July 11, 2023
The new public restrooms being installed in Philadelphia will be called "Philly Phlush" stations, thanks to a poll that invited people to vote on the best name for them. Two of the stand-alone restrooms are now open, and four more are planned in the months ahead.
Philly is one of more than 20 cities to install the prefabricated restrooms from Portland Loo, the Oregon-based company that created the stations in response to a lack of urban lavatories.
The first of Philly's new restrooms debuted last month at Fotterall Square in North Philadelphia. The second opened Tuesday at 15th and Arch streets, across from LOVE Park in Center City. A third Philly Phlush is planned at Clark Park in West Philly. Three other sites still need to be selected.
"The site criteria checklist includes safety measures like good lighting and whether the location is on a police department route," Managing Director Tumar Alexander said. "We also worked with PPD to conduct a safety analysis for the proposed sites. During the community engagement process for each site, we also solicit feedback about what factors would make residents feel safe using the public restroom."
The ADA-accessible restrooms are big enough to fit a bicycle, a stroller, or two adults and a child inside. They offer privacy, but also have open spaces above and below the toilet area to keep them ventilated. The hand washing station is attached outside the restroom area to keep people moving, and the stainless steel walls are fitted with graffiti-proof panels.
Each of the restrooms comes equipped with a baby changing table, menstrual products, a container to dispose of needles and syringes, and the overdose prevention drug Narcan.
The Fotterall Square restroom is open on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. and on weekends from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. The Center City restroom is open on weekdays 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and on weekends from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
The city's pilot project for the six bathrooms has an annual budget of $656,864. It includes three full-time staff members to clean and maintain the restrooms.
With fewer businesses offering public access to restrooms, the city surveyed residents last year to gauge interest in a new type of restroom to replace existing porta potties in Center City. Among 480 people who responded, 93% said they have needed a public restroom in Center City at some point, but only 47% said they had used a porta potty. The overwhelming majority – 89% – thought something like Philly Phlush would be a positive amenity.
The city hopes the restrooms will be helpful and inviting to families, tourists and underserved groups that don't have access to clean facilities.
As for the poll to name the restrooms, Philly Phlush beat out Philly Loo and Philly Public Restrooms in a vote that gained 8,366 responses across Twitter, LinkedIn and another online survey. Some of the more creative suggestions, like "Philly Jawn" and "Wee the People," didn't make the final poll.
"We were not surprised by Philadelphians' boos and their own ideas for the name," Alexander said. "Our city's creativity and humor are like no other city."