Targeting CTA's Reeking Riders

Hawaii wants to ban BO on the bus; something Chicago should consider

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
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    Hawaii wants to outlaw nasty odors on public transit. Perhaps Chicago should follow suit.

    Chicagoans will tell you that riding the CTA buses and trains is a great way to do some interesting people-watching. Unfortunately, it can also be an opportunity for some awful people-smelling, too.

    From the guy wearing too much patchouli to the "women putting nail polish on" (says Steve Szydelko, West Loop), a commuter's public transit ride can be full of offensive smells.

    "The worst is when you find yourself in a pee train," says David Diaz of Pilsen. "Doesn't matter what line it is. Someone just decides that public transportation also means public bathrooms. Same thing also happens in some stations."

    While CTA employees do their best to scrub down buses and trains at the end of the day, there's not much you can do about smelly people.

    Or is there?

    In Honolulu, Hawaii, the city council is debating an ordinance that would outlaw odors that would "unreasonably disturb others" on public transit.

    "It is very difficult to regulate human behavior," Honolulu Councilman Nestor Garcia said. "But I thought it was a good idea to get the discussion going."

    But just how smelly do you have to be before you get in trouble? Are we talking Didn't-Shower-After-Three-Months funky? Or Didn't-Shower-After-the-Gym musky?

    "We are obviously concerned about laws that are inherently vague, where a reasonable person cannot know what conduct is prohibited," said Daniel Gluck, of ACLU Hawaii. "Vague laws — like the proposed 'odor' ban — open the door to discriminatory enforcement based on an officer's individual prejudices."

    Still, getting transit riders to clean themselves up isn't such a bad idea. Could a similar ordinance ever find its way here to Chicago?

    John Kass at the Chicago Tribune talked to spokespeople from CTA and Metra, but both said that such policies were not in place nor were they under consideration.

    Besides, "how would you enforce it?" asked Kevin O'Neil of the CTA Tattler. "Smell patrol?"

    Perhaps instead of new fare cards or new credit-card reading technology, the CTA should invest in air freshener.

    Matt Bartosik, a "between blogs" blogger, thinks this story stinks.