Cap Metro to discourage smoking near bus stops

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The Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority will begin asking riders to keep any tobacco use at least 15 feet away from their bus stops beginning next month.

Photo Credit: Thomas Allison | Daily Texan Staff

The Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority will begin asking riders to keep any tobacco use at least 15 feet away from their bus stops beginning next month.

New signage designating all 2700 of Capital Metro bus stops in Austin, including 150 at UT, as tobacco free zones will be installed after the board of directors secured funding and voted Wednesday to instate a ban, said Michael Nyren, Capital Metro risk management director.

While the new signs will impose a voluntary ban on all tobacco, Nyren said the ban primarily targets smokers.

“When we say tobacco free, we’re referring to all forms of tobacco, but the main purpose is to reduce the effect of secondhand smoke on our riders,” Nyren said.

Nyren said riders should note Capital Metro is not asking people to quit smoking altogether, but instead to quit smoking when in the vicinity of non-smoking riders.

“We’re not asking people not to smoke,” Nyren said. “We’re just asking them to smoke a reasonable distance away from the bus stop and be considerate to fellow riders.”

Capital Metro spokeswoman Erica McKewen said the company had wanted to institute the smoking ban at bus stops for two years, after surveys conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services and Capital Metro indicated bus riders and Travis County residents support the ban.

“Overwhelmingly the community and our riders supported a tobacco ban at bus stops,” McKewen said.

McKewen said Capital Metro couldn’t cover the $230,000 needed to purchase and install signage until funding became available through money the city of Austin received through the national Communities Putting Prevention to Work program. McKewen said the program began as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The only caveat is that Capital Metro must install all signage by February, she said.

McKewen said Capital Metro does not currently have the resources to enforce the policy, however she believes the signage will reduce smoking, based on a pilot project instituted in June. The pilot project installed signs at some Capital Metro stops, including all UT stops, instructing riders how to use smart phone applications to find Capital Metro information such as bus schedules. Based on the dramatic increase of usage of the app, she said she thinks the signage will be effective.

Bilingual education freshman Arinda Rodriguez sat by one of the pilot project signs at a bus stop on Dean Keeton Street on Thursday and said she isn’t a smoker. She said she thinks the tobacco ban will help keep students safe, people safe and protect the health of the people.

Theater studies freshman Madilynn Garcia said she isn’t a smoker and believes the tobacco ban is reasonable.

“It’s not something that affects me personally, but I do think that if you are standing at a bus stop it’s reasonably respectful to stand a ways away from everyone else,” Garcia said.

Glen Martin, senior systems administrator for Information Technology Services, said he always tries to distance himself from other people when smoking and doesn’t feel the ban infringes upon his rights as a smoker.

“It seems reasonable to me,” Martin said.

Published on Friday, November 18, 2011 as: Tobacco-users to  be encouraged to move away from bus stops