Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Toilet tribulations: Couples using the toilets for ‘quickies’

No entry: The toilet in front of the highly populated Pudu Sentral station is closed for maintenance work.
Out of action: The automated toilet in front of Lot 10 Bukit Bintang has been closed for months.

Fixing the problem: A contractor seen repairing the automatic toilet in Chulan Square KL.
Source: http://thestar.com.my/metro/story.asp?file=/2012/3/6/central/10822162&sec=central & http://thestar.com.my/metro/story.asp?file=/2012/3/6/central/10793704&sec=central (Stories by BAVANI M & photos by P. NATHAN, 6/3/2012)
Twenty high-tech toilets bought by DBKL are in constant need of repair due to vandalism and bad management. StarMetro reports. The state-of-the art toilets, also known as the Automatic Street Toilets (AST), which made their first appearance along Bintang Walk, Kuala Lumpur in 2006 are continuously breaking down due to vandalism and bad management. The first of the high-tech toilets, launched by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, when he was the Deputy Prime Minister, are reported to be out of order. According to stakeholders living and working in the Bukit Bintang district, the toilets in front of the McDonald’s and Lot 10 have not been functioning or are constantly under maintenance. The same situation has been reported regarding the public toilets in Pudu Sentral, Chulan Square behind Pavilion and Hang Tuah Monorail station. Currently there are 20 ASTs located at strategic points in the city.
Each toilet cost RM400,000.
A check by StarMetro during a two-week period showed that at least half of the toilets were not working or were under maintenance.
A reader had called to complain that the toilets at the heart of Bukit Bintang had been closed for a long time. Tourist Maria Huer complained that once she wanted to use the toilet in front of McDonald’s but found to her dismay that it was closed. “I asked an officer at the police beat next to it how could I get in, the policeman answered ‘not working’,” the American tourist said. The policemen suggested that she use the one opposite the Lot 10 shopping centre. “So I crossed over and guess what? That toilet was closed too,’’ said the disgruntled tourist. According to Huer, the toilets were still down two days later when she visited the place again. “What is the point of having it when they serve no purpose,’’ she added.
Menaka Gosh, a tourist from India, queried why the toilet in front of Lot 10 was closed just because of construction at the site. “The construction is not obstructing anyone, so why close?” she asked.
“Why build when you cannot maintain,’’ asked Maya Ahmad, a clerk who works at Berjaya Times Square. “City Hall is spending taxpayers’ money to build the toilets and they should take care of the facility,’’ she said.
Bukit Bintang-KLCC Tourism Association (BBKLCC) chairman Joyce Yap said facilities like public toilets should be placed in the correct location to ensure that it was used by the right people. “If it is not in the right spot then perhaps City Hall should review its location,’’ she said. “We were not consulted about that (location), maybe the committee will take a look and see if it is relevant,’’ she said, adding that BBKLCC was commited in ensuring that the business district was elevated to be on par with a world-class city standard.
“There must be periodic maintenance of public properties like these toilets,’’ said Sungei Wang Plaza Merchants Association chairman Yee Man. “We are good at building grand projects and launching them. But the maintenance culture must be instilled as well,’’ he said.
There had also been complaints that the ASTs did not accept the new Malaysian coins.
Segambut MP Lim Lip Eng said that Bank Negara had given the vending industry ample time to adjust to the new coins series. “However, if the new coins fail to work in vending machines, then millions of people using DBKL’s parking meters, train ticket vending machines and the automated public toilets will be inconvenienced. “It means replacing every vending machine. This is going to cost the vending industry and the local authorities a considerable amount, and who will ultimately pay for this? It will have to be the taxpayers.
Meanwhile, a spokesman from the DBKL’s building maintenance unit said the department was aware of the problem (AST toilets breaking down) and the situation was constantly monitored. “The toilets are very sensitive, especially the door — if you force it, it will jam up,’’ he said. “We have put up signage informing people how to use the toilets so they should be able to read and follow the instructions easily,’’ he said. When asked if the 20sen fee to use the toilets was too cheap and that was the reason why the public took the toilets for granted, the spokesman said: “I can only say that a large number of people who use the ASTs are foreign workers and labourers,’’ added the spokeman.
As for the new coins, the spokesman said City Hall was looking into modifying the system so that the new coins would be accepted. “For the time being, our janitors will assist them by providing them the change.’’
The automatic street toilets (ASTs) located in the city centre are being used by couples for sexual act, said a City Hall contractor. According to the contractor who spoke to StarMetro on condition of anonymity, the size and privacy (of the toilets) are ideal for couples looking for a “quickie”. “They come here in the late evenings when there are not many people around,’’ said the contractor who works as a janitor at one of the ASTs in the city.
The ASTs are air conditioned and quite spacious. Each unit measures 2.25m x 6.2m and is 2.6m high and weighs 3.5 tonnes. “It costs only 20sen to use and you have the entire toilet to yourself for 15 minutes,’’ she said. “Once the 14th minute is up, a recorded verbal warning will alert the couples. It is like the cheapest ‘hotel’,” she said.
There are 20 ASTs in Kuala Lumpur and the ones popular with couples are near Cahaya Suria in Pudu, Bangkok Bank, Medan Pasar, Chow Kit and Pasarama Kota.
A spokesman for Tetuan Goh Ban Huat (GBH), the company that provides the toilets to DBKL, said all its units were handed to City Hall with a warranty period. According to the contract, City Hall has ordered 20 of the ASTs for Kuala Lumpur and GBH has delivered all 20, but seven units are still under its warranty period which ends in 2013. “We have been repairing the units constantly and consistently as per our warranty agreement. However, we are not responsible for maintenance,’’ said the spokesman. He added that as of February this year, the company had received five reports of breakdown for toilets under warranty. According to the spokesman, vandalism was the main reason the toilets broke down frequently. “It is like operating a lift and like all gadgets with buttons, it will break down if you abuse it,” he said.
The toilets are programmed to operate between 7am and 7pm. After 7pm it shuts down. But there had been cases of drug addicts and vagrants trying to force the door open to get in after that, and this caused the motor to burn and spoil the door. “We once had to repair the roof of the AST toilet near the Hang Tuah Monorail station three times in one week,’’ he said.
Other problems include people stealing the coin slots, steel bars and screws which are said to be worth quite a bit. Leaking pipes and tanks had also been reported. A DBKL source attributed the vandalism to the toilet fee being too cheap. He said the fee was initially supposed to be RM1, but City Hall had reduced the rate to 20sen to enable more people to use it.
The toilets come with automatic sensors that trigger water, soap and the hand-dryer upon touch. The sensors also activate the flushing system after each use and the toilet seats are cleaned automatically as well. It is disabled and baby-friendly.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The one opposite TMC in Lucky Garden also not working.