Public restrooms are important for all members of the community and help make public spaces accessible to all. Like many U.S. cities, Philadelphia doesn’t have enough public restrooms to meet the demand.
The need for public restrooms in Philadelphia has been addressed with portable restrooms in key areas. The goal of this public restroom pilot is to provide a permanent, well-maintained option that is more attractive to a broad group of people – including families, tourists, businesses, and underserved individuals.
The City’s five-year budget includes funding for six units, each in a different neighborhood. A community engagement process is planned to give residents the opportunity to weigh in on locations and share concerns. The City will update this page with information on the pilot’s progress and future opportunities to get involved.
The Philadelphia Department of Public Health’s Substance Use Prevention and Harm Reduction division has hired three, full-time staff to clean and maintain the public restrooms. The Public Restroom Specialists have cleaned the porta potties and will now transition to maintain the permanent models, as well as continuing to engage individuals who access the restrooms.
The Public Restroom Specialists will lock each unit at night and unlock them in the morning. The public restrooms will be cleaned when they are opened, closed, and multiple times throughout the day. If the public restrooms need to be cleaned, restocked, or repaired outside of the regular schedule, users can also submit a service request with an online form, by calling 311 Monday – Fridays from 8 am to 8 pm, or by leaving a voicemail at 215-218-2100 on evenings and weekends when 311 is not available.
Philadelphia’s Public Restrooms – the “Philly Phlush”
We selected the “Portland Loo” model as the stand-alone restroom for this pilot. The model has been installed in over 20 cities and is known for being durable, easy to clean, and having crime prevention design features like graffiti-proof wall panels. The unit is ADA compliant, and it can fit a bicycle, a stroller, or two adults and a child.
Each public restroom in Philadelphia’s pilot has the following features:
- Baby changing table
- External handwashing station and hand sanitizer
- Menstrual products
- Container to safely dispose of used sharps, such as needles, syringes, and other sharp drug or medical tools which are dangerous to people and pets
- Naloxone (sold under the brand name NARCAN®) is a nasal spray used to prevent an opioid overdose
- Signs on the unit with hours, how to submit a service request, and other important phone numbers to connect Philadelphians with services to ensure their health and wellbeing
Locations for the City’s Public Restroom Pilot
|Center City Public Restroom
|1401 John F Kennedy Blvd, Philadelphia, PA 19102
|The public restroom is located on the corner of 15th and Arch Streets on the side of the building closest to Love Park.
|Monday – Friday
8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Saturday – Sunday
8 a.m. – 11 p.m.
|North Philadelphia Public Restroom
2400 N. 11th St.
|The public restroom is located off West Cumberland Street near the mini pitch and basketball court.
|Monday – Friday
10 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Saturday – Sunday
10 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Center City Updates
Center City is the first neighborhood for the pilot. Starting January 2021, the City engaged civic and community leaders, unhoused Philadelphians, businesses, and the general public to gather feedback, concerns, and recommendations for location, operations, and maintenance of a public restroom in Center City.
We held pop up events in both Love Park and at the Municipal Services Building to get feedback and used art activities facilitated by Mural Arts to engage people in a conversation about public restrooms.
We also created a survey to learn how people feel about the current porta-potties and how we can provide a better experience with the permanent public restroom. Outreach to nearby civic groups, organizations, businesses, nearby people experiencing homelessness/ housing insecurity, five outdoor events, and circulation in a Philadelphia Inquirer Article led to 480 responses. We found that 89% of respondents envision a new permanent public restroom as a positive amenity. The results from the survey are summarized in a flyer.
The new permanent public restroom is located at the corner of 15th and Arch Streets, where the temporary porta potties have been located for more than a year. A community engagement process gave residents the opportunity to weigh in on locations and share any concerns.
The location at 15th and Arch Streets was analyzed to ensure it meets the technical constraints for installation including the size of the space available, ownership of the land, proximity to intersections and the curb, and connections to water, sewage, and electricity utilities. A separate site visit was done with disability rights advocates to ensure accessibility, in addition to meeting ADA requirements.
The public restroom was installed and opened in July 2023.
North Philadelphia Updates
Starting in Spring of 2021, community members provided input on the overall site improvements planned for Fotterall Square through the Rebuild program, including the addition of a public restroom. In the spring of 2023, this pilot partnered with Rebuild and Philadelphia Parks and Recreation to help operate the public restroom in Fotterall Square. We engaged with community members regarding the operations of the public restroom and continue to seek input on the hours of operations. Please fill out this survey to share your feedback.
