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"A penny for your thoughts"

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Seattle's self-cleaning public toilets for sale on eBay

Seattle's Filthy, drug abusers and prostitutes-Ridden Automated Public Toilets installed in early 2004 were put up for sale Wednesday July 17, 2008 afternoon on eBay.

After spending $5 million of the city's tax dollars on high-tech, self-cleaning public toilets and then watching them quickly devolve into disgusting havens for just about every urban deviance imaginable, the city of Seattle is trying to cut their losses by vending all five of them on eBay where they can be yours for $89,000 each. Although use was free of charge, even some of the city’s most destitute people refused to step inside them.

In Seattle, users left so much trash behind that the automated floor scrubbers had to be disabled, and prostitutes and drug users found privacy behind the toilets’ locked doors. In theory, the toilets' self-cleaning mechanism is capable of spraying down the whole interior with water jets and detergent every day, but the drainage systems quickly became clogged with trash, rendering them completely useless. Drug fiends and prostitutes were also fond of the 20-minute auto-locking doors, but the depravity quickly became too much for everyone

In May, the City Council decided to close the toilets. It agreed to pay an additional $540,000 fee to end, five years early, its maintenance contract with the operator, Northwest Cascade, a local company with no prior experience in the field that was chosen when established operators like JCDecaux and Cemusa declined to bid because the project lacked advertising revenue. A strict advertising law here barred officials from arrangement in automated toilets with an outdoor advertising company like JCDecaux provides, operates and maintains them for the municipality in exchange for a right to place ads on public property like bus stops and kiosks. Revenue from the advertisers flows to both the company and the city. This mean Seattle had to pick up the entire $5 million cost.

Rather than automated toilets, some cities are looking for cheaper alternatives that would be cleaned by human attendants. One prototype, to be installed next month in Portland, Ore., would cost $50,000 each, compared with some $300,000 for an automated unit. It has open gaps at the top and bottom of the door, a feature discouraging drug abuse, prostitution and the like. But given that lesser privacy, it is unclear how popular such a toilet might be. VIA

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