CITY DESK: Aurora City Council committee signs off on proposal to ban smoking, vaping at RTD stations, bus stops

Aurora resident Steven Harrison, right, enjoys a cigarette while he waits on the light rail Dec. 14 at Nine Mile Station. City Council recently proposed an ordinance banning smoking at light rail stations.
Photo by Philip B. Poston/The Sentinel

AURORA | Smokers using public transit in Aurora may soon be barred from puffing or vaping while they wait for the train or bus. 

The city’s public safety committee on Thursday signed off on a proposed ordinance that would prohibit people from smoking or carrying “any lighted smoking instrument” at Aurora bus stops and light rail platforms, according to city documents. 

Currently, city code makes it illegal for smokers to light up in “public places,” but that only refers to indoor spaces, according to city documents. The new ordinance would extend the prohibition to light rail platforms and bus stops, with or without benches or rain shelters, according to a draft version of the amended ordinance.

Per Regional Transportation District policy, vaping and smoking are not allowed in “prohibited areas,” including outdoor RTD facilities with posted “no smoking” signs, according to city documents.

Officers with the Aurora Police Department who moonlight as off-duty RTD security told city staffers they only respond to smoking incidents inside buses and trains — not on the surrounding platforms. 

If passed by the full city council, people found in violation of the new law would face the city’s standard, maximum penalty for municipal code violations: up to a $2,650 fine and up to one year in jail, according to Nancy Rodgers, deputy city attorney.

But, Rodgers said, violations similar to the draft proposal typically carry no more than a double-digit fine. Violators would still be required to appear before a municipal judge, who ultimately makes the decision regarding the sentence.

Council members could also mold a penalty that’s more specific than the general municipal limits. That would then be tacked onto the new ordinance, Rodgers said.

The proposal was brought to the committee after a citizen submitted a complaint about people smoking at transit stations to city staff.

City Councilman Charlie Richardson initially forwarded the matter to the public safety committee, which he currently chairs.

Golden, Lakewood, Boulder, Colorado Springs, the 16th Street mall in Denver and Fort Collins all have municipal codes that outlaw smoking at transit stops, according to city documents.

The proposed ordinance would affect nearly a dozen light rail stations across the city and several dozen bus stops.

The proposal will now be forwarded to a city council study session for further discussion.

 — QUINCY SNOWDON, staff writer