Saturday, January 10, 2009

Estimating Crowds and Commodes

A very practical consideration: how many bathrooms to have at the Inaugural?

Slide show
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. giving his I Have a Dream speech to a huge crowd gathered on the Mall in Washington D.C.

The crowd for President Lyndon Johnson's inaugural address and parade is believed to be the largest, but the accuracy of estimates is questionable.

The Park Service recommends, but doesn't require, one portable toilet for every 300 people. The portable-toilet industry, perhaps not surprisingly, suggests more are needed. Millicent Carroll, director of industry and regulatory standards for Portable Sanitation Association International, says 7,500 would be needed to accommodate a crowd of one million.

PSAI; there is an organization for everything.

Despite the industry's bias, independent, and rough, calculations suggest that number may be low, if anything. A Washington state Department of Transportation study of rest-area restrooms conducted in 1987, in part by then-Cornell undergraduate Anh Tran, found that men spent an average of 47 seconds in stalls, and women 79 seconds, for an average of about a minute. (It's unclear how the presence of a researcher with a stopwatch affected the unwitting study participants. "I was really subtle," Ms. Tran says.)

And a study of everything.

And University of New Mexico urologist Anthony Smith says a typical person urinates up to eight times per day -- more when it's cold outside.

I can testify that cold makes the need to go more frequent. Eight times a day? What a relief to know that.

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