News / Edmonton

Edmontonians escape from cold in LRT stations

An old policy is new again: transit stations will now be open overnight when the mercury drops below -20.

The city opened transit centers for people seeking shelter over the weekend.

Metro file

The city opened transit centers for people seeking shelter over the weekend.

As temperatures plunged below -40 with windchill over the weekend, dozens of Edmontonians found refuge not in shelters, but in LRT stations left unlocked for that reason.

City officials made the decision late last week to keep all stations open from 1:30 to 5 a.m. when they’d normally be locked up for the night.

Transit manager Eddie Robar said despite not having a lot of time to get the word out, the number of people bunking down next to the LRT tracks was significant: about 50 people found shelter in stations on Friday night, and 57 on Saturday.

“We have no interest in people being out on the street in that kind of weather, that’s for sure, and we’re really interested in making sure that we’ve got a place for people to get out of the elements,” he said.

Robar said everything seemed to go smoothly over the weekend, so his department is going to make opening stations overnight official policy every time the temperature drops below -20.

He said it’s something the city used to do about a decade ago, but had since moved away from.  

The transit service has other measures that kick in at extreme temperatures—like allowing some buses to drop people off at spots other than official stops—so he said it’s just a matter of adding this to the list.

Kumsa Tekelegiorgis, day supervisor at the Hope Mission, said opening the stations took some pressure off the shelters.

“It was a really big help,” he said, adding that they were so busy over the weekend that people were bedding down in entranceways just to make room for everyone.

He said they had almost 500 people staying at the Mission, though he expects the numbers would have been higher had the nearby LRT station not been an option.

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