Potty crisis could gum up Inauguration

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Politics,Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets,Inauguration

Something stinks on Capitol Hill and it has nothing to do with usual suspect, Congress.

It is more basic: There are going to be far fewer porta-potties at President Obama's second Inauguration than his first. And while crowd estimates for Monday's event are less than half the 1.8 million who flooded the Mall in 2009, the bathroom count has been cut by about two-thirds, meaning potentially long lines at the portable restrooms.

"It could be a pissy Inauguration," said John Banzhaf, the George Washington University professor whose urgings in 2009 led to more porta-potties for the president's first Inauguration.

Dubbed the "Father of Potty Parity" for his previous potty patrol efforts, he is calling for more facilities for the Inauguration.

The Presidential Inaugural Committee told Secrets that there will be a total of 1,500 porta-potties on the Mall, many by the Capitol where the crowds will be concentrated. There were over 5,000 in 2009, and some news accounts reported 7,000 porta-potties.

According to an online calculator of one of the two major firms supplying the restrooms, United Site Services, 3,400-4,300 porta-potties would be needed for the expected crowd of 600,000-800,000.

The National Park Service figured a larger count of 300 people per portable restroom in 2009. Using that math, this year's crowd estimate would be just 450,000, or just 25 percent of Obama's first Inaugural.

Relief could come in the areas far from the Capitol where restaurants, stores and the Smithsonians have an estimated 500 bathrooms.

Banzhaf noted that even if the crowds are slashed in half, they will still be the same size in the main viewing areas on the Capitol Lawn and Mall area where people pack in to watch the president's swearing in.

What's more, he added, with colder temperatures predicted, men and women will likely be wearing layers of clothes, a potential issue since he said potty-per-person calculations are typically based on summer weather where users are just in shorts.