Locked public restrooms are the ultimate sign of urban decay

Originally published at: Locked public restrooms are the ultimate sign of urban decay | Boing Boing


I fit weren’t for Starbucks, I’d have pooped my pants many a time. So they do have purpose, just not for coffee.


In my mind, this begs the question: How many times have people pooped their pants because of Starbucks?


Well, it can certainly be an issue if you want to make sure that people who don’t have any money (or just don’t have any change handy) have a place to relieve themselves.

If a homeless person can’t use a public toilet without paying a dollar first then odds are good they’ll just piss in the nearest alleyway.




Instead of “decay” can we start calling it neglect?

One suggests an inevitable natural process. The other calls it out for what it is.


Yeah, it’s totally weird to me that there isn’t more public consensus on the idea that having a place available to legally eliminate your body’s waste in a dignified way should be a fundamental human right in any civilized society. There are folks out there who are gung-ho for universal healthcare (which is good) but don’t give a damn about providing free public restrooms. Or worse, there are some NIMBYs in my town (and doubtless many others) who are very much against the idea because they don’t want to attract more unhoused folks.


I’d add “public drinking fountains” as a close second after restrooms. Such an easy piece of public infrastructure to maintain, yet it seems like at least half the fountains in any given city (if the city even has them in the first place) are turned off or malfunctioning at any given time.

I know that people are leery of catching something from a public fountain (especially during a pandemic) but water bottle refill stations are pretty cheap to install and maintain too. People shouldn’t have to put another disposable plastic bottle in the landfill every time they need to hydrate outside of a home or restaurant.


They imply that a city can’t trust people to use them responsibly and that society has fallen to the tragedy of the commons.

Or they imply that gay men cruise there and the city administration wishes to be seen to take a hard line on that sort of thing.


There are not many public restrooms in my local municipality, except for city parks. And the city closes the restrooms in the winter, ostensibly to prevent pipe damage. We’re in zone 7a, which doesn’t quite put us in the clear as far as hard freezes go, but I imagine it would not take much effort to harden the park bathrooms against cold weather.

My strong suspicion is that the real reason the restrooms close in the winter is to make being unhoused even more illegal when the problem is most desperate for the victims.


Chicago has this problem. It’s fun walking around the downtown area, but it’s no fun when nature calls and you cannot find a public facility at all. Train station? Hell no. Parks… nope… closed down. The McDonalds on State Street near the Oriental theatre has been my savior a few times.


This is hitting London: London's public toilets a serious concern, report finds - BBC News UK has run out of countries to destroy and has turned inwards.


One of the first things that went during initial pandemic craziness were the public drinking fountains. I remember when stores were draped in plastic, and arrows were painted on the floor. Are those still a good idea, or were they based on an obsolete theory of transmission? I still have been using plastic bags, even though a plastic bag tax (undoubtedly proposed before the Pandemic) has just now gone into effect.

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Last time I stayed near the Civic Center Bart station, the escalators were almost always blocked off and out of service… because people keep shitting on the escalator.

In unrelated news, I have never seen the Civic Center Bart restroom when it wasn’t “temporarily closed”.


Closing public restrooms or porta-pottys just signals that you want piss and shit on the street.


I don’t know how effective drinking fountains are at spreading the virus but at the very least I think water bottle refill stations should be freely available (ideally the kind with proximity sensors to minimize touch points).


Years ago a Robert Heinlein character, can’t remember who, said that dirty public restrooms were the first sign of a dying civilization. We’ve moved down the list some.


Yeah that’s sort of the major thing that seems to have caused most cities to shutter their bathrooms in the 70’s and 80’s.

Not so much “urban decay”, as a part of renewal and redevelopment programs.

In NYC at least it was a major move as part of general vice crack downs starting under Mayor Lindsey and taken up again under Giuliani.

Bathrooms were first routinely raided and then shuttered to control cruising and drug use, as well as to prevent the homeless from sheltering there or Sex workers utilizing them.

It was cheaper than enforcement or social services, and the associations were bad for property values.

You can’t exactly read the whole piece without the Newsletter, but the excerpt has a bit of the “moral decay” trope that may be missing the point some what.


I’m not sure if urban decay is the issue, or that people who used these public restrooms created health and sanitary issues that were impossible/costly to mitigate.

Perhaps in Tokyo there is the unspoken agreement/ethos that no matter what your life situation is - should you use a public toilet you leave it like you found it. Perhaps I’m giving them too much credit?

Here in North America - savages people trash these things to the point it’s not worth keeping open.

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You are a civet cat and I claim my 5 pounds.