By Sharon Bernstein
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Reuters) - Loud, smelly people could be asked to leave buses and light rail trains in Sacramento under new rules to be considered by transportation officials Monday night, the latest in a series of steps to make California's capital city more transit-friendly.
The proposals come as Sacramento enjoys a downtown building boom that will eventually add a high-end basketball arena and a soccer stadium, amenities that officials hope will draw patrons to the area by light rail, bus or train.
"If we can make it more attractive or make it more enjoyable to use the light rail or bus, then people are more apt to use it," said Alane Masui, spokeswoman for the Sacramento Regional Transit District.
Like many American cities, Sacramento fans out toward its suburbs in a sprawling metropolitan grid built more for automobiles than transit in most areas, and has struggled to win middle-class riders to its bus and light rail system.
Complaints abound. Last year, nearly 7,000 customers contacted the transit system's customer advocacy department, which mostly takes complaints, and transit officials also reported 318 crimes, according to Masui and transit system data.
The system, which serves the City and County of Sacramento, has about 98,000 boardings on weekdays.
Under the ordinance set for discussion Monday night, passengers will no longer be allowed to get on a bus or train unless they are covered "above and below the waist" and wearing shoes.
They will also be banned from emitting a noxious odor unless the smell is related to a disability or medical condition. Passengers will not be allowed to play sound equipment that is audible to other passengers and will be banned from sleeping on a train that has reached the end of the line.
Those who refuse to comply could kicked off by authorities, the ordinance says.
Masui said the rules grew out of complaints received by the agency, including gripes that people were bringing bags full of smelly recyclables on the bus.
But advocates for disadvantaged Sacramentans said the regulations were a swipe at homeless people, who have a right to ride buses and trains.
Pam Haney, advocacy coordinator for Wellspring Women's Center in Sacramento, told the Sacramento Bee newspaper that the part of the rules dealing with odor appeared discriminatory. Haney told the newspaper that she doubted anyone would be kicked off the bus for wearing too much high-end perfume.
(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Eric Walsh)