The World’s Most High-Tech Urinal

In an effort to handle its nighttime public urination problem, Victoria, the capital of British Columbia, is considering installing urinals that disappear below street level during the day. Unlike the automated, self-cleaning toilets planned for Toronto and Vancouver, which are enclosed booths with doors that that automatically open after a set time period, the Urilift system is a two-meter high stainless steel cylinder with three alcoves, each with a urinal, and no doors.

By day, the Urilift is lowered below street level for a nice clean look. Then at night, an operator comes by with a remote and the Urilift hydraulically lifts to sidewalk level in about two minutes. Then the unit is ready to serve all the nighttime party animals who don’t mind peeing in a very exposed public urinal.

urilift-4bdef.jpgurilift-3bdef.jpg
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Because there are no doors, there is little danger of any unauthorized or illegal activities. San Francisco and Seattle’s auto-toilets have been derided as dens for drug dealers and prostitutes. In addition, the presence of an attendant nearby to lower the system in the morning means it’s unlikely a drunken reveler who slumps over the Urilift will wake up under the street.

The urinals are designed exclusively for men, and more specifically, for male drinkers. The $75,000 system has been installed across the Netherlands, and have spread to London and Belfast, but Victoria will be the first North American city to try them out.

Since it’s my tax dollars paying for this system, I contacted Urilift to find out more about it. They sent me the above photos and this video. Enjoy.


166 thoughts on “The World’s Most High-Tech Urinal”

  1. Matt says:

    I’m astonished.

  2. Haha. When I read this I assumed that it was in Europe or something, but Victoria took me right off guard. I live in Victoria! Can’t wait to see one of these babies.

  3. Nomar says:

    why europe?? europe rules.. intersting article john.. never stood still by this piece of history

  4. Mayo

    says:

    This reminds me of a movie – i don’t know if it was Superman, Robocop, Batman or something else…
    The guy had a underground shelter(pallace) and exited and enterd via cylindrical elevator, something just like this pissoar, only that it was a elevator and not a pissoar ;)

  5. Carl says:

    Definitely something you’d expect in forward-thinking Europe, not Canada (interesting how “Nomar” got so defensive when someone said the same thing…).

    I have pissed in public on many occasions while partying, so this is a great idea I think!

  6. Me

    says:

    I want to go underground when I pee. :(

  7. Eli

    says:

    Did anybody notice the device exhibit “the post urination shiver” in the shot of the urinal rising (02:18)? Funny.

  8. Michael says:

    That promo video is a little strange, but… strangely effective. These hydraulic pee-collectors are certainly more attractive than those ugly Porto-potties, but oh my, look at the price! That’s almost enough to buy a PS3.

  9. Robert says:

    Sure, nobody is going to go underground in it, but what about the bum that falls asleep on top of it. Imagine his delight when he wakes up at 2:00 am to the sound of the falls. I think this is a pretty good idea, Paris could use a few, and I think Ozzy would agree so could the Alamo.

  10. nevermind says:

    what about women – how are they supposed to use it?

    what is that awesome music at 3:10??? on my screen the banana’s dancing above are in sync with the beats :-)

  11. mike

    says:

    75k…. wow. i think it’s good for places where ppl r bold enuff 2 take a piss during the day. just one thing…. how about washing hands after piss? ewwwwww imagine shaking hands wit dat person :s

  12. jessie

    says:

    That is not real, totally photoshopped!

  13. Tawker says:

    Wait a second. You’re in Vancouver (so within 100km of me) and yet the urinals are to be installed in Victoria (a 30 min HeliJet ride way) – it’s municipal jurisdiction – unless you own property in both cities it’s unlikely you’d be paying for them.

    Oh well, hopefully they’ll work ok and not smell. It’s great to see another Vancouverite around.

  14. Few questions: how does the urinal know when to go down into the ground? If it’s not in use, it goes back underground, so by what parameter does it determine it to be the optimal time to “hide”? Secondly, what if the darn thing malfunctions as somebody goes on top of the cap while it’s underground and it suddenly starts elevating? I guess it’s ok if it moves slowly enough, but if there’s a vehicle above it and it screws up by elevating at that point in time, there will be some lawsuits flying.

