SEPTA: Pee-repellent paint made no difference in customer complaints

After 11 months, tests have been entirely inconclusive.

An open car on SEPTA's Market Frankford Line

An open car on SEPTA's Market Frankford Line

Anna Orso / Billy Penn

Nearly a year after SEPTA began testing liquid repellent paint to discourage public urination, the authority has been unable to draw any conclusions about whether the coating made a difference.

“At this time, we are not ready to roll this out on a larger scale because the results are still inconclusive on its effectiveness,” SEPTA spokesperson Kristin Mestre-Velez told Billy Penn.

The coating is made up of a base coat and a top coat, and it works by being extremely hydrophobic — it actually physically repels water. Marketing campaigns have described it as “paint that pees back.”

Two different kinds of pee-repellent paint have been tested in Philly, Mestre-Velez said, though she did not release details on which ones. Last September, right before tests began, SEPTA’s Andrew Busch identified Ultra-Ever Dry as one of the brands to be used.

Made by Florida-based UltraTech International, that’s the same coating that was deployed in 2015 in the party district of Hamburg, Germany, and in several BART stations in San Francisco. The technology has since been used or considered for use in various other locations around the world, from Chester, England, to Kingston, Jamaica.

But if those cities are looking for results from Philly to help them gauge how well the paint worked, they’re out of luck.

One of the methods SEPTA used to determine whether the repellent was effective was a review of customer complaints regarding the trial locations. (The locations are being kept secret, by the way, because releasing the info “may interfere with the integrity of our test results.”)

And guess what? The repellent paint had no measurable impact on the number of rider grumbles at the locales undergoing the test. Said Mestre-Velez: “There was no significant change.”

SEPTA is continuing to look at ways to address the issue, Mestre-Velez said, adding that “[a]t the moment, our best deterrent is bright lights, barriers and diligent cleaning of our stations.”

However, she confirmed that testing of the pee repellent is still ongoing, so SEPTA hasn’t given up on the idea yet.

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Transit, SEPTA