View Full Version : Harmful Subway Noise

November 1st, 2003, 05:34 AM
November 1, 2003

Subways Are Noisy, Study Finds, to the Point of Being Harmful


Everyone who rides the subways knows they can be irritating during rush hours and sweltering in the summer. But a new report by the City Council says they can also be hazardous to hearing.

Screeching trains at the Union Square and Queens Plaza stations are noisier than airplanes taking off at La Guardia and Kennedy International Airports, and decibel levels are high enough to cause hearing damage, according to the report released yesterday at City Hall.

"It is the most pervasive and common noise problem that most New Yorkers cannot avoid being exposed to," the Council speaker, Gifford Miller, said at a news conference.

Investigators for the Council conducted the study during the summer, monitoring noise at 14 subway stations and street locations. The highest decibels were registered in and around subway stations; four stations and one street corner, at Brooklyn Borough Hall, were noisier than an intersection near Kennedy Airport. In the sampling, the noisiest station, Union Square, was measured at 98.3 decibels, compared with 84.5 at Kennedy.

Mr. Miller and Councilman Eric Gioia, who is chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Investigations, called on city transportation officials to take steps to reduce subway noise, like installing "noise-dampening materials" in stations and requiring quieter wheel systems for new cars. They also proposed legislation that would require city environmental and planning officials to map neighborhoods affected by "toxic noise pollution."

In response, New York City Transit issued a statement detailing its efforts to reduce subway noise, including lubricating tracks along sharp curves, installing special wheels and rail equipment, and overhauling air-conditioning units. In addition, many stations also have noise-absorbing barriers. "Efforts to calm the noise generated by subway operation date back to at least the mid-1970's," the statement said.

But Council members said that much more had to be done. Mr. Gioia, who grew up near the No. 7 line in Queens, said the constant noise distracted people from all kinds of activities, from doing business to learning in schools.

"The people of New York City are subjected to a seemingly endless barrage of train noise the equivalent of jet planes landing over one's head every two minutes, every day of the week, every day of the year," he said.

Not everyone in City Hall was impressed by the comparison.

"Subways are noisy," said Edward Skyler, the press secretary to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. "This is news?"

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

December 21st, 2003, 09:13 AM
New York Daily News - http://www.nydailynews.com

Crying out loud for relief


Sunday, December 21st, 2003

All across New York, the noise is deafening.
Thundering trucks. Screeching subways. Rooftop air conditioners that sound like jet planes. Not to mention that incessant thumping from your neighbor's apartment as she plays the latest Britney Spears CD - over and over.

More then 169,000 noise complaints have come into the city's 311 hotline since March, making it the No. 1 quality-of-life concern among callers.

Now Mayor Bloomberg vows to do something about it.

The Bloomberg administration has an ambitious plan to overhaul the way the city prosecutes noise and cracks down on the sounds that make New Yorkers wince.

The Daily News got an exclusive look at a draft of the proposed changes, the most extensive rewrite of the code in more than 30 years.

"Combating excessive noise is a top priority for the mayor," said Vincent LaPadula, a senior adviser to Bloomberg, who oversees the 311 hotline. "The mayor wanted to centralize noise complaints in one location."

The plan will be handed over to the City Council next month and be put through a series of public hearings before it can become law.

And for many New Yorkers, that couldn't come a second too soon.

"It's all day and all night," said Tish Cianciotta, referring to the trucks that zoom by her house in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. "It's like an orchestra here with the sound of the horns."

City officials are hoping the changes will help quiet everything from trucks, motorcycles and boom boxes to the repetitive, even mind-numbing sound of the Mister Softee truck.

Here's what would change:

Instead of prohibiting "unreasonable noise," a fuzzy definition that has been hard to enforce, the new code would allow summonses for "plainly audible" sounds within a certain distance from the sound's source.

Police and Department of Environmental Protection noise inspectors would no longer have to use a sound meter to measure the blare from a boom box or an overblown car stereo.

Instead of relying on the volume of words, a thumping bass line would be considered "plainly audible."
The improved code also would set new decibel limits for construction equipment. And it would provide some relief to people living next to commercial and manufacturing buildings with colonies of loud rooftop air conditioners.

"I have not opened my windows in over 10 years," said Lori Stone, who lives next to the old Western Union Building at 60 Hudson St., which is now occupied by telecommunications companies. "But you still hear that constant swoosh. When they have the A/C on, it sounds like you are on a highway or jet plane. There's a constant roar."

Stone and her husband, Todd, members of Neighbors Against N.O.I.S.E., soundproofed their daughter's room and installed double-paned windows. But the spacious, hardwood-floor studio in their Tribeca flat goes mostly unused.

