There are no bids yet for Seattle's used public toilets after one day on eBay (Watch the toilet in action!) The $500,000 unisex, automated toilets are going at less than 20 percent original cost. But they're not exactly in mint condition, the eBay posting says, with "an average amount of scuffs, scratches, small dents and/or other signs of use...[plus] some pronounced graffiti on steel mirror & door."
After four years and $5 million in cost, Seattle is getting out of the autopotty business while others are getting into it, and outdoor advertising - something Seattle never fully ventured - seems the key. In a story today on Seattle's toilet sale, the NY Times notes that "In 2005, [NY] Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg signed an agreement giving Cemusa, a Spanish company, a 20-year franchise to sell advertisements on bus stops, newsstands and kiosks. In return, the city will receive $1.4 billion in cash and 20 automated toilets. The first, in Madison Square Park, opened in January. Four more are to be installed in Brooklyn and Queens this fall." Adds the Times:
In Seattle, problems arose almost immediately. 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.
“I’m not going to lie: I used to smoke crack in there,” said one homeless woman, Veronyka Cordner, nodding toward the toilet behind Pike Place Market. “But I won’t even go inside that thing now. It’s disgusting.”
Portland thinks it may have the answer:
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.
Randy Leonard, a Portland city commissioner, helped design that toilet, which in addition 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, as Mr. Leonard acknowledges.
“We in the U.S. have yet to shed our puritanical roots,” he said. “We are uptight about toilets.”