A Flushing Revolution: Inside the automated toilets of Vancouver

With little fanfare, a revolution in flushing has been happening on Vancouver’s streets.  Over the past several years, nearly a dozen ultra-futuristic, self-cleaning 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.

The ninth automated toilet has just been installed on the corner of Robson and Granville streets and will go online some time this fall.  In case you’re curious, and haven’t had the time for a firsthand tour, here’s how the new toilets work.

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.  At the 1o-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.”  Here’s a short video someone made about the toilets, which apparently still have a few kinks to be worked out:

Jokes aside, the toilets are a welcome addition to the Vancouver cityscape.  For sightseers and visitors to the city,  they offer a pleasant alternative to ducking into McDonald’s or Starbucks.  And they’re low-profile enough that they don’t really detract from the scenery.

Plus, they cost the city practically nothing.  A French company, JCDecaux, installs and maintains the toilets in exchange for the rights to sell advertising on them.  The same model is used with other outdoor amenities, including benches, bus shelters and even garbage cans.

Has anyone tried out Vancouver’s space-age automated toilets?  Any feedback?  Please comment below.

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