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Editorial: Don't call it an outhouse / Pittsburgh welcomes a modern convenience

Sunday, February 16, 2003

Maybe the height of parochialism is to make a big deal out of a toilet, even a $250,000 one that cleans and disinfects itself. But we would be remiss in our duties if we didn't make note of a green and black structure that appeared recently in the corner parking lot at East Carson and 18th streets on the South Side.

Thanks to Clear Channel Adshel, Pittsburgh joins a handful of cities around the world that can boast of a cutting-edge, heated, wheelchair-accessible automatic public toilet.

The so-called APT even has the blessing of the city's Historic Review Commission because it complements that neighborhood's distinctive architectural spirit.

Centered in the geographic heart of the bustling South Side, the APT is uniquely equipped to deal with what is an increasing problem in spring and summer. Because of the heavy traffic of bar-hoppers trolling the South Side late into the night, public urination is up, while neighborhood tolerance for it is down.

For a quarter, revelers who would otherwise be tempted to make use of a darkened doorway or alley can take the pressure off their kidneys in a warm, clean, well-lit space. But with a maximum 20 minutes per quarter before the doors open, time is too short for naps or a cover-to-cover perusal of the Post-Gazette.

The best thing about the APT is that it doesn't cost our cash-strapped city a dime. In fact, Adshel is responsible for erecting 164 of a proposed 350 bus shelters all over the city along with new bike racks, benches, kiosks and litter bins.

A second APT is on its way, with its placement to be determined. The city's cut for allowing Adshel to sell advertising space on its shelters will be $2 million a year for the duration of the company's 10-year contract. To call this deal a win-win situation for Pittsburgh is the understatement of the year. It is -- dare we say it? -- a royal flush.

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