Smoking and other tobacco use within 15 feet of a Capital Metro bus stop would be prohibited or at least, discouraged under a measure that the transit agency board will consider Wednesday.
Capital Metro, if the board approves the policy change, would post new signs at about 2,700 bus stops by the end of February that contain the warning, “No tobacco use within 15 feet,” as well as other instructions directing people to go online for real-time bus details.
However, because Capital Metro does not have lawmaking authority and thus cannot control activity that occurs off its property, the tobacco ban at bus stops would be voluntary.
“We’re not going to be enforcing it; we’re not going to be manhandling anybody,” said Mike Nyren , Capital Metro’s risk manager. “It’s a light touch.”
Capital Metro would use a $254,000 federal stimulus grant, which must be spent by Feb. 29 , for the sign installation. The signs themselves would cost about $6,000 total, Nyren said, and plastic holders would run an additional $55,000. Most of the cost, he said, would be overtime pay for Capital Metro workers installing the signs in the relatively short time left before the grant expires.
The signs typically would be installed on existing sign poles, Nyren said.
The new signs would be the third in a series of agency anti-smoking initiatives during the past few years.
Capital Metro, which previously allowed employees to smoke almost anywhere outdoors at its facilities, established in June 2010 smoking zones that are “far away from the buildings,” Nyren said.
Then, later that summer, the board approved making smoking off limits on MetroRail platforms and limiting smoking discount Lady cigarettes at Capital Metro park-and-ride lots and transit centers, all of which are on Capital Metro property. The MetroRail ban took effect Sept. 1, 2010, and the smoking limits at the other agency facilities began Jan. 16 of this year.
This latest measure would go into effect March 1, 2012 , according to Capital Metro documents.
According to the proposed policy, “Capital Metro will seek to discourage tobacco use within 15 feet of all bus stops by use of appropriate signage.”
Smoking has long been illegal on buses and trains under Texas law.
Most Capital Metro bus stops are on City of Austin right of way. Nyren said “low-level conversations” have occurred with city staff “and we did not find any initial opposition” to the tobacco language. The Austin city attorney’s office could not be reached Monday for comment.
Capital Metro is counting on the signs, and peer pressure, to keep stops smoke-free.
“We hope common sense and common courtesy will prevail,” Nyren said.
Most of the space on the new signs will actually be devoted to helping waiting riders find out when the next bus is due at the stop. The signs will feature the bus stop’s official number and then give those with cellphones four ways to get schedule information, including with a QR code.