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Metro Transit to use undercover cops to stamp out light rail smoking

There has been an increase in complaints about it since the start of the year.

If you're thinking about lighting up on a Twin Cities light rail train, be prepared to pay a fine.

Metro Transit has confirmed it'll be stepping up its enforcement on the light rail after an uptick in the number of complaints about passengers smoking on trains.

Smoking is banned under Metro Transit's code of conduct and the ban is typically enforced whenever transit police ride the lines as part of their daily duties.

But these patrols, nor the many signs and reminders that smoking is not permitted on the light rail, have not deterred some from smoking, leading to 600 complaints being made to Metro Transit about it since the start of the year, compared to 1,800 all of last year.

To that end, Metro Transit says it will be introducing more plain clothes police officers on its trains to target smokers and other Code of Conduct violations.

Officials have been analyzing previous complaints to determine when and where it's most likely they'll find a smoker. What's more, there will be no more warnings handed out to smokers – first-time offenders will be issued with a citation.

Metro Transit spokesman Howie Padilla said the transit company will also step up its "No Smoking" signage, but notes that "preventative measures have obvious limitations."

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"Most riders who smoke on light rail are aware that this is a violation but choose to smoke anyway," he said. "On board transit police deter smoking, but smoking still occurs when there is not a visible enforcement presence."

Padilla concedes that the uptick in complaints since the start of the year might be because Metro Transit has seen increased use of its Text for Safety service, allowing people to report happenings on buses and trains that makes them feel unsafe.

He also notes that the uptick in smoking could be down to the cold weather "driving more people inside areas where smoking is prohibited."

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