What if Kingston…

The Hub, Princess Street, Kingston, OntarioWe’ve all been there at one point or another. You’re out on the town tending to errands or possibly just taking a leisurely stroll when the unmistakable urge to “go” hits you. You try to fight it at first, but at some point you realize that you aren’t going to make it home, and there isn’t a public restroom in sight.  Depending on where you are in the Limestone City, there are a variety of restroom options, including gas stations, retail stores, restaurants and areas with dense shrubbery.  However, with more and more businesses displaying signs that read “bathroom for paying customers only” and others who make you beg for a key, what’s a guy or gal who has to go supposed to do?  Further, what if Kingston replaced public washrooms with pay toilets?

Paying to use a bathroom isn’t a preferred option for many of us.  Recently a Barber Shop in the Big Apple tried to milk $1 out of everyone who wanted to use their washroom facilities, not to make money, but as a nuissance tax.  While this practice was quite controversial, pay toilets have been around for a long time in various parts of Europe.  Technologically sophisticated options have even started to appear closer to home, while Cadillac models offer hands free operation, and even a decontaminating spray down and blow dry between each visit.  The end result creates a clean environment for people to do their business, but again, should Kingstonian’s expect to see this anytime soon?

Revisiting the “customers only” sign, many people would simply walk on by pleading ignorance if they were actually stopped and questioned by an employee.  However, convincing said employee to hand over a key to a non-customer is a completely different game.  In fact, I am sure that I am not alone when I admit that I’ve purchased the least expensive item on the menu just to gain admission to a business’s glorious washroom.  Such unnecessary beverage purchases are usually counterproductive as they set up another restroom visit in the not so distant future.  In a strange way, these could also be considered pay toilets.

Perhaps the app-obsessed crowd has the answer to avoiding businesses that charge to use their washroom?  Sit or Squat is an application that allows you to search for, add and rate public toilets in any city.  If enough people approve of the conditions and amenities of a given facility, it is given a “sit” rating, and if a toilet is not up to snuff, it is given the cheek-repelling “squat” rating.  But of course, one of the biggest limitations of this app is the number of people feeding it information, as less than 20 free(ish) pit stops appear in the geographic area of Kingston.  Cloo is a similar app that helps you find a bathroom, while it also displays private residences who are willing to loan you theirs – for a price.

As a part of the renovations to Market Square, the lower level of Kingston City Hall received some incredible upgrades by way of seasonal lockers, water bottle filling station and new bathroom facilities.  Regarding the latter, I have often found myself in the bathroom at City Hall after a long run.  These facilities are clean, safe, modern and free for anyone to use during normal business hours.  Sure the taxpayers are funding it, and others around Kingston, but it’s an inviting amenity to offer visitors to our city.

Do you think Kingston should consider deploying pay toilets, or are you content to have a small portion of your taxes fund public restrooms?  Do you use apps to help find the best public toilet when you’re on the go, and where is the best public washroom in the Limestone City?

Thanks to four12 for today’s photo.

Harvey Kirkpatrick

Harvey Kirkpatrick is Kingstonist's Co-Founder. His features curiously explore urban planning, what if scenarios, the local food scene and notable Kingstonians. Loves playing tourist and listening to rap music. Learn more about Harvey...

9 thoughts on “What if Kingston…

  • I have a mixed opinion about paying for public washrooms. If they stay as dirty as always, then no, I'm not interested in forking over my spare change. However, I lived in Europe for several years and happily paid for public washrooms, as most of them were staffed by an attendant who kept the facilities squeaky clean. It's a lot easier for guys to avoid getting up close and personal to any filth in a public washroom but girls don't quite have the same options. I'll pay a premium if they're guaranteed to be kept clean. I've also used the self-cleaning toilets in German gas stations and they are amazing. You get a voucher for the 50 euro cents you pay that you can then use towards purchases in the store. Win-win situation.

  • When my dad was visiting town, he said the city hall public bathrooms were the cleanest he'd ever seen. So, good for that, I guess.

  • Free public washrooms???? right up there with Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness … to say nothing of Peace, Order and Good Government. In my opinion one of the best uses of the taxpayer's dollar is the maintenance of free clean public washrooms. Paying to use public washrooms is just not an option..

  • Wow!!!!! small world… thought i recognized the washroom in that pic … I was just there about two weeks ago. Turns out it is at the Pike St. Market in Seattle and not nearly as busy as the one across the street in the main market building… and it's free….

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