GovBytes: Speaking of Critical Open Data… The Great British Public Toilet Map

Speaking of critical data that should be available to the public, how many times have you been out and about and suddenly found yourself in need of a public restroom? To their citizens’ relief, in England, Australia, and several other countries around the world there’s an app to help you find one.

From Australia’s Department of Health and Aging to the coordinated effort of several London Councils, government agencies have been releasing data on public toilet locations. Australia’s application is comprehensive, with features to browse maps for toilets around the country, finding toilets in your area, using their trip planner to identify toilets along the way, or logging in to save your toilets. In London, clicking on a toilet location on the map provides details including the exact address, hours of operation, and wheelchair accessibility.

The applications were started as an initiative to increase the mobility of senior citizens. Researchers theorized that many seniors do not go out as often due to fears of the accessibility of public facilities at regular intervals. Providing this information would then allow individuals to plan their trips accordingly.

If you live in the United States, however, don’t expect to find a public toilet quite so easily. While there are a few applications for public restrooms, most use crowdsourcing to locate facilities open to the public. One application, Have2P, does have a feature for ranking the cleanliness of the location though.

While the data.gov cities page has added data sets from New York, Seattle, Chicago, and San Francisco, at this point, only Seattle has included any information about their public facilities. Their short list does not include public restrooms in public parks.

With the continued push for open data, local governments in the United States might want to consider releasing this data to the public. For people everywhere, when you’ve gotta go, it might be useful to know where the nearest toilet is located.

For more information, check out: http://www.govtech.com/e-government/Public-Toilets-and-Open-Data-A-Love-Story.html

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Emma Tomkinson

The National Public Toilet Map is the most popular Government app in Australia! This is information that is so much more useful on an app than a website and it shows that the market for apps does extend to our senior citizens.

Gary M. Morin

What would make such applications even better, if not already included, is an indication that such facilities are wheelchair accessible or otherwise disability-friendly/accommodating. This is a seriously or critically overlooked area in so many databases or resources – jobs, employment, housing, dining, entertainment, tourism, etc.