Seattle Takes A Bath On Public Lavatories

A few years ago, there was a mania among many cities to “solve” the problem of public urination and defecation by installing mega-expensive, state-of the art restroom facilities. Demonstrations of the units were conducted in Philadelphia, PA and Seattle WA, where this story originated;

After a decade of discussion, five self-cleaning, space-age style chambers were finally opened to the public yesterday…

Seattle has been waiting years for the high-tech toilets. Councils and mayors have debated the issue. It’s been a topic on the campaign trail.

Made in Germany, and leased by the city, the public restrooms are expected to cost a total of about $600,000 a year. They will be paid for through sewer revenues…

“These facilities are self-cleaning, safe, well-situated throughout the city and are free for anyone to use,” said (city councilman)Licata. “They will be beneficial to local businesses because tourists, shoppers, residents and the homeless are equally accommodated.”

But some are concerned that they might become shelter for drug abusers, dealers and prostitutes.

“The community will keep a watch out and make sure they don’t become a haven for that kind of activity,” Stoltzfus said.

Today, we read that the city, of Seattle, whose expenses for the toilets ($5M) over the intervening time period vastly exceeded what was projected, has agreed to remove and sell the toilets – for $12K;

The high-tech public toilets, with sanitizing water jets and automatic doors, were installed in 2004 to accommodate tourists and transients in Pioneer Square, Capitol Hill, the central waterfront, Pike Place Market and the Chinatown International District. But the city canceled its contract this spring after the commodes became filthy hide-outs for drug use and prostitution.

The city paid more than it planned to take care of the toilets. Workers had to clean the stalls after trash clogged the self-cleaning mechanism. Losing the toilets will save the city some $4.5 million on the remainder of its operating contract and in cleaning costs over the next several years.

The city tried to sell the toilets on eBay in July, but nobody coughed up the $89,000 minimum bid. In its second attempt, which closed Thursday, the city offered no minimum, and 148 bids were cast.

“We sold them for what the market determined them to be worth,” said Andy Ryan, spokesman for Seattle Public Utilities. “Did we get hosed? I’m not sure.

Here you go Andy, maybe one of these will help next time;

Mises Calculator

Mises Calculator


1 Response to “Seattle Takes A Bath On Public Lavatories”

  1. August 20, 2008 at 8:14 am

    If shop owners are interested in pulling in street traffic, then they should come up with a plan to offer their own toilets to potential customers. The concept of a “loss leader” is not a new one. I also think it’s a hoot that governments at any level go to great expense to prop up underground economies they claim to loath.

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