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Ann Arbor installing free, portable public restrooms this week

Ann Arbor installing free, portable public restrooms this week
Ann Arbor installing free, portable public restrooms this week 02:28

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (CBS DETROIT) - The city of Ann Arbor is launching a pilot program to bring portable restrooms to the downtown area and select city parks. 

Eight units developed by DC area-based Throne Labs will be installed this week. 

The units will be free to use and will have long hours of operation for anyone who needs to use the restroom. 

"Throne is a company on a mission to massively expand access to restrooms," said Throne Labs co-founder and COO Jess Heinzelman. "In the US, there's only one restroom for every 12,500 people." 

After getting feedback from community members and visitors, city officials said it was clear there were barriers to public restrooms in Ann Arbor. 

"A lot of the downtown businesses say you have to be a patron in order to use their facilities, so a lot of people sort of making up their own locations, which is not what we want them to do," said city administrator Milton Dohoney Jr. 

Dohoney said the city has identified eight key areas to place the units. 

"We're putting one near our homeless shelter; we're putting them in key spots in the downtown area; we're putting them in a couple of our city parks," he said. "And we chose those strategically because those are locations that have a lot of foot traffic." 

The Thrones can be accessed via a mobile app or by scanning a QR code on the side of the units. 

Those without phones can pick up access cards at Larcom City Hall or at the Delonis Center. 

So, how do they stay clean? 

"We have 21 sensors on board, and we also collect real-time cleanliness ratings from users, and we take that and basically use that historical data to optimize cleaning schedules while also being able to respond in real-time to any issues that arise," said Heinzelman. "So, we're able to keep this so clean that parents will be excited to take their toddler in even though they know they're going to touch everything." 

Each unit will feature a baby changing station and complimentary menstrual products, in compliance with city ordinance. 

"Ann Arbor is leading the nation in per capita bathrooms as they get these Thrones down," said Heinzelman. 

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