All dressed up and nowhere to go: America’s public bathroom crisis

With plentiful provision of restaurants and food stores, urban America has closed down operations for the other end of the digestive system (surely an urbanistic contradiction!). Only on the outlying interstates are there reliable, clearly demarcated and reasonably clean public toilets (and free, too).

Some cities struggle for reform. Valiant Portland, Ore., now has several dozen stand-alone sanitation cubicles. San Francisco has about 25. But compared to other places around the world, our whole country is a disgrace; cities such as Tokyo, Singapore and some in rising China have public bathrooms at everyone’s convenience, and they are clean, even sparkling. American city officials, responding to demands for remediation, so often declare in helpless intonation that “it would take hundreds of millions” to do it right. But far more was involved in laying utility lines, trucking routes and industrial infrastructures. What’s wrong with recognizing bodies?

Meanwhile, it falls to Americans to buy something, or depend on the kindness of businesses whose personnel and policies may not even acknowledge there to be a toilet on the premises.