i agree the noise is BAD!!!

the noise from the steel track and wheels are so loud that I wonder what the decibels are. I bet it's above the healthy level. Does anyone have a sound meter? Please post if you do.

If your ears hurt, the noise is above acceptable noise levels.

I always bring earplugs with me. I use them on BART as well as on airplanes.

Little Known Fact: The reason for excessive wheel / rail noise is because BART does not grind the rail head as often as they should. They are deferring maintenance.

I agree. I even use my ipod and honestly, I have to turn it way up just to compete with the level of noise. I wonder if enough people complain to bart that they might look into this. The rails I hear are over 30 years old? wow

bartside's picture

it is loud. What's funny is that people try to raise their voices so loud that when the train noise goes down, the loud talkers are still talking VERY LOUD! haha

I wear $100.00 earphones on BART because the noise through the tube hurts my ears so bad and at times that isn't enough. Something definitely needs to be done about the noisy tracks. It is just awful. Not only are earphones good for the noise but for all those that drunken idiots that have to talk at volume 90000.

The noise is so bad I can hear it through my headphones. They are definitely deferring maintenance by 75%. The entire system is falling apart and the trains smell like urine.

Train Operator since 2003's picture

The Union Asked for an independent sound survey years ago and the result was that the noise level was within "Acceptable levels" whatever that means. Coincidently they stopped having train operators do hearing tests during their physicals around the same time. If it's any consolation it's even louder in the cab which is why you see many T/O's with earplugs.

how long ago was this sound survey done? I'm interested if they would be doing this again soon since year by year the system is getting worn down.

So it's just as loud in those cabs for the T/O? Wow, isn't your work considered a "hazardous" job?

Yeah. I don't operate without plugs. The noise in the cab a lot of times is ear-splitting almost. And let's not mention the 1000 volt third rail that we are in close proximity with 70% of the time.

I was riding a train to SF one time, the friend I was riding with brought his sound meter, the db was 60 in the tube at its highest but it was a momentary spike not a constant 60db

That's how they were able to claim the noise level was within "acceptable" levels. They measure the level of sound, but also the duration. Intermittent loud noises are not considered as bad as constant ones...but over time will still damage your hearing. (and turning up your ipod to try to drown it out is even worse!)

I have to laugh when I think back to my pre-hire physical. "Try not to spend too much time around the trains, that'll damage your hearing."

"Uh...thanks doc. Are you aware just what job you're checking me out for?"

are we allowed to sue BART for hearing loss?

yes sue bart you stupid ass you ride bart on your own fuck head nobody made you! you cry baby

Max Peck's picture

105.3 dbC...in the Transbay tube

Coming in to work this morning, I decided to see exactly what the noise level was when in the Transbay tube. Having seen an inexpensive sound meter (http://www.walmart.com/catalog/product.do?product_id=4694329) available for car audio competitions, I brought it along today to see just how loud it BART can get.

The American Tinnitus Association, a group largely made up of those who have noise-induced hearing loss states that the 105db range is equivilent to that of a chainsaw or lawn mower...

Quoting:" When you are exposed to sounds above 85 dB, it is recommended you use earplugs, earmuffs, or other protection devices. Disposable foam earplugs are cheap, easy to insert, and effective. Of course, you won't always know how many decibels a sound source emits and whether you accordingly need protection. Generally speaking, if you are in an environment and must shout to be heard by someone else, it's too loud."

With all the potential ways of improving the BART system, this is one that will in the long term save them money. How much do you expect the first class action lawsuit to cost them with all those claiming hearing loss due to their "maintenance defferal"?

BART had better listen, and that is not a pun. Expect legal action shortly if the noise level is not brought down to "healthy" levels.

A copy of this post is also going to CAL-OSHA.

Max Peck's picture

I have continued to track the noise levels in the Transbay tube, here are my results:

Date |Car| Direction|Location |Aspect|dbbc
4/3/07 1673 Homeward Forward Door Standing 109.1
4/4/07 1212 Inbound Left Aft Standing 108.3
4/4/07 1575 Homeward Forward Door Standing 109.1
4/5/07 1220 Inbound Right Quad Seats Reclined 106.1
4/5/07 1657 Homeward Forward Door Standing 110.1
4/6/07 1220 Inbound Right Quad Seats Reclined 105.7
4/9/07 1503 Inbound Left Aft Standing 106.1
4/9/07 1750 Homeward Right Aft Standing 110.1
4/10/07 1265 Inbound Left Aft Standing 106.1
4/10/07 1647 Homeward Right Aft Standing 105.3
4/11/07 1626 Inbound Left Aft Standing 105.3

*Right and left is in relation to direction of travel

These are peak levels, taken with a standard noise level meter used in car audio competitions.

It is curious to note that when taking a Pittsburg/Baypoint train instead of the normal Richmond line, the levels are at times 5dbc quieter...perhaps allowing for the different shells... either way exposure to noise levels over 105 dBc for any period of time is damaging to one hearing according to the Workplace Safety Guidelines from OSHA - Strong Health Audiology web site (http://www.stronghealth.com/services/Audiology/hearing/workplaceguidelines.cfm)

Granted it can be hard to take action to BART re: hearing loss solely due to BART ridership, but theyn can be held negligent and liable for knowingly exposing it's riders to such levels at all and any loss would only be exacerbated by their negligence.

You'd have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the hearing loss sustained was actually from BART, not some other source, such as the environment in which you live, excessive iPod use, just to name a few. If one was actually to prove that BART was loud to the point of being unsafe, you'd probably have to hire (in addition to legal representation) some sort of independent accoustical consultatnt.