  15. Gavin says:

    wow, that’s a great idea. But wouldn’t it be easier to make a solid building (like a landmark item or something scenic) that has a sliding door that opens once a day? That would drastically reduce the costs of the hydraulics.

  16. Notbert

    says:

    Robert: No one can get caught by surprise whilst sleeping on one when it is raised (or lowered) as a technician has to come by and use a remote control within a few feet of it to make it go up or down. They will make sure no one is on top of it or using it before it is raised or lowered.

  17. cameron

    says:

    i have seen and use similar urinals in amsterdam, that rise from the ground at night, how is this different

  18. John Chow says:

    They are the same as the units in Amsterdam. Just this is the first time this system is being install in North America.

  19. Mobile 360 says:

    I would personally like a tap to wash my hands in, but I prefer this than people freely urinating in the street.

  20. Lorenzo

    says:

    I’ve also used these urinals in Amsterdam. Comes in real handy if you really need to GO! The only problem is that the urinals are smelly and dirty. People throw their cigarette butts, gum etc. in the pots which cause them to overflow…

  21. Gdog says:

    Ahh…good to see my hometown is still up to no good. ;)

  22. Party Freak

    says:

    Really stupid idea. Why build toilets that are only useable for half the population half the time. Build normal toilets instead, and make sure that they are kept clean. Lack of public restrooms is a problem during both day and night.

  23. Pete

    says:

    So now we spend $75K on a pissing pot because some people can’t control themselves . Where does it end? Anyone else feeling angry?

  24. Nomar says:

    pretty cool urinal :D hope the will be in dutchland soon to !!

  25. Naomi

    says:

    You men are sick, SICK!

    haha!

  26. Reorx

    says:

    They should play the song from the starwars (the march of the imperials) when that thing rises from the ground.

  27. Ian says:

    I’ve just noticed your RSS readership has gone up to 1498 from around 950 in a couple of hours! Howdya do that?!

  28. Memo says:

    Very cool. We need these in Daytona.

  29. Oliver

    says:

    There has been one of these on North Road Durham UK for at least the past two years

  30. Aragnut

    says:

    For the attentive listener, these things are already installed in the netherlands (dutch cops, dutch numberplates, yes even dutch taxi’s). So it is NOT photoshopped (jessie). I think it’s a great idea, much better then the plastic 4 sided ones here in Eindhoven (NL) that indeed stand in the way during the day (as seen in the movie).

  31. smile says:

    smile you’re on slashdot

  32. AchilleTalon

    says:

    I guess there was some political pressures to make it happen specifically in Victoria. I was told NDP’s leader, Jack Layton, is a big fan of Victoria and a party animal as well. Seems he would like to avoid being shot by a camera in a compromising position. These urinals make sense for him.

  33. Lola says:

    I am seriously pissed that they don’t have a unisex model. I have NO PROBLEM with urinating in public, and I think the only reason guys are more likely to “urinate indiscriminately” is that they are better able to get away with it, rather than any inherent lack of modesty. If I could just whip it out without more elaborate disrobing and squatting I’d pee on a church, too!

    I wonder, if women just started peeing on the thing, if they would come up with a unisex model? It would just need a little trough we could straddle…

  34. Blake

    says:

    dude one of those were in amsterdam!!!! i thought i was seeing shit,for apparent reasons, when it was moving.

  35. Tomas

    says:

    Interesting concept, but I question the basic idea of NOT having them available during the day. Did anyone notice that the problem examples at the beginning of the video all appeared to be during the day?

    I also agree with the comments about no hand washing facilities and the question, of course, “what about the women?”

  36. BOJ

    says:

    Aquí no hay de eso!! Las mujeres no mean?

  37. Paul

    says:

    We have one of those in Reading, Berkshire, UK. It’s been there for a few years. Feels a bit odd using it (just outside the 3B’s – back of M&S) but since i’m not shy…..

  38. Ana

    says:

    where do we, girls, pee?

    1. Mark

      says:

      Looks like girls could simply stick their butts in it and pee. Shoudn’t be a problem.

  39. funkyamish

    says:

    You know who really needs these…. New Orleans and OSU this past weekend during the Michigan game.

  40. lode

    says:

    Anyone know what the music at 3:10 is? If you do, please drop me an email at lodestar dot signup at gmail

  41. Jeff says:

    I don’t think I could do it. I guess if I were use to peeing on the corners of buildings, it might be a different story.

