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We ask a lot from a toilet 

To the editor,

Boiling down the entire "No place to go" article into a few requirements, it seems we want:

Male, female and unisex (family) facilities at each location; more stalls in male washrooms to accommodate "shy bladder" users; female facilities at least twice as numerous/large as male facilities; all stalls larger to accommodate barrier-free access, strollers and overweight users; clean; well-lit; not locked but safe; no attendants; free (taxpayer-funded); plentiful; attractive; 24-hour operation; easy street access; no stairs; changing tables provided; step-stools for children; hooks for coats, purses, and backpacks; interesting; "cool" (not just functional); extensive signage; immune to vandalism, graffiti, theft, littering and abuse.

Perhaps not so easy, we also want these more difficult targets: to accommodate those who want "to pray; to cry, to think and be quiet; to escape from the city of man," without causing lineups; available to the homeless, but not to drug users, sleepers or vagrants.

Can we have all of this and keep costs in line with Shanghai: $1.80 per person in the population (or roughly $650,000 for HRM) to provide one bathroom every 300 metres? Perhaps construction costs/wages are lower in Shanghai than in Halifax, even though toilets are more plentiful.

How about we shoot for something a little more down-to-earth, like one barrier-free unisex stall every five blocks in the downtown areas, and see if even that limited target is achievable?

By David G. Smith


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