard way. Their $500,000 toilet cost $100,000 per year to maintain and very few people were brave enough to use it.
In early 2006, PHLUSH argued that APTs were NOT the way to go, even in a huge city market where they could be supported by advertising. This was before the Seattle APT fiasco. How long was it that the five expensive potties remained on Seattle’s streets before they were flogged on e-Bay for $89?
And what inspires confidence in toilet users? The presence – full time or ocasional – of an attendant. Says Jerome Barth, the 34th Street Partnership’s Vice President, “It’s an attendant who knows what’s going on and has functions that go from sanitation to exchanging a few words with you to generally having a sense of what should be done. People see them, and they know the bathrooms are clean.”
BTW we’re surprised that in her Blogtown post, the normally astute Sarah Mirk gets it wrong: Fancy self-automated toilet’s like Portland’s loo are still mistrusted in NYC. The Portland Loo, while hefty and polished, is neither fancy nor “self-automated”. It’s minimalist and non-intimidating. It’s got a sidewalk for a floor. And it gets a hand-washed by the folks from Clean and Safe . (Also, Sarah, grammar alert: what’s with the random apostrophe?)