Feb 6, 2024 - Mardi Gras

Louisiana has some of the fewest public bathrooms in the world

Two dolls use miniature public portapotties during the 'tit Rex parade.

Even teeny-tiny dolls attending 'tit Rex have to use porta-potties. Photo: Erika Goldring/Getty Images

Louisiana is No. 1 at a 1 and 2 problem.

Driving the news: Our state ties with Mississippi for having the fewest public restrooms in the entire country.

  • And there's no time when this is more obvious than during Mardi Gras, when everyone hits the streets, and beverage consumption is at an all time high.

Why it matters: Oh, you know why it matters.

By the numbers: British bathroom supply company QS tallied up the number of public restrooms around the world in 2021, and it found that Louisiana and Mississippi have just 1 public toilet per 100,000 people.

  • One! Per 100,000!

Zoom in: The QS data indicates that the entire city of New Orleans has just 20 public toilets, which means we're doing a little better than the state average at 5 toilets per 100,000 residents.

  • But compare that to the nation-leading city of Madison, Wisconsin, which boasts a positively luxurious 89 toilets per 100,000 residents.

During Mardi Gras, that leaves legions of us to wait in long lines at bars, hotels and restaurants, which often require drink purchases for potty privileges.

  • The other option? Fork over cash to churches, schools and entre-pee-neurial homeowners who hire lines of porta-potties along parade routes.

Flashback: It wasn't always like this.

  • Public investments paid for by the New Deal and a temperance movement interest in offering bathrooms that were not in bars led to more populous potties through the 20th century, according to the New York Times.
  • But by the 1970s, a mixture of social concern over what happened in those bathrooms and decreased public funds for maintaining them led municipalities to close them altogether.
  • In more recent years, cities around the world, like Tokyo, Berlin and San Francisco, have successfully rolled out public toilet expansions, the Times reported.

Worth noting: The only public bathrooms in the French Quarter can be found at the French Market and at the Jean Lafitte National Historic Park visitor center, but those do have limited hours.

  • And the city counts zero permanent public bathrooms along the entire parade route, according to a spokesman for Mayor LaToya Cantrell.

Yes, but: The city deploys about 500 porta-potties along the route for Mardi Gras.

  • That might be part of why the New Orleans Police Department makes relatively few arrests during Mardi Gras for public urination.
  • It's hard to say how many citations NOPD issued for that particular transgression in 2023 because the data is tied up with all lewd conduct charges, which includes things like genital exposure and public sexual intercourse. Still, NOPD only used that broader category 18 times last Mardi Gras.

The bottom line: We can do a lot better.


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