-M. Delgado

Independent studies have shown that the db level coming out of the transbay tube into Embarcadero is 120! Insulation was elimnated from the train cars when they were rehabed in order to save money. Start suing.

Imaging listening to it everyday, 3-4 hours of your day. Squeeling around corners in Oakland and Berkeley is worse.

Train operators for years have been complaining about the noise. It is actually much louder in the fiberglass cabs, or if the window is open. I know a few train operators that have hearing loss..

your on a train dum ass what the hell do you want it to sound like!you fucking cry babes!

and that comment, dear readers, came directly from the upper echalons of bart management. they cannot possibly be lining their pockets, or hiring a worthless cousin, if this issue were to be addressed.

Shrapnel's picture

Food for thought.

Take at the OSHA guidelines someplace like http://www.stronghealth.com/services/Audiology/hearing/workplaceguidelines.cfm . It's not only loudness, but duration that gets regulated. And there are different ways to measure such as root-mean-square or peak loudness and different weightings for different frequency bands. So if you wanted a legal measurement it would have to be done carefully and according to whatever guidelines are in place in order to be admissible.

I'm sure BART would cover their asses and say "It's only 103.1 dB" for 5 minutes in The Tube and so we're within guidelines since people won't spend more than 10 minutes a day riding through the tube. Some story like that. Their workers would probably have a better case against them if BART isn't supplying them with protective ear-wear and recommend that they use it. This is because the train operators seemingly have it worse and also much longer duration. Most ear plugs you can buy at pharmacies cut down the noise by somewhere around 29 or 30 dB. This puts 105 dB at around 75 dB which you'd hear but isn't painfully loud (see http://www.sfu.ca/sonic-studio/handbook/Decibel.html for info on the decibel scale and loudness equivalents).

I think better than suing would be to have an investigative reporter for a major TV news station or the Chronicle get the measurements and other things and publicize it a lot. I think BART would have a hard time spinning it away if it got a lot of bad publicity, but in a legal battle it would be hard to prove without some careful documentation. And even then, you probably couldn't prove that they, alone, ruined your hearing, just that they were exceeding safety standards.

And those who are trying to turn up their iPods louder than the noise, you're just ruining your hearing faster. Congratulations on doing that. Though you can get some (usually expensive) types of earphones which are essentially earplugs with headphones inside them so they block out much more outside noise. I'd go for these before the noise-canceling kind which often don't work that well (depending on brand and price).

You will certainly have hearing loss just by living in an industrial society and a populated area. People have studied remote tribes with old people that suffered little to no hearing loss even into their 70s and 80s. Hearing loss as you get older is almost universal in industrialized society to a greater degree, and just wait until the iPod generation gets to be in their 40s to 50s and has extreme hearing loss. (Because listening to headphones loudly and for long periods can cause a lot over time.)

BART does NOT supply protective ear wear to employees and it encourages new operators not to use ear protection because of "safety issues" related to not hearing instructions from central control. New hires in probation period do not wear ear protection to ensure passing probation period and staying employed.

Intresting. The cab should have a light that flahses showing an incoming radio transmission. Then again you dont have a specific channel for each train do you?

Wow, that seems negligent if they discourage train operators from wearing ear plugs and know the sound pressure levels are exceeding OSHA standards. Seems like if someone wanted to whistle blow on them for violating OSHA standards, BART could be in a heap of trouble.

Having to hear announcements sshouldn't exclude safety since solutions to hearing and blocking out outside noise are readily available. Noise-insulating headphones (search Google for "in ear monitors" or "sound isolating headphones" ) could be used which would BOTH reduce outside noise and allow train operators to hear announcements.

There are even some kinds that are custom molded to the wearer's ear to block more noise and allowing them to hear the desired sound better. Many professional musicians use these types on stage.

It seems like it would be the right thing to do to try and protect the TOs hearing. It would also probably cost them a smaller amount to both protect hearing and be sure the TOs could hear announcements than to risk the fines or legal actions (even just in legal bills, how much are lawyers billing these days?).

Appropriate ear protection for BART TOs seems just as important as eye protection is for those doing construction, or breathing equipment is for those working in coal mines. This should NOT be optional equipment, let alone discouraged.

Sound meter levels:
Mode levels around 75 decibels.
Mean unknown, but median should be around 85 db while running.

In the month of April (date forgotten) levels reached 107 decibels on BART, coming from Balboa Park towards Civic Center.

Of course, we still don't have much of a case because those highest levels (i.e. 107 db) last for only a few seconds at a time, maybe two or three times between the above mentioned stations. It still hurts the ears, though, doesn't it?

I'm a City College student doing a term paper. Don't expect too much from my results. I only record these numbers to encourage others to make their own observations.

I used a RadioShack-brand "Digital Sound Level Meter." I set the device to "fast response," which reloads the bargraph readings every 0.2 seconds. Nonetheless, measurements were made under "MAX" mode in order to reflect the loudest measured sound level during the 1-second sampling period. The numbers I saw during this period are the numbers recorded above.

It's kind of cool that you are gathering actual, real life, information on this subject.
Your information does provide a reference point, good vs. bad, for the casual reader.

Shouldn't this this fall under the catagory
of EMPLOYEE SAFTEY?
And if it does, I'm hoping that BART has a rather aggressive EMPLOYEE SAFTEY PROGRAM already established.

I would think that the union would be more than happy to "work" with BART to find an acceptable solution rather than litigate.

where's the luv...?
jbap21