When you gotta go, you gotta go — but for some Vancouver residents, the fear of getting caught without access to a washroom is preventing them from leaving home and taking part in city life.
While the City of Vancouver requires all city buildings to have accessible washrooms, there is no similar rule for public toilets on streets and in or near new plazas. Visiting a bathroom in a coffee shop or other business isn’t an option for many people on limited incomes, when many businesses restrict their washrooms to customers who have made a purchase.
With little fanfare, a revolution in flushing has been happening on Vancouver’s streets. Over the past several years, modern, self-cleaning, public toilets have been installed on busy street corners. Free to use, the automated toilets – which look like shimmering modern outhouses – have quietly changed the way pedestrians “go” in the city.
We’ve just completed a map of the public washrooms in downtown Vancouver.
The red markers are for the self-cleaning public toilets, and the blue markers are for Park facilities.
Here’s how the public self-cleaning toilets work.
1. An LED screen on the outside indicates whether the toilet is available, occupied or in a cleaning cycle. Inside, each unit is outfitted with a stainless steel toilet. Once the door is closed, users’ toilet time is strictly limited to 12 minutes.
2. At the 10-minute mark, an alert sounds (Think of it as a kind of two-minute warning). At the 12-minute mark, the door opens automatically.
The automatic cleaning cycle then takes approximately one minute, leaving the toilet sanitized and ready for the next user. According to the City of Vancouver website, the cleaning may “leave some residual wetness on the bowl, but it is only water.”