Washington DC, USA
For the past week, the Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC) has been tirelessly preparing the National Mall for the swearing-in ceremony of president-elect Donald Trump on Jan. 20. That includes setting up barriers, conducting sound checks, and installing port-a-potties for the anticipated guests.
How many, exactly? Just eyeballing it, a lot: rows of port-a-potties extend on either side of the path up the hill leading to the Capitol building, along the mall to the Washington monument, and around the Lincoln memorial—roughly 1.9 miles in total.
There are at least three companies that have supplied bathroom units for the event: Don’s Johns, Gene’s Johns, and United Site Services. According to the Washington Post, Don’s Johns has put out at least 2,500 port-a-potties, and was expecting more orders leading up to the event. A representative from United Site Services said she thought all of their portable toilets (which they call “units”) available in DC had been reserved. But despite numerous attempts, we were unable to confirm the exact number of units that had been ordered from each company by the time of publishing.
However, it’s possible to estimate the number of port-a-potties on the Mall by looking at the predicted number of guests for the swearing-in ceremony. Members of Congress receive 250,000 tickets that can be given out to their constituents, who will get to hang out in designated standing-room areas close to the Capitol.
The general public can also attend the inauguration, as long as they stand anywhere west of 4th street NW, which extends from behind the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum all the way back to the Lincoln Memorial. Large TVs have been set up so everyone can see, and space is reserved on a first-come-first-serve basis; security gates to the Mall will open at 6am ET that day.
For security reasons, the National Park Service (NPS) and the Secret Service couldn’t tell Quartz exactly how many people were estimated to attend the inauguration, and the PIC had not responded to inquiries by the time of print. Current estimates are that there will be roughly 800,000 guests, calculated by past attendance and reservations at hotels and restaurants (although some of these could be for other events this weekend like the Women’s March).
In an email, a representative from the NPS told Quartz that they “require all permittees (including the PIC) to provide one portable toilet for every 300 expected participants.” Assuming 800,000 guests, that’s roughly 2,667 port-a-potties.
NPS also says that 20% of the toilets must be handicapped, so we can assume the other 80%, or 2,133, of these port-a-potties are standard size. Don’s Johns, Gene’s Johns, and United Site Services advertise that a single port-a-potty holds 70 gallons at any given time (these numbers reflect the ones that appear to be on the Mall at this time; additionally, Gene’s Johns don’t advertise their gallon capacity, but their dimensions are the same as Don’s Johns). The remaining 534 units should be wheelchair accessible, which can hold either 35 gallons or 68 gallons, depending on the model.
Taken together, then, we can assume there could as much as 185,645 gallons of human excrement on the Mall while president-elect Trump is sworn into office.
These port-a-potties take up space, too. Standard units are 44 inches by 48 inches, or about 14.7 square feet. United Site Services and Gene’s Johns wheelchair accessible units are 67 in by 86.5 in (40.25 sq ft), and Don’s Johns are 62 in by 62 in (26.7 sq ft). So in total, the port-a-potties could occupy somewhere between 45,613 and 52,848 sq ft of the Mall.
Though it sounds like a lot of human waste, it’s actually probably less than there has been at previous inaugurations. Trump has assumed there will be massive crowds, but in actuality, he’ll likely draw far fewer than Barack Obama did in 2009, when 1.8 million guests packed the Mall.