The number of places you can pee in public in Atlanta just got reduced by 111 with the announcement of urine detection devices (UDDs) being installed in all of its subway elevators. If the system leads to tougher enforcement of public indecency laws, a lot of people could be facing some harsh penalties just for relieving themselves.
If you’ve never had the pleasure of getting around Atlanta on MARTA, its rapid transit system, you might be unaware that for years the customary place to relieve yourself before or after a train ride was in the elevators. Some residents, like the ones on this TV news report said it used to be so bad you had to hold your breath. Other residents, whose quotes I made up, said it smelled like “a nice warm place to take your dick out for 45 seconds.” Atlanta’s new $1,110,000 program has put the kibosh on all that.
In updated elevators, according to Tom Beebe, MARTA’s director of elevators and escalators, criminal urine will be picked up by one of twenty finely tuned UDDs in every elevator because of its “splash factor.” Once the sensor comes in contact with the noxious piss molecules, it will sound an alarm. Next, the police will be there “in seconds,” to heroically arrest the perpetrator. One such lawbreaker has already been taken into custody, and since a closed-circuit camera records all pee incidents, the micturator is surely dead to rights.
The news report calls Atlanta’s urine detection program “first-of-its-kind,” although it’s not. The technology seems to have been invented in Singapore by a Canadian engineer named Tom Orlowsky working for a company called Pixelmatrix. Singapore, where public urination comes with a ticket and a steep fine, not even a caning, has had versions of these detectors in place since the nineties, and apparently they’ve helped with the smell there, although their pee detectors lock you in the elevator when the alarm sounds. In Atlanta, and most places in the US, the law considers it “lewd exposure of the sexual organs,” and it can get you locked up. In other words, American laws are harsher than Singapore’s.
You might think a little urine smell isn’t worth spending taxpayer money. Personally, I steer clear of the elevators at subway stops here in LA, precisely because 100 percent of them smell like an ammonia-soaked muskox. Before I gave it any thought, I used to feel like it was a fair tradeoff. Then, I remembered that not everyone’s legs work well enough to use the stairs, which means every disabled person you see on the subway has just gotten an olfactory urine assault on the way down, and they’re in for another on the way up. If Atlanta’s disabled commuters were in similar straits, I would have wanted some of my hard-earned dollars to be allocated to fixing that. I just don’t need anyone who gets busted to be put in the sex offender registry because of it.
Worth noting: MARTA also reopened four public restrooms in subway stations that were closed for some insane reason (9/11?). That should also help.