With feedback from stakeholders, Rebuild and Philadelphia Parks and Recreation selected the location of the restroom facility which is close to the new activities being added to Fotterall Square. The public restroom will be located in Fotterall Square on the side closest to West Cumberland Street, near the mini pitch and basketball court. The public restroom was installed and launched in June 2023.
The public restroom was installed and opened in June 2023.
West Philadelphia Updates
In late 2022, we collaborated with The Friends of Clark Park who have been working with Philadelphia Parks and Recreation and the University City District to develop a “Master Plan” for Clark Park. In their survey of over 900 people, public restrooms were the #1 amenity in Clark Park that people wanted to see as an improvement. Through this partnership with the Master Plan and additional outreach, we have engaged civic and community leaders, unhoused Philadelphians, businesses, and the general public to gather feedback, concerns, and recommendations for operations and maintenance of the public restroom.
We are continuing to seek input on the hours of operations. Please fill out this survey to share your feedback.
As a part of the Master Plan, Studio Bryan Hanes shared 4 designs to seek community input on the location of amenities, including the public restroom. This process helped determine the location of the public restroom next to the basketball court and existing drinking fountain, near the corner of South 43rd Street and Regent Square.
The public restroom is expected to be installed in late 2023.
Frequently Asked Questions
How is the city determining which neighborhood will come next?
The pilot will expand to six locations in total throughout the city. Locations are decided primarily by the need for public restrooms and the need for harm reduction interventions, which looks at factors including substance use, homelessness hotspots, and racial equity. Once the neighborhood is determined, we will start an extensive community engagement process to select the exact site and inform the operations of the unit. There will be opportunities for engagement and resident feedback.
How will the City measure success for the public restroom pilot?
For all units in the pilot, the City will track our response time for service requests, estimated number of restroom users over time, as well as the frequency of repairs, cleanings, and restocking of supplies. Through the community engagement process, we are hoping to learn from community members what a successful public restroom pilot would mean to them. This feedback we receive throughout the community engagement process will inform how they City defines and tracks success over time.
What is the expected cost to purchase, install, and operate the public restroom pilot?
The public restroom pilot is included in the Mayor’s Five-Year plan with a budget of $656,864 annually. This is the cost to purchase and install six units over the course of five years. This budget also includes three full time staff that will service all the units in the pilot, supplies, equipment, and funding for repairs.
How is the final decision made for where the public restroom is installed in each neighborhood?
Our community engagement process involves neighborhood groups and stakeholders at critical decision points. However, there are technical constraints on where the Portland Loo can be installed including connections to water, sewage, electricity utilities, the size of the space available, land ownership, expected cost of installation, and regulations on the proximity to intersections and the curb. The City balances community feedback with these technical constraints.
How has the City considered safety in its initial planning efforts?
Safety features are included in the design of the public restroom model including angled louvers at the bottom and top of the unit which allows air flow, as well as for someone on the outside to have a conversation with someone on the inside of the unit. The louvers are angled in such a way that doesn’t compromise privacy, but it does allow some visibility so staff or police officers can observe the number of users inside for safety and security purposes. The City has also involved the Police Department in planning conversations including a safety analysis for proposed sites. The site criteria checklist includes considerations like good lighting and proximity to a Police Department route. During the community engagement process for each site, we also solicit feedback about what factors would make residents feel safe using the public restroom.
Why can’t the public restrooms be open 24/7?
At this time, we do not have the staffing resources to be open 24/7 in its initial pilot. We also recognize that this pilot of six units is not enough to meet the city-wide need for public restrooms. However, we hope that if this pilot is successful, we can make the case for expansion.
What happens if someone does not to leave the unit?
Because the maintenance staff will be closing and manually locking up the public restroom at night, there would be no opportunity for someone to sleep there throughout the night. The public restroom specialists have trainings in first-aid, overdose reversal, and de-escalation to react to different situations based on the details and severity of the situation. Staff can assess the situation including if there is a language barrier, attempt to de-escalate the situation through a trauma-informed lens, or call the 24-Hour Philadelphia Crisis Line at 988 to dispatch the Adult Mobile Crisis Team. In emergency situations where someone is unconscious, the public restroom staff will call 911. The staff are trained to determine if someone is overdosing and perform an overdose reversal. If staff are not present, there is a sign on the unit to encourage individuals to call 911 for medical emergencies, first responders will have access to a key for the unit, and there is Narcan inside the unit as well. Only when all other options have been exhausted and document would the staff call 911.
The City’s five-year budget funds six units in total, each installed in a different neighborhood outside Center City. There will be additional opportunities for engagement and input as the pilot expands in the future. You can check this page for updates or email email@example.com to stay connected.