"There are times you walk down Thomas St. and you feel like you are on a runway waiting for the jets to take off," said Tim Lannan, president of Neighbors Against N.O.I.S.E., who lives nearby on Hudson St.

Under the proposed changes, inspectors would be able to consider the noise generated by all of the circulation equipment together, instead of measuring each one separately as is currently done.

It is the second phase of a plan Bloomberg kicked off in October 2002 when he visited noisy Astoria Park and announced "Operation Silent Night." But even though police have handed out thousands of noise summonses in targeted areas, the fuzzy standard of "unreasonable noise" in the current code has left their hands tied.

"This will be an enforceable noise code and really improve the quality of life in the city," said Nancy Nadler of the League for the Hard of Hearing, an advocacy group that is working with the city on changes to the code.

The majority of the noise complaint calls to 311 involve partying neighbors and blasting music. The second largest category is car and truck sounds, followed by loud bars and clubs.

"This is New York, where people are supposed to be hardened and used to everything," said John Dallas of the Bronx Campaign for Peace and Quiet. "When you have hard-core lifetime New Yorkers screaming about noise, something is wrong."

In Williamsburg, where trucks barreling down the street rattle windows, Tish and Guido Cianciotta daydream of long-gone quieter times.

The two met at an ice cream parlor at Graham and Metropolitan Aves. in 1949, when the only noise was Frank Sinatra tunes coming from the shop's jukebox.

"It was so quiet back then. I know times change. I realize that. But this is too loud. This is a danger zone," said Guido Cianciotta, 70, who lives on nearby Withers St.

The couple, tired of the massive tractor-trailers with their squealing brakes, blaring horns, and idling engines joined OUTRAGE - Organizations United for Trash Reduction And Garbage Equity - one of several neighborhood groups trying to stem the tide of trucks that shuttle back and forth to trash processing centers.

Ann Garvin and Ben Silver moved to Park Slope from the upper West Side five years ago, looking for a larger apartment and a family-friendly neighborhood to raise their young son.

They found a second-floor, three-bedroom apartment on Bergen St. near Fifth Ave. with a vacant storefront below.

But last year, when the Casper Jones Lounge opened up for business, their quiet lives were turned upside down.

Night after night, Garvin said, loud music, thumping bass and loud patrons make it impossible for them to sleep and function normally.

"It's exhausting for all of us," said Garvin, 47, a grant manager at a nonprofit foundation. "We get this throbbing noise that prevents us from going to sleep and thinking straight."

The couple insist they've tried everything from approaching the bar owners politely to dialing 311 repeatedly. Nothing has worked - the bar still blares music ranging in styles from R&B to Industrial.

A woman who said she was the owner of the lounge but refused to give her name said the bar is operating within the law and has never received a summons for violating the noise code.

"The police apparently have limited authority on noise issues," Garvin said. "But we don't know what else to do. Stricter laws would be welcome."

With Tamer El-Ghobashy
What's changing in the noise code:

- The current standard of "unreasonable noise," which is too subjective and virtually impossible to enforce, will be replaced by "plainly audible."

- New decibel limits will be set for construction equipment and exhausts.

- Noisy air conditioners and other circulation devices clustered on rooftops will be measured together for the first time. They are currently measured individually, even though the collective noise is what people complain about.

Noise complaints on city's 311 hotline

From March 1 to Dec. 15

Citywide total: 169,525

Complaints by borough:

Manhattan: 47,785

Top complaints:

Residential loud party & music: 24,087

Clubs/bars: 7,816

Vehicles (other than alarms): 6,050

Brooklyn: 47,693

Top complaints:

Residential loud party & music: 27,140

Vehicles (other than alarms): 4,893

Clubs/bars: 2,495

Bronx: 36,721

Top complaints:

Residential loud party & music: 23,830

Vehicles (other than alarms): 3,425

Clubs/bars: 944

Queens: 31,933

Top complaints:

Residential loud party & music: 17,780

Vehicles (other than alarm): 3,301

Clubs/bars: 2,489

Staten Island: 5,393

Top complaints:

Residential loud party & music: 2,675

Vehicles (other than alarm): 658

Clubs/bars: 503

Source: Office of the Mayor

December 21st, 2003, 09:40 AM
More then 169,000 noise complaints

Someone needs to proofread...

With the noise I've always been iffy about where to draw the line. Our tenants sometimes play techno music that literally makes the house shake but it's in daylight hours and I guess we're not trying to rest or anything.

