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May 19, 2006

Heather alerted me to a Public Radio segment on wayside train horns (used to limit excessive noise at highway/railroad grade crossings).

More info on grade crossing noise and wayside horns available here and here.

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The Villager is running an article on New York City subway noise:

Still, the noise remains piercing. However, there is more the transit authority can do to minimize loud noise, and the impetus for more improvements may start with stricter legislation Ń itŐs the type of legislation transit once knew and by which it has already abided.

Aside from the numerous technical errors in the piece, the article is unfair in reflecting New York City transit’s commitment to noise control. For one thing, they spend a lot of time and money on noise control in the system. However, the biggest problem is that they can only do so much to quiet the system given the size (660 miles of track in passenger service), and the age of the system.

While many at the Spring St. station last week suggested that the transit authority use rubber tires on the trains, the type usually seen on the trains in Europe, Seaton said rubber tires arenŐt possible for New York City trains.

Sure, rubber tires would be nice… if you don’t mind shutting down the system for a few years while you rip apart and rebuild the infrastructure, and acquire new vehicles. Spray-on absorption is another option (and is used by NYCT), but it can only provide so much help. Friction modifiers (i.e. spraying water on the tracks) is only useful on straight track (and may reduce the friction between the wheel/track interface which could lead to safety and stopping problems).

Like anything else, we all wish transit systems could be quieter (and yes, the Federal government takes this issue seriously). However, the reason New York City subways aren’t as quiet as we would like isn’t because they don’t try, it’s because it’s not an easy problem so solve.

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