Edmonton businesses hopeful new public washrooms equal fewer months, confrontations

Lee Tappenden is sick and tired of people relieving themselves outside of his family’s video game store.

“As long as I can remember…People seem to use the outdoors as a toilet sometimes,” he told CTV News Edmonton Tuesday.

Tappenden’s shop is a high traffic area, right next to Jasper Place Transit Station.

“The lack of public washrooms, for the amount of people who need to use them, yeah that is an issue. I have maybe 20 requests a day from people, ‘Can I use your washroom?’ and we just can’t let everyone use the washroom” he said.

But the transit center, and the adjacent Butler Memorial Park, are in line for a new mobile washroom, as part of a city project to add 12 new trailers to busy locations by the end of May.

On Tuesday the first new trailer was parked, but not yet staffed and open, next to Audrey’s Books on Jasper Avenue. Co-owner Steve Budnarchuk was happy to see it.

He and his staff have been dealing with public urination since 1988, some from vulnerable Edmontonians, some from the bar crowd.

“I don’t think it’ll entirely be solved by one porta potty but every little bit helps,” Budnarchuk said, adding the alleyway often smells terrible and has become a safety issue for staff.

“Against the dumpster, on the dumpster, in between the dumpster and the building on the back lane. It’s very annoying for those of us who have to work here. We don’t need the smell, we don’t need the disturbance, we don’t need the confrontations.”

In January, Mayor Amarjeet Sohi acknowledged the city is “behind in offering” public washrooms and council committed nearly $6 million for temporary and permanent toilets.

The Downtown Business Association applauded the move, as well as the reopening of 10 transit washrooms, which was announced Monday.

“One silver lining of COVID is it’s made us all realize that we need to do a better job making the washrooms safe and clean and widely and readily available,” said executive director Puneeta McBryan.

“For the city to figure this out, it’s not just as simple as putting up a washroom and then you’re done. You have to have it staffed to keep everyone who’s using the washrooms safe and comfortable.”

A map of all public washrooms in Edmonton is available online.

With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Joe Scarpelli

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