Proposed law takes aim at pungent transit passengers

Jeanne Herring
Jeanne Herring
Richard Liaga
Richard Liaga
Brian Nakagawa
Brian Nakagawa

By Zahid Arab - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - Along with their fares, city bus riders complain of something foul. Overwhelming odors of property and other passengers. That's why city leaders are calling on Honolulu's transit system to clean up its act.

If you're like one of more than 230,000 riders a day, you board the bus and expect to get from "A" to "B." But, city leaders say, along for the ride might be some seriously offensive odor.

"When I open the door your senses come alive," said bus driver Brian Nakagawa.

"This guy came on and smelt really bad, it made my eyes water," said rider Richard Liaga.

"Their waste their sweat," said Nakagawa.

"You get off the bus and it just doesn't go away, then you start feeling like, maybe it's me," said Jeanne Herring.

You pay for a seat and Richard Liaga says along for the ride is stink. A guy next to him smelt downright revolting.

"I didn't want to be rude so I just moved my seat" said Liaga.

But is speaking up being rude or your right as a passenger? Drivers already have the power to remove passengers.

"Last time I had 10 complaints," said Nakagawa.

Hearing concern from constituents, Honolulu City Councilmember Rod Tam is co-sponsoring a bill that makes it illegal to bring bunk-smells from a person, their clothing, food or animals on the bus.

"We should focus on health and safety on public facilities," said Tam.

Under the bill, if you or something you bring on the bus smells bad, you could be asked to get off, or be issued a police citation. That would carry a fine of up to $500, maybe even up to six months in jail.

"If they've been working all day and they have to ride the bus, I feel like people will have to deal with it," said Herring.

But sometimes a snooze or skimming pages in a book are no match for reek feet or foul food.

"You don't want to say it, but someone has to say it," said Liaga.

Until then, you may just have buckle down and hold your breath.

Civil liberties groups are critical of the potential law, saying that it opens the door for discrimination. The city plans to discuss the logistics of the legislation at a public meeting Thursday.