New bus shelters heat up St. Albert Centre Exchange

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Two heated bus shelters at the St. Albert Centre Exchange promise toasty toes and a snug stop for travellers craving a little winter warmth.

The new shelters have been in the works for approximately a year and opened to the public on Dec. 18.

Tom Kumka, fleet and asset manager for St. Albert Transit, described the structures as “a great investment for the city.”

Sitting on concrete pads five feet wide by 15 feet long, the shelters are completely enclosed in glass and have two doorways, as well a bench inside to sit on. One entrance for each shelter has access for people with disabilities.

Each shelter has two heaters mounted on the ceiling facing down, which pump out heat for 10 minutes at a time at the press of a button. The heaters turn off if temperatures reach 15 C.

The heaters come with a warning to keep combustible material at least six feet away from the front of the devices and away from the sides and back.

The shelters, which cost $25,450 apiece, also have three photocell LED lights that come on when the sun sets and turn off in the morning.

Arriving in St. Albert to visit her family for Christmas, Fort McMurray resident Leah Maclellan stopped in one of the shelters Wednesday afternoon to warm up while she waited for her bus.

“These shelters are a really good idea. I like having the heaters at bus stops,” she said.

For St. Albert resident Dallas Sorken, who is a frequent user of public transit, it is a relief to finally have heat available. He has been waiting for this day to come since he was first told at the beginning of 2017 that the city would be installing heated shelters.

“They’re very nice,” he said, although he added he’s disappointed the heated shelters are on the commuter side of the Exchange rather than on the local side.

“I’d like to see these installed on the other side (of the Exchange) and at other stations,” he said.

While the city currently has no plans to heat other bus shelters, Kumka said there will be heated shelters at the new Campbell park-and-ride, which the city expects to start construction on in 2018.

“That’s a definite investment by the city there,” he said.

The city started work on the heated shelters at the beginning of 2017, putting the project out for RFP. The heated shelters arrived by September and were installed by Nov. 2. The public works department and Fortis Alberta finished work on the structures on Dec. 15 and they opened to the public three days later.

Kumka said the construction process for the shelters coincided with summer work on Project 9. In order to prepare for the installation, construction workers used directional drilling to put a conduit in the ground in order to run wires and bring in power.

The city also had to re-do the five-by-fifteen-foot concrete pads the shelters rest on in order to create a level surface.

Although the city does not track numbers for how many people use the bus shelters, Will Steblyk, manager of planning and customer service for St. Albert Transit, said he is confident the shelters will be widely used and appreciated throughout the winter.

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April Hudson