It is not easy to find a decent restroom in many big American cities and a new company in New York City wants to fill this hole in the market:
A New York company has started marketing what amounts to an upscale pay toilet service. Posh Stow and Go will offer visitors to the Big Apple “clean, safe and soundproof” bathrooms worthy of “the greatest city in the world,” in addition to such other amenities as “luxury showers” and private storage rooms.
Prices for the Midtown facility, which is set to open around June, start at $24 for a three-day pass (or $8 a day), plus a mandatory $15 annual membership fee. The company envisions opening other locations throughout the city—lower Manhattan is next on the list—but warns that “only a limited number of memberships will be sold so as to provide the best possible experience.”…
Parks may have a point: The lack of clean and comfortable public restrooms in major American metropolitan areas—especially New York—is an issue that’s been raised for years. The aptly named Phlush , a public restroom advocacy group based in Portland, Oregon, goes so far as to argue that “toilet availability is a human right” and “well-designed sanitation systems restore health to our cities.”
But the issue for cities remains twofold: Public restrooms are expensive to build and maintain and they are seen as a potential magnet for vagrants. For the latter reason alone, the city of Pensacola, Fla., recently approved an ordinance making it illegal for homeless individuals to wash or shave in public restrooms. (The ordinance was part of a larger push to address problems involving the homeless, though city leaders are now considering reversing the policies.).
I had never heard of Phlush but they make some good points: it is hard to be in a city if bathrooms are not available for all. Additionally, a city planning expert is cited later in the article suggesting that pay toilets go against the “democratic urban ideal.” This seems like one of the basic requirements of having a truly public space. Think of a space like Times Square that is consistently full of people: if most bathrooms are privatized, what is everyone supposed to do?
It would be really interesting to see the business plan of Posh Stow and Go. Just how many memberships can they sell before they reach a tipping point and the restrooms are not as luxurious and exclusive? Just how much money do they think is in private bathrooms? How much does it cost to retrofit existing retail space to fit this new use?