No Deodorant, No Service

Smelly and rude riders beware. City Council members Rod Tam and Nestor Garcia hope to pass a bill that will ban riders with “odors that unreasonably disturb others or interfere with their use of the transit system, whether such odors arise from one’s person, clothes, articles accompanying animal or any other source.”

To state it bluntly, people with bad B.O. cannot ride on The Bus.

Tam and Garcia hope that this bill will change the behavior of certain passengers and set a good example of proper public transportation etiquette as the city wants to begin work on the rail project.

Tam unsuccessfully tried to pass another public transit related bill last year that set out to ban people sleeping at bus stops. Remember last year several benches were removed from certain bus stops and replaced with round, concrete stools? That bill was criticized as being anti-homeless. My guess is this one will too. Even the ACLU and council member Charles Djou are concerned that the bill might be unconstitutional and will again target the bus-riding homeless population.

If the bill passes, a smelly or otherwise unruly rider—the bill states bus riders cannot be drunk, urinate or spit while riding the bus—will be asked to vacate the bus. A police officer may then issue the violator up to $500 in fines. The person may also spend up to six months in jail, or both.

There are already rules in place regarding rider conduct, such as no smoking, eating or drinking, listening to music players without headphones, talking loudly on cell phones or bringing aboard animals (except for small caged animals or service dogs) or large bags.

As a long-time bus rider to and from work five days a week, I think this bill, if it passes, will be hard to enforce. How does one determine what is too smelly? Will a person be excused for sweating up a storm at the gym then boarding the bus, or will it only be those who own only one set of clothes and haven’t washed them in days? Will bus drivers really enforce the newly added rules? Will HPD? There are always people talking on their cell phones while riding the bus (I’ve done it too), eating breakfast, or tourists trying to navigate jam-packed roller suitcases down the aisle—all violations, under The Bus’ rules, that go unenforced. 

No one likes to have an unpleasant smelling person sit next to them during their daily commute, myself included, but we’re talking about public transportation after all, and that includes everyone, even smelly people.