  42. Peemaster

    says:

    I have a phobia of peeing while people are watching… I’d never be able to go. I’d have to find the nears dark corridore in the corner of a building or behind a bush somewhere.

  43. hegerty

    says:

    In the EU, it’s very common to have women share the mens room. They sell cheap “pee sticks” all over that allow women to pee standing up. America is so behind the times. While it takes a little bit of getting use to, having a woman pee in a urinal isn’t all that weird.

  44. simon

    says:

    Here’s another solution:

    You philistines learn how to behave in public and USE A TOILET.

    It works quite well for us down here in New Zealand.

  45. Walter Ego says:

    Ha! Did you ever see girls urinating in public before? Maybe in the woods when there is no other option. I’ve certainly never seen a girl walk into an ally, pull up her skirt, move the panties to the side and let go…

    These urinals are meant to stop people from public urinating at night and they work extremely well. In my city they’re used plenty.

    Funny to see everybody here thinking this was a hoax story or something.

  46. Ben Metcalfe says:

    Hmmm, these have been around in London, especially SoHo, for several years.

    In fact the ‘built up’ nature of SoHo and the fact it’s also the home to the gay scene* of London makes them quite intimidating to use.

    You’d have to be drunk to want to use on, I think… Oh yeah that’s point.

    * = this is not a homophobic comment, just a reflection that ‘toilets’ do have an (unfortunate ?) association with the gay scene and thus bringing the toilets to the street kerb in a gay area is an interesting discussion point.

  47. Sarah J

    says:

    Lol, I clicked a link off of ebaumsworld and expected something like a urinal with a computer, instead I see the urinals from my town. Go victoria!

  48. Rex says:

    You Canadians sure do like to Pee

  49. Guy looking for that song

    says:

    I’m in San Francisco and you guys are right, our street urinals suck. BUT I have a very important questionL What was that dance/techno song at about 3:10 in the video?

    ‘When I choose to go out! I always see the night life…etc.”

    I gotta find that song! somebody help me out.

  50. Vancouverite

    says:

    Well, they don’t pop up automatically. You have an attendant wander by with what looks like a wireless remote that commands them to go up or down… so anyone sleeping on it, or who has crap on it, will not find the unpleasant suprise of suddenly being about two meters aboveground.

    Second, the secondary main issue (and why they don’t just install more public bathrooms, at least here in BC) is a tendency for said to be used for drug deals and other unsavory activity, as they provide great private places to do business. These urinals have no such privacy.

  51. Jack Aski

    says:

    Install along all ocean coasts. People tend to piss in the sand closest to the inland sometimes. Then in the day people might place thier towel down in the dry/moist piss. Never place your towel next to any entrance ways or any walls. Basically when the view in blocked from at least one direction people piss there in the night. Intensely along the coasts. It sucks that you wouldn’t know that and go the beach.

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  53. Joseph Mitchelli

    says:

    What an absolutely BRILLIANT idea !!!

    Specially for those that are incontinent, or like me nd have kids that want to go toilet every 5 minutes of the day.

    I’d be interested to know the prices of them, as it has real merit.

    Perhaps the Australian government should look to installing some of these.

    Big bonus is being open, I doubt someone would get mugged/robbed using them.

    Such a simple idea, and a brilliant concept.

  54. Derrich says:

    You’ve got to be frikken kidding me…

  55. Bob

    says:

    Although they are urinals, what stops people from defecating in them?

  56. lacy

    says:

    The only problem is, you will get some jackasses who will take a dump in it

  57. Foo

    says:

    Why not just require all pubs and restraunts provide bathrooms, and pay a municiple contract to outfits willing to provide a simple restroom. I’m sure a number of pathetic shops can find room for a simple restroom if it is subsidized less than $75k.

  58. rich

    says:

    these are really common in England !!

    been about for about 10 years…

    nice to see were not behind the US in the important technologies

  59. taxes says:

    urban legend or photoshop?

    ;-)

  60. Paulstar

    says:

    Got one of those in The Hague next to the cinema. Really nice.

  61. derrick says:

    find a tree, go ahead try it, boys and girls

  62. Kreukels

    says:

    We’ve got one in Groningen too.
    Works like a charm!

  63. pj

    says:

    which church is the one in the very beginnig the first guy urinates? is that in amsterdam?

  64. Richard

    says:

    Heard while walking in the street:
    “Help! Someone, anyone! I’m trapped in this toilet!”

  65. Shabba

    says:

    This is a great idea but the video was a bit stupid. its specifically designed for night time use but all the CCTV example footage were taken during the day.

  66. Cory

    says:

    Hey Mayo…the movie your thinking of is Grimlins 2

  67. I predict you will NEVER see one of these in the US! This is still public indecency and I can’t believe municipalities anywhere would put up with it, much less support it. It is funny though.

  68. Sentinel

    says:

    A ver lo q duran sin q la peña los joda…

  69. Lee Majors

    says:

    “I swear officer, there was a pissoir here a moment ago.”

  70. Chris

    says:

    I suspect as the U.S. population ages you will see a demand for more public restrooms. However, something like this is too public for the average American.

  71. jeff

    says:

    Thoroughly idiotic!
    It would violate so many laws in the USA it’s not even remotely funny.
    It discriminates against women, it has no door, so the user would get hit with a possible public indecency charge! Surprise the guy & he turns around!
    A perfect time & place for an armed robbery or mugging!
    As for the claim by some commenter above that it require a technician to come by & raise it, so there can’t be any injuries, I can’t wait until someone clones the remote unit & controls it while someone is standing on it or their car is parked over it!
    Or while it’s in use, it gets lowered!
    It works in freezing weather, hah, let’s see it work in Minneapolis in January, it will be frozen solid!
    As for it being vandal proof, install one in New York City, it would last just a few hours!
    What a total waste [pun intended] of money!
    Just require bars to have many more toilets & urinals. And clean them!
    Or go to McDonald’s.

  72. dont know if “public indecency” really fits… whats really indecent is the mess that is left from ppl urinating where-ever they like!

  73. jtow

    says:

    I thought Europeans were supposed to be the prim and proper ones about appearance, dress and language. Now you’re all peeing in the streets where everyone can see… what a shame. Ever heard of something called civic services where toilets are provided to patrons at no cost? Perhaps if you had something like that provided by your government you wouldn’t be flopping out your dicks in public.

  74. zoom lense

    says:

    ne body have a zoom lense handy

  75. jeff

    says:

    Australia: Urinating in public is often charged as public indecency here.
    And make no mistake about it, anyone using it is doing it in public!
    You might as well have an open trough for this instead.

  76. Walter Ego says:

    I hear so many people talk about discrimination in regards to this. How can this ever be discrimation, it’s meant to stop urinating in public, it’s not meant to stop urinating in normal toilets.

    ‘This is godsent, maybe now people will finally stop peeing in my toilets’ said a local Victoria bar owner today in response to the news.

    Yep…

  77. ninestonecowboy

    says:

    personally i cant wait for people too get catapulted thru the air in broad daylight when someone hacks the signal frequency(and they will)and starts fuckin flipping people like human burgers on to the pavement…….now thats money well spent ;)…and the operator havin a boring night and playin a game of up/down follow the bog games…the possibilities are endless….

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  79. IAMsterdam says:

    The video was shot in a place called Apeldoorn in the Netherlands. Not sure about the place where the old church is. Could be Amsterdam though.

    jtow: your’e Merikan right?
    Have you ever been to Europe? Hmmm… I guess you don’t even have a passport like most of you lot.

  80. AlexC

    says:

    bah, they’ve had on of these in durham (uk) for a couple of years

  81. MJ says:

    I’ve seen the one in Belfast. It puts them out on the main street when previously they would stink up an alley which became known as “Pish Alley”

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/low/northern_ireland/4291635.stm

    It’s not something to be proud of. I think that the police should stand beside it and arrest these animals for indecent exposure.

  82. Mel says:

    To those asking about the song at 3:10 — learn to Google! Kripes.

    It took me about three seconds to find out it’s “Love Come Home” by DJ Jean. (Link to lyrics here — but be warned, pop-ups galore.)

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  84. Mario

    says:

    A little note for the girls. Imagin a Unisex Urinal. How many of you complain about men peeing on the seat. Would you really want to use it after a hundred drunken men (who can’t hit the target whe they are sobor) have went all over it. Did you notice in the film thay had drains in the floor for run off. Also these are only ment to be Urinals. Don’t try to tell me a few woman wouldn’t take a dump in one. Or transients for that mater.

