Starting tomorrow, twenty-five cents will buy you access to a state-of-the-art outhouse near Ashbridge's Bay Park.
When the first automated public toilet opened on Queens Quay West in 2010, the City was expecting to have a bunch more of them installed in relatively short order. Now, after two years of delays, a second one is going to be opening tomorrow, at Lake Shore East and Northern Dancer boulevards, right by Ashbridge’s Bay Park. It, like its predecessor, will cost 25 cents per use.
The reason the washrooms have been so slow in coming is that they’re hard to install. Each one has a whole gaggle of special features—heating and air conditioning, an alarm system, an intercom for emergencies, self-cleaning surfaces, and so forth. Plus, the toilets are housed inside bulky, metal-plated sheds. A March 2012 City staff report blames the delays on a lack of spots with access to all the utilities needed to run that type of machinery. “It has been difficult to find appropriate locations due to the size and weight of the 3 square metre unit and the availability of necessary water, sewer, and power hook-ups,” says the report.
The pay toilets are part of the City’s agreement with Astral Media, an advertising company that’s providing Toronto with street furniture (like garbage cans and transit shelters) in exchange for the exclusive right to sell advertisements on some of it. Astral is supposed to be providing 20 pay toilets over the 20-year length of the contract. We’re currently in year five, though, and we’re only getting toilet number two. According to the same staff report quoted earlier, Astral’s contract called for seven of the robotic pissoirs to have been installed by the end of this year.
Despite all that, this is good. Have you ever tried to find a clean public washroom near Ashbridge’s Bay? It’s not easy. The new toilet should be well worth the quarter, once beach season arrives.
Elyse Parker, director of the public realm section of the City’s transportation services division, returned a phone call we made earlier in the day, and had some details to add.
According to her, the City doesn’t yet know where the next automated public toilet will be installed. “Right now we’re looking at 20 different locations around the city,” she said. “There are a number of things that we have to take into account when we site these. First of all, there needs to be significant demand for them. They need to obviously be in a place where they’re well utilized.” The toilet on Queens Quay has been getting about 10,000 uses per year, which is considered very good.
Parker expects that the City will decide on a location for a third toilet over the winter, and then install it at some point in the new year—though almost certainly not until the weather is warmer.
As for the delay, Parker noted that the City has amended its contract with Astral to adjust the roll-out schedule for the toilets. The slower-than-expected pace of installations, in other words, is consensual.