Portland's Tips for Making Public Potties That Last

By Veronique Greenwood | January 24, 2012 1:03 pm

potty
Breezy and exposed! That’s the secret to bathrooms no one, not even street people, wants to live in.

Many cities have had epic, expensive public toilet fails. Seattle, we’re looking at you and your $5 million self-cleaning toilets that wound up trashed.

But over at The Atlantic’s Cities site, John Metcalfe has a piece detailing why Portland’s public potties have survived the aggressions (and heavy use) of the citizens. Here are Portland’s tips for defecation success.

1. Make it open to the elements: we’re talking bathroom stall, sans the bathroom. People walking by on the sidewalk should be able to see the peer’s feet and hear every little splish, splash, and sploosh in that potty. A comfortable, enclosed public bathroom is a bum’s living room, but an open-air crapper is just an open-air crapper.

2. No sink. Bums like to wash clothes in sinks. Instead, provide a spigot outside the stall with cold water.

3. No mirror. People like to break mirrors. It’s just a thing.

4. No nice, homey touches or comfortable detailing. Stainless steel all the way, with a graffiti-repelling coating. People can and will take bats to it; don’t make it easy on them.

And yet, Portlanders seem to love these chilly steel crappers. “Whenever I have friends in the car and we pass by one, it’s like, ‘There’s the loo!'” an assistant to the city commissioner said to Metcalfe. “It’s cold and really strange inside, and there’s a sense of, ‘Wow, I’m really close to the sidewalk and people can hear me peeing,’ but it’s really cool.”

A ringing endorsement if ever there was one. Sign us New Yorkers up!

Image courtesy of Portland Loo

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