December 21st, 2003, 11:00 AM
Living close to the river, the only noise complaint I have is the party boats that chug by (too close to shore) at 2AM.

Now if Stern really wants to sink a ship... :wink:

December 21st, 2003, 11:09 AM
Would you like to trade dwellings?

March 11th, 2008, 01:23 PM
According to a recent report, the average rider of the NY subway is getting hearing loss, even occasional riders can be affected.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases...1012185519.htm (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/10/061012185519.htm)

Readings of over 105db have been found on platforms and inside cars. Nothing seems to have been done about this, yet new lines are being built. People seem more interested in bitching about a small fair raise than keeping themselves healthy. Staff who work on the subway are being neglected, yet alone most NYers. Given the lack of inerest in this story after the report has been published, I can safely say that the authority cares little about the public and its staff.

NYers, if this report is true then most nyers of a certain age would have bad hearing damage, is this true? Do you notice alot of older people who are going deaf?

Is anything being done about this and if so why isn't it being published? Why are you just putting up with this, do you want your health to be ruined by your commute? Why aren't the staff protesting.

I believe that this is unacceptable in a world city. How can you expect people to get out of their cars if the subway system is killing their ears? Why isn't this considered an important issue? Because, things can be done like sound absorbtion, etc..

March 12th, 2008, 10:42 PM
Welcome to earth, its noisy, I doubt its the subway alone.

March 13th, 2008, 12:47 AM
There are PEL's (permissible exposure limits) to noise which depends both on the db and duration, the higher the db's the shorter the duration can be before damage to the hearing occurs.

There is a published scale on the web.

I don't have it handy but it is SOMETHING like you can be exposed to say 75db for up to 2 hours a day, maybe 1 hour for 85db, 15 minutes for 90db and so on.

The duration of exposure to the 105db as measured on the PLATFORM is going to be very brief- the train comes in, stops, takes off and is gone- exposure; maybe 2 minutes tops- this should be within the permissible levels per day.

The ones who would have the big problem here are;

Transit cops, motormen, conductors, fare collectors, people who hang around the station all day such as musicians etc.

Their exposure then is as an occupational one, where the transit cops may hang around one station like Times Square for HOURS with trains in and out, the motorman who is in the train 8 hours a day.
So I see the problem being mostly for the employees, not the riding public except the once who may live on 200th street and take the train to Wall street and back twice a day.

Funny thing, every now and then if I think of the subway, even from 1500 miles away I can still smell that familiar subway smell, sort of like wet steel- distinct, not unpleasant at all, but unique.

March 13th, 2008, 09:12 AM
While I agree the subway is noisy, and the "squeeee!" sound of the wheels slipping on a curved section of track as they round a corner can be outright tooth-clenching, I do not see it as a major problem for a few reasons:

1. A good deal of people wear headphones now, and either filter out the sound, or crank their own music so loud that subway noise is not a major contributor to their hearing loss.

2. Most conductors I see have those funny looking orange earplugs (the foamies). At least, the ones that want to keep their hearing do. Worrying about reduction in noise levels on the subway is a costly endeavor that would produce little yield that could be achieved by much less costly measures, such as limited exposure and earplugs.... [edit for clarification. Hearing loss could be prevented by cheaper methods than "fixing" the subway]

3. As was said earlier, most of us do not hear that 24/7. Although I still get headaches from that wheel squeee, as well as Taxi cheap-breaks squeaking, I do not think I have much to worry about long term hearing loss from either......

March 13th, 2008, 12:47 PM
you can be sure cranking up the sound on ear plugs is going to make your hearing go even quicker....thats a lame argument.

March 13th, 2008, 07:37 PM
or crank their own music so loud that subway noise is not a major contributor to their hearing loss.

you can be sure cranking up the sound on ear plugs is going to make your hearing go even quicker....thats a lame argument.

Try reading properly before you post lame comments.

March 14th, 2008, 09:32 PM
An Ipod and a good set of earplugs goes along way.

March 17th, 2008, 09:35 AM
An Ipod and a good set of earplugs goes along way.

Any player would work, so long as you have the latter and do not settle for what Creative, Apple, Sony or anyone else gives you with their product.

The stock earphones have to be some of the cheapest things I have ever seen!

March 17th, 2008, 06:42 PM
Yea - They have to be actual earbuds, the go directly into your canal...Headphones or Earphones will not do....

I got a pair of Shure E3c's and these bad boys block out everything....

-Screeching of Trains
-Ignorant Kids
-Busy Office atmosphere

It's like Im in my own world during my daily commutes....I love them...Your right any player will do.