New York City has a complicated history with pay-toilets.
It was one of the first cities to ban them in the 70s following a successful campaign by the Committee to End Pay Toilets in America. But the city lifted the ban earlier this decade. Shortly there after, public-private partnerships started installing a few fancy automated, self-cleaning pay toilets in placed like Harold Square.
Backers initially had high hopes for the French-manufactured toilets which cost about a half-million dollars each. In 2006, the first year it was in operation, the Harold Square toilet attracted more than 28,000 customers who each paid 25 cents to relieve themselves. But by 2007, usage had plummeted 50 percent, according to a report in the New York Times.
After focus groups and studies, the 34th Street Partnership concluded that people were creeped out by the automated, self-cleaning toilets.
That might be part of it, but I suspect the real reason is that Americans just don’t like paying a toll to use the toilet.