Solving Cities

Portland, a public toilet paradise

Posting in Cities

Cities lack good public restrooms, but Portland has a design it thinks your city should try.

Imagine if your city lacked accessibility to two basic human essentials: food and water. It would make for a pretty dull place.

Now imagine that your city has plenty of places to appease your appetite and quench your thirst, but lacks the necessary facilities for when your body is finished processing all that food and drink. If you live in the United States you probably live in that city. And when cities do invest in public toilets they aren't exactly sources of pride for cities. Portland, Ore. is the exception.

The city has placed six of the Portland Loo public toilets in strategic locations throughout the city. But as Kim Murphy reports for the Los Angeles Times these aren't your average restrooms. The solar-powered facilities really put the "public" in public restroom. They're on sidewalks in highly-trafficked parts of the city with just enough privacy for those in need of a quick pitstop but not too much to encourage loitering. A hand-washing station is also placed outside the restroom for anyone to use.

Inside, it's just the bare necessities: a steel, "prison-grade" toilet and hand sanitizer surrounded by graffiti-proof walls. Murphy describes the experience: "The sounds of people chatting and laughing outside waft in disconcertingly between the slats. One feels the urge to act quickly and quietly, and move on." The facilities are open all day and are cleaned by the city twice a day.

The Portland Loo has been so successful that the city is looking to export the design, Murphy reports:

So well has it eased into the urban landscape that Portland is looking to build and market Loos across the continent, hoping the profits will allow for the construction and maintenance of more at home. San Diego, Vancouver, Houston, Baltimore and Seattle all have expressed interest. The first official export was installed in Victoria, British Columbia, in November.

The facilities cost about $60,000 to install and $1,200 each month to maintain.

Portland Loo, a public toilet that skips to the head of its class [Los Angeles Times]

Photo: Flickr/Ian YVR

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Tyler Falk

Contributing Editor

Tyler Falk freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure