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TRUTH: A visit to the city’s high-tech Automatic Street Toilets reveal why they are not more popular with the public and tourists
KUALA LUMPUR: ARE the Automatic Street Toilets (AST) under-utilised because they are too high-tech or because they are not working?
The Streets team checked out the ASTs in the city’s Golden Triangle, Jalan Raja Chulan, Jalan Tun Razak and Bangsar, following City Hall director-general Datuk Salleh Yusup’s recent statement that public usage of the conveniences at tourist spots had been low.
He had said that the Jalan Bukit Bintang AST was not fully utilised despite the high-pedestrian traffic in the area. To get more to use the facility, City Hall would be intensifying its publicity efforts, he said.
A visit to the Jalan Raja Chulan AST, near Chulan Square, found it deserted and looking neglected.
It looked like the part of the pedestrian walkway it occupied had been unswept for a long time. It was covered with leaves from a big tree there.
Two motorcycles and a pile of rubbish were found behind the AST.
The minimum 20 sen to use the toilet for 15 minutes was inserted into the coin slot. We waited for the door to slide open but it did not. Attempts to eject the coin were unsuccessful.
At the next cubicle, another 20 sen coin was several times inserted and rejected. Streets proceeded to Jalan Bukit Bintang.
The AST was also closed. Two notices in Bahasa Malaysia pasted on its doors informed the would-be user that the AST was closed because of upgrading work on the MRT of the MRT.
Next up was the AST at the intersection of Jalan Sultan Ismail and Jalan P. Ramlee.
Streets arrived at 1.45pm to find it unmanned, like the others.
Again, a 20 sen coin was repeatedly rejected at the first cubicle tried. At the next cubicle, the coin slot was pasted over with cellophane tape.
At last, an AST that worked was found at Laman Budaya, near Istana Budaya in Jalan Tun Razak.
There was, however, no one manning it and the place was deserted at that time of day.
Both the squatting and sitting toilets are unisex. The sitting toilet is disabled-friendly and bigger There are indicators outside to show if the toilets are occupied. Users are not allowed to smoke, bring food and beverage inside, or litter.
Its operating hours, which are 7.30am to 11pm, are also displayed.
Inside, there are buttons, similar to the ones in lifts, to keep the door open or close. There is air-conditioning.
There is also an emergency bell. However, the contact number that is supposed to accompany it is missing.
The toilet is also baby friendly with a baby seat and a pull-down table for diaper changes.
There is a mild stench of urine. The flush, hand dryer, hand soap and tap operate via sensor.
Hands waved in front of the sensor to activate the flush produced no result.
The manual button, next to the bidet button, proved more successful.
The sensor for the hand soap was also not working.
The ticking of a clock is audible throughout the 15 minutes. A minute before time-up, an alarm rings and an announcement in English and Bahasa Malaysia tells the user that there is one minute left and to ensure that personal belongings are not left behind.
The toilet could have been cleaner. There was no toilet paper in either cubicles and the baby-friendly facilities were in need of a good scrub.
A security guard nearby, who declined to be named, said the AST was well-maintained when it was first set up.
“However, it is not up to par now. There is no one manning it. Sometimes, the person supposed to man the toilet comes in the morning and disappears for the whole day, only coming back to shut the facility at 6pm.
“We have also found the toilets to be dirty at times, and we’ve had to splash water on the floor and in the toilet bowls to clean them a bit,” he said.
He claimed that several tourists, after slotting the coins, had refused to use the toilets because of their filthy condition.
At the AST in Lucky Garden in Bangsar, the person manning it said the toilet was regularly used by the morning market and roadside traders.
The toilet was also clean although the walls could have been given a wipe to remove the water stains.
There are 20 ASTs in the city, each costing RM400,000. The first was set up in 2006 in Jalan Bukit Bintang.
The AST can be found in various parts of the city including Jalan Medan Pasar, Jalan Dang Wangi, Jalan Tun H.S. Lee and Lorong Bunus.