Assessing the comfort and quality of the experience that shoppers, tourists and other visitors enjoy at the Les Halles Forum and it’s surrounding streets, could hinge on a very simple element: the accessibility and quality of the restrooms that people may use. In the goal of proposing informed recommendations to the bathroom system in this important central area of Paris, we decided to qualitatively and quantitatively study 6 different bathroom locations in the Les Halles area:
- Public street bathrooms
- Portable Toilet next to Saint-Eustache Church
- 2 Cafés/Bars/brasseries next to Saint-Eustache Church
- One mall bathroom
- One McDonald’s Bathroom inside the mall
Our method for evaluating and analyzing the bathrooms in Les Halles has 2 parts, quantitative and qualitative. The quantitative part helps us understand the efficiency and effectiveness of each location as a restroom. However, understanding each location purely as a washroom would construct an inaccurate understanding of the overall situation. Some locations are privately owned, some are publicly owned, and the people also have qualitative opinions about the restrooms in the area which is all valuable information. To cover these immeasurable aspects, the qualitative half of the analysis is proposed.
Variables from observation:
- Number of users in a 30 minute time period
- Price to use
Variables from survey:
- Level of cleanliness (on a 1-5 scale)
- Gender (male/female/other)
- Age (years)
- Profession and employment situation (employed/unemployed)
- Price people feel is fair for the washroom they were in (from 0 to 1 euro)
- Whether they perceive the location as public or private (private/public)
We can use linear regression analysis to tell us statistically which inputs affect the output the most. We can also run correlations to see how/if certain variables are related.
Qualitative data was taken from the survey and included:
- Whether they feel there were sufficient bathrooms in the area (yes/no)
- Whether they feel the use of public restrooms is a right or a service (right/service)
Interestingly, even though the mall washroom is more open to the public than the cafe restrooms, data from the survey indicates people perceive the mall washrooms as the most ‘private’. This is probably because many felt the addition of a mandatory high price made the toilet somewhat inaccessible, despite its very public location.
Table of Correlations
Interesting correlations here are the 0.5223 correlation between number of users and cleanliness as well as the 0.3169 correlation between price and cleanliness. This is in line with expectations because in general, cleanliness is highly correlated with number of users, and one would pay more for a cleaner bathroom. There was also a 0.228 correlation between price and number of users. This could be because people were willing to pay for nicer facilities which is important to note.
Linear Regression Analysis
*PriceWouldPay omitted due to collinearity
The regression showed us that cleanliness was very important to increasing the number of users. With everything else constant, cleanliness moving one point higher on our 5 point scale would on average yield 3.82 more users per 30 minutes.
Other Notable Data
Graphing level of cleanliness (1=very dirty, 5=very clean) by toilet type, the general trend is that the more private the bathroom is, the cleaner it is because private bathrooms are better maintained.
Despite being the only toilet that charged an entrance fee, the mall bathroom saw the greatest number of users, suggesting that people are willing to pay for cleanliness.
- Our results show that cleanliness is extremely important to people, showing a 0.5223 positive correlation with number of users and a 3.82 regression coefficient.
- Cleanliness is important enough a factor to people that they are generally willing to pay, evident by the 0.228 correlation between price and number of users.
- The attendance at the temporary and permanent public restrooms was very low despite a very high population density, probably because sanitation levels were very low.
- Most people believe accessibility to public toilets is a right, and most people said there was not enough access to toilettes in Les Halles.
- Accessibility plays a factor in determining volume of users. Despite being free and the cleanest of all toilets studied, cafe/restaurant bathrooms outside of the mall were less frequented because they were not as robustly advertised as the other bathrooms
Ultimately, people in Les Halles believe there should be more access to toilettes and that access to toilettes are a right. However, simply requesting the government add more toilettes is not a great solution because our data shows that people were unsatisfied with the low sanitation of the public toilets and vastly preferred mall toilettes or toilettes in stores, even willing to pay for cleaner facilities. Ultimately we recommend two solutions:
- Create a system where stores/cafes could place a signature sign on the outside which indicates a free restroom inside, increasing access to toilettes. The government could pay stores/cafes for having the sign outside, increasing their revenue directly and driving more customers into their stores/cafes. Considering many preferred these restrooms, overall satisfaction would also rise.
- Privilege hygiene over technology when investing in public bathrooms: forget electric doors, automatic soap dispensers and speakers giving instructions. The technology should instead focus on keeping the sanitation level higher.
Janaina Lucero Andrade, Willa Li, Daniel Loeb, Duncan Stothers