UW News

February 3, 2011

Light rail noise

UW Health Sciences/UW Medicine

Noise researcher and occupational hygienist Rick Neitzel, of the UW Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, said hes been “unimpressed” with local transit—specifically, light rail—and related noise reduction efforts.

“I cut the New York City infrastructure some slack because its well over 100 years old,” he said.  “For our brand-new light rail system, Im a bit more critical.” Sound Transit did, after all, have to declare a public health emergency in September 2009 due to the noise. “The transit authority did that because it let them bypass certain procedures in order to fix the problems quickly,” Neitzel said.

The light rail situation created a temporary outcry, but unless it directly affects you, noise doesnt make it on the radar for most people, he said.  “Its funny, because Sound Transit spent all this money on the design of the light rail system.  The system seems convenient and reliable, but the designers apparently failed to fully consider possible health impacts.  The noise levels measured in the community are substantially higher than what they were predicted to be.  In fact, theyre high enough that they present a concern not just for annoyance, but for peoples hearing and potentially their stress levels and cardiovascular health.”