Cambridge considers public restroom on its common

The Crimson reports Cambridge officials are considering building permanent restrooms as part of an overhaul of Cambridge Common.

Councilor Minka Y. vanBeuzekom emphasized the need for a public restroom to ensure that the homeless population - as well as children, sports teams, and other visitors to the Common - are not forced to use private restrooms in Harvard Square.

And then, in 50 years, they could turn it into a sandwich stand.



Free tagging: 


    Unless Cambridge hires

    Unless Cambridge hires attendants to keep the place staffed and cleaned while in operation this will never work.

    Cambridge might be better off getting the Wall-Decaux corporation to install some of those self cleaning pay toilets. The city could pay for rotating art installations on what are normally the advertising panels on the pay toilets in order to avoid commercially spamming the common.


    Nearly every other city in the US seems to be able to manage public restrooms without babysitting them. I also noticed that nearly every small village in France had at least one clearly marked public restroom, and I only saw an attendent in the one near the Eiffel Tower, which was very very busy.

    And, nearly every time somewhere in MA tries to put in public restrooms, we get comments like the one above.

    Why? How is it that most of the developed world can manage public restrooms, but people in the Boston area are somehow incapable of behaving themselves? I mean, yes, they do have to be regularly cleaned and restocked ... but constantly supervised? Really?

    Treatment of Public Property

    I can't explain the nice publicly-owned U.S. restrooms that you say you've seen (and I must admit, I can't recall seeing any in any other major cities, but that's not surprising considering that I wasn't looking for them), but I think I can explain the European ones - at least a little.

    The body politic of western European countries does not have the same level of disrespect for public property that is rife in the U.S. Over the years, I've seen only one or two people in Europe attempting to deface public property. Each was met with a veritable chorus of forceful objections raised by the other people around. Apparently, shaming still works there to some degree (interestingly, the perps (about 16 years old or so) really seemed to respond to the oldest (70+) among the objectors, who were also the loudest).

    Here, well, I scolded a kid for tagging a street sign a few years back. Two days later, my car was keyed to the tune of $1,300 of damage for my trouble.

    What gives rise to the difference is an entirely different conversation (probably rooted in our differing feelings toward government), but I think that it's pretty clear that public facilities in Europe are treated much better by the populace (not to mention maintained in much better condition).

    Every public toilet I've ever

    Every public toilet I've ever used in Europe had an attendant routinely cleaning the place. I cannot think of any public toilets in a major city in the US which aren't routinely staffed.

    Boston had many public toilets up until the 1970s. They were staffed, then the city at some point laid off the attendants, and within a very short period of time the facilities became such cesspools of misuse that they had to be padlocked.

    Cleaning, yes

    Babysitting? No.

    Only the most busy ones in central cities like Paris and Barcelona seem to be constantly attended - and the traffic warrants that. There were no attendants at Versailles, or some of the Chateau that we visited ... at least not always there attendants.

    In US and Canadian cities I've seen the same pattern.

    I'm just wondering how Boston is so different than Montreal, NYC, or Toronto that we can't be expected to use a restroom without supervision ... or is that just the excuse for limiting restroom access?

    And, yes I hear about laying off of staff ... but those restrooms were not cleaned after the layoffs, either.


    I don't know of

    any free public restrooms in NYC.

    In general, a free public restroom that's not semi-attended with a designated "person" in charge (be it private or public) will turn into one of three things:
    1) A hotel room
    2) A drug den
    3) A brothel

    And all three things will result in it being completely trashed and useless to anyone who's even slightly discerning. They'll feel unsafe, and go elsewhere.

    Plenty of them

    I'm sorry that you haven't been able to visit NYC recently, but they are around and far more plentiful than in Boston. I have found and used them at parks and playgrounds all over the NYC area.

    Here's a link, should you ever decide to visit:

    I'd like to see some evidence of your three claims ... mainly because those "everybody knows" statements, without support, are the reason that Boston has so very few public accomodations.

    In Stores!

    A huge number of those public restrooms are in stores! Which means there's through traffic, mandatory staff cleanings X times a day, and a manager/security guard with the right to say, "Excuse me sir, this restroom is for customers use only, not for passing out after drinking Listerine."

    If anyone's using those restrooms, it's tourists and the homeless.

    "Public," not Public

    You did look at the website to which you link, right? Most of those pins are restaurants or other privately owned "public" spaces, not facilities maintained by the City of New York.

    Look, most people will defer to you on Europe, but doing a quick search for info on public toilets in New York, Toronto, and Montreal, I found articles with locals griping, like we do in Boston, about the lack of truly public places to go when you have to go.

    I'm going to take it a bit further. I'm going to say that there are many, many places to take care of business in Boston. Why dare I say that? Because I know where to go, not because we have those kiosks all over the place.

    Huge part of the problem

    For starters, NYC does have public accomodations that are NOT in stores - read the map icons for more info. Depending on the time of day, there are usually facilities open at most parks and playgrounds - as a cyclist who brings a bike and doesn't stay in the touristy areas, I can vouch for that as I have used them.

    That said your statement about "well I know where they are" highlights a HUGE part of the problem: secrecy. Wander around many cities and you will find these things called SIGNS that POINT you to open accomodations. Amazing concept, eh? Finding a PUBLIC rest room shouldn't be harder than finding waldo and shouldn't require inside knowledge.

    Also, the griping? Boston's is much more justified, believe me. Travel much and you will see the differences, even where people gripe.

    Take a look at what happened in Seattle...

    ...where they had public rest rooms in common areas and they turned into areas for drug dealings, vicious assults, and general lack of human cleanliness. This is why, in Portland, you get kicked out of the commode after a time limit is up. Give em something free, and they will destroy it out of boredom.

    I don't understand this

    I don't understand this facilities upkeep argument. Does Cambridge not have people attending to the park, which is a public facility? Can they not pay public works employees a little more to stock some TP and wipe out the can? It seems logical, because all other public area have restrooms, no? Public buildings, public offices, public transportation (although that is debatable, some stations do and some don't), courthouses, etc...

    Add in the time to drive there

    Add in the time to drive to Cambridge Common from Public Works HQ (and back), and you're talking about an hour for each cleaning. So if you want the cleaning done once an hour, you might as well hire someone to be at the Common all the time. And of course you'd want to add staff on weekends too, since that's when the use would be especially heavy.

    There is no city employee presently assigned to be at the Common on a regular basis. They send a crew over with a lawn mower once a week or so.