Seattle Courant Archive

That Nasty Toilet on Broadway is Going Away

That Nasty Toilet on Broadway is Going Away

By Associated Press
May 19, 2008

Conlin said a study done earlier this year found multiple faults. He says the five toilets were badly designed, not-cost effective, and have become magnets for crime.

The council voted to end the experiment immediately and the toilets themselves are expected to be shut down and removed around July 1.

The toilets are located in four Seattle parks and on Broadway. Seattle Public Utilities had planned to remove them next year. Now the agency is trying to work out agreements with other public agencies to make their restrooms available.

Seattle Public Utilities has spent $5 million on the contract for the restrooms so far and hopes to save $4.5 million by ending the contract now.

A Brief History of Public Toilets in Seattle
Seattle Public Utilities, March 2008

1895- City constructs public toilets "to abate existing nuisances" in Capitol Hill.

1907- City constructs toilets for Pike Place Market.

1909- City opens what is "believed to be the world's most luxurious underground toilets" below the pergola in Pioneer Square. The toilets and urinals numbered 47 and after opening were reportedly flushed "5,000 times a day." Some were pay toilets.

1919- City declares an "emergency" at the Pike Place Market toilets authorizing additional maintenance and facility renewal.

1920 through at least 1943- City contracts for "lockdown" of certain toilets to deal with crime and related issues.

after 1945- City closes the Pioneer Square toilets under the pergola allegedly due to years of abuse and misuse.

1948- City authorizes bids to install new pay toilets in Belltown and Pike Place Market.

late 1980's- City faces growing complaints about defecation in the streets and criminal and non-customer use of private restrooms culminating in an outcry for more public toilets in Seattle's Downtown and urban centers. In response, the City installs 10 portable public toilets (Port-a-Potty) (a total of 14 at the peak).

1994- City authorizes improvements to the facades of its portable public toilets and to its permanent toilets at the Pioneer Square Fire Station.

2004- City installs automated public toilets (APTs) including ones near Pike Place Market, Capitol Hill and Pioneer Square to address public toilet needs.

2004-2005- City closes its toilets in Pioneer Square Fire Station and the Aquarium due to misuse and abuse and Freeway Park due to homicide.

2005-2006- Seattle APTs became a focal point of concern as local merchants to homeless advocacy groups raise issues about illicit activities associated with them and their cost. In response, the City posts a code of conduct, improves lighting, reduces user times and begins a program to "lockdown" its APTs at night and on weekends.

2006- Downtown Parks Renaissance strategy recommends improvements to Downtown parks including a program addressing park restroom needs.

Public toilet problems are not unique to Seattle: New York, San Francisco, Vancouver BC and Great Britain have all had similar issues. The City's recent and highly publicizes experiences with misuse, abuse, and malfunctioning of its five automated public toilets (APTs) form the latest chapter in the City's public toilet history.

(© 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)