  85. Anton says:

    Hi, i live in Taunton (Somerset, UK), we had one of these put in our centre of town about a month ago!

    They also have them everywhere in London!

  86. Shake Spear

    says:

    2 pee or not to pee??? who gives a shit!!!!!!!

  87. Me

    says:

    They have had these in the UK for years…

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  89. Siggi says:

    its much better like we do in iceland there we just wear dipers when whe go too party because of the cold its dangerous to take your friend out

  90. milo says:

    there are a couple things that I would be curious about. Where does it open up to when hidden? you could technically stand in one of the urinal spots and wait for it to go down. then would you be let out under the city? also why is it so ok for guys to urinate in public but not women? if this were for women people would be outraged!

  91. Michiel

    says:

    Hmmm.. we have these things for about 3 years now in Amersfoort, in the netherlands.. so whats new…

  92. Charles Fort

    says:

    “made of solid stainless steel”…..im surprised they arent being ripped off with chains and 4×4’s and melted down somewhere for the price of the steel.

  93. Kat

    says:

    I think this is a good idea, and I am not offended that it is only for men.. If we had them here in CA my boyfriend wouldn’t have watered someone’s bushes so many times!
    “jeff” is right though, many people here in the states don’t give a f*ck about our environment and would vandalize the heck out of these things instead of take advantage of the gift. And people here are just WAITING for some event to come up so they can sue someone for $$$; you know there’d be some ultra-feminist group raising hell about the public indecency thing….
    ….A lot of people here in the states are too ignorant to use something like this…

  94. elaina

    says:

    there is obviously not a problem for women to find a restroom to relieve themselves so why is it ok for men to piss all over every nook and cranny. Maybe I am just jealous. HELLO ya lazy pigs find a bathroom like the ladies do. Your urge to pee is no different then ours after a six-pack and then some. UNBELIEVABLE!!

  95. David Mackey says:

    Pretty fascinating.

  96. Almi says:

    Hmm… wonder if the “problem people” that urinate on church walls and such places will be the once that stand patiently waiting for this urinal to elevate? I have serious doubts. They will probably piss on top of it or something instead…. It is a cool urinal, but I don’t think it is very practical…

  97. Almi says:

    Ok…so it is not elevated by every individual. Just had a closer look at the article and the video… that makes it more practical.

    By the way; Is there any physiological reason why men need these things, and tax dollars should be spent on it? Maybe men should pay a bit more tax for not being able to urinate in the right places?? :P

    Makes me think of male dogs….

  98. Richard

    says:

    While it won’t take long for the local homeless to render these things almost uselesss,I still think it’s not a bad idea.Of course,if the local politicians want to do something to eliminate the night time pissers,they might want to start making laws to require that Bars and pubs have sanitation facilities for patrons.The building codes,in Texas,already require it.If you don’t have a restroom,you don’t get a permit for a business.You are required to have enough toilets to handle the amount of traffic you will have in your establishment.

  99. Emil

    says:

    It would be good to know what happens when the urinal is sinking and someone left in.

  100. Donald says:

    We could never have one of these in the U.S. Some idiot would get killed while it was moving down and a lawyer would sue for $200 million.

  101. aszited

    says:

    szar az ódal bammee

  102. Blinky114

    says:

    I think this is a great idea for busy urban areas. FYI for those of you not listening/reading/watching: Raised/lowered by human with remote control while said human watches progress. To those of you needing a sink: Do you often urinate on yourselves while using a urinal? To John Chow, re: 01 dec 2006 15:10 POST: Is this really “YOUR” story?
    BTW – nice blog, my first visit here. I look forward to reading more.

  103. agent420

    says:

    Most of hy female friends have urinated in public at one time or another, it seems that most Americans (I am one as well) just want to pretend that no one ever used the bathroom. That being said, I’d still just rather pee in an alley where it is more private.

  104. mahesh

    says:

    I am improving up on urilift for Indian market.

  105. Erik

    says:

    Full-scale riot as a result from urination?

  106. Barry M

    says:

    I just saw a news report from Victoria on the pissing in the street problem …

    It may be noted that I didn’t even pay $75,000 for my house … and it has 2 bathrooms !!!

    “Happy with a pot to piss in … nb.ca”

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