Go Back  FlyerTalk Forums > Travel&Dining > TravelBuzz
Reload this Page >

why are NYC subways so incredibly noisy?

why are NYC subways so incredibly noisy?

Old Mar 3, 12, 11:25 pm
  #1  
TA
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Nov 1999
Location: if it's Thursday, this must be Belgium
Programs: UA 1K MM
Posts: 6,210
why are NYC subways so incredibly noisy?

Posting this here because my question is not specifically about NYC, but train ops, and hoping someone with experience might see it here!

I imagine that when a visitor from Japan or Europe visits NYC, the sheer noise and cacophany of the subways is an assault on the ears (and mine, thus my posting here).

What is this, and why? Can someone explain why something about the rails or cars creates such incredible noise, compared to other cities? Are the rails not welded well, clicking and clacking? Is it poor sound insulation? Is it old infrastructure that has lots of curves, designed for a different era?

I was on a train today (R, or N, I don't remember) that, every time braking coming into a station, it felt like the train was going to rattle itself apart. NYC subway trains just do not feel "tight".

I would think that after 100 years of operations, this is something that, you know, they could improve...
TA is offline  
Old Mar 3, 12, 11:30 pm
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jul 2011
Location: North America
Posts: 2,153
Originally Posted by TA View Post
I would think that after 100 years of operations, this is something that, you know, they could improve...
There you go. You nailed it!
CodeAdam10 is offline  
Old Mar 3, 12, 11:57 pm
  #3  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Jun 2002
Location: n.y.c.
Posts: 13,458
Funny thing is - most of the N/R track in Manhattan has been recently rebuilt (concrete bed instead of stone ballast) and the equipment is new. It's a lot quieter than it was 10 years ago.

Trains make noise. Get used to it.
nerd is offline  
Old Mar 4, 12, 12:04 am
  #4  
Suspended
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: Atherton, CA
Programs: UA 1K, AA EXP; Owner, Green Bay Packers
Posts: 21,693
Cool

Originally Posted by nerd View Post

Trains make noise. Get used to it.

^ LOL!
Doc Savage is offline  
Old Mar 4, 12, 12:07 am
  #5  
 
Join Date: Nov 2007
Location: YUL
Programs: Aeroplan
Posts: 446
Originally Posted by TA View Post
I imagine that when a visitor from Japan or Europe visits NYC, the sheer noise and cacophany of the subways is an assault on the ears (and mine, thus my posting here).
Now that would be ironic... many of the cars were built in Japan...
ls17031 is offline  
Old Mar 4, 12, 12:20 am
  #6  
TA
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Nov 1999
Location: if it's Thursday, this must be Belgium
Programs: UA 1K MM
Posts: 6,210
Originally Posted by ls17031 View Post
Now that would be ironic... many of the cars were built in Japan...
So what is it then? The tracks? Poor maintenance?

Last edited by TA; Mar 4, 12 at 12:28 am
TA is offline  
Old Mar 4, 12, 12:23 am
  #7  
Suspended
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: Atherton, CA
Programs: UA 1K, AA EXP; Owner, Green Bay Packers
Posts: 21,693
Cool

Oh, for Pete's sake.
Doc Savage is offline  
Old Mar 4, 12, 12:36 am
  #8  
 
Join Date: Apr 2007
Location: Australia
Posts: 6,014
I live in a city with no subway to compare it to.. but when I was in NYC a month ago I must say I didn't notice the noise levels as being odd or particularly high....
trooper is offline  
Old Mar 4, 12, 8:14 am
  #9  
 
Join Date: Feb 2008
Programs: UA AA MR HH B6
Posts: 1,374
NYC has a lot of sharp turns where the wheels slip and slide and makes a ton of noise, which is really bad near Grand Central. Also, the infrastructure is SOOOOO old and its really hard to replace because of the 24 hour. And I think a lot of rails are the short ones which cause more CLICKITY CLACK noises.
closetasfan is offline  
Old Mar 4, 12, 9:04 am
  #10  
 
Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 2,443
I don't know the answer to the OP's question, but it is certainly true that in London some of the Underground lines are noisier than others – the relatively new Victoria and Jubilee lines are noisier, for example, than the older lines like the Northern line, Piccadilly and Central line. The newest part of the Jubilee line (i.e. from Westminster south and east) is not as noisy as the original parts. I can only assume that it's something to do with the tracks.

That is about the deep lines. The near-the-surface lines (the District line and the Hammersmith and City and Metropolitan lines in their central sections) are less noisy, presumably (?) because the tunnels are bigger – but again I don't really know.

Similarly in Sydney, the old City Circle trains are less noisy than the underground sections of the Eastern Suburbs line, which was built (more or less) at the same time as the noisiest lines in London.
Christopher is offline  
Old Mar 4, 12, 11:16 am
  #11  
 
Join Date: Apr 2006
Location: BOS-TLV
Programs: Lots of them, no status
Posts: 1,289
If you think NYC is bad, you should ride the T in Boston...
vicarious_MR'er is offline  
Old Mar 4, 12, 5:42 pm
  #12  
 
Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: LGA - JFK
Programs: UA, AA, DL, B6, CX, KE, Latitude, VIFP, Crown & Anchor, etc.
Posts: 2,575
Originally Posted by vicarious_MR'er View Post
If you think NYC is bad, you should ride the T in Boston...
+1 ^ Or, take a ride on the L in Chicago, almost as old as NYC at 120 years old (daily ridership @ 3/4 million) NY's subway service bagan in 1863 (thus, almost 149 years "young") with 5 million people riding daily, 24/7/365+

There's no question that modern systems designed & built in the 20th century like Bart in SFO or Metro in DCA are quieter, better plus it has modernized creature comfort (but they do not run at night & are closed down completely for maintenance, inspection & repairs, etc.) Compared to other continuously running systems around the world - it's just as safe & reliable as ever.

We grew up in the Bronx & lived 2 blocks from the elevated line, the sounds & train noises running became music of the night in the background, and, we slept tightly each & every night.

It's what makes, New York, unique & distinct ...

Last edited by Letitride3c; Mar 4, 12 at 5:50 pm
Letitride3c is offline  
Old Mar 4, 12, 5:42 pm
  #13  
 
Join Date: Jul 2011
Location: RNO
Programs: AA/DL/WN/ex-UA elite
Posts: 8,053
In some cities (Paris and Montreal come to miind), the trains use rubber tires instead of steel wheels. This is much quieter at low speeds but not so much at high speeds.
Kevin AA is offline  
Old Mar 4, 12, 6:01 pm
  #14  
 
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: Hawaii
Programs: AA PLT, AAdv since Day One
Posts: 2,618
Now there is a debate ongoing in Honolulu about the beginning of a new rail system which is "steel on steel". Prior to the decision to use this "technology" other alternatives were debated but shot down for various reasons. At least in NYC most of the system is underground. Unfortunately, on O'ahu it will all be above ground and arguably make an adverse dent in that wonderful paradise.
inlanikai is offline  
Old Mar 4, 12, 6:16 pm
  #15  
In Memoriam
 
Join Date: Feb 2000
Location: Easton, CT, USA
Programs: ua prem exec, Former hilton diamond
Posts: 31,801
It totally depends on the line, but for the most part, steel wheels on steel rails is going to be noisy.

Columbia did a story a few years ago saying just a half hour of exposure to the NYC subway noise

have the potential to exceed recommended guidelines of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

According to the research, as little as 30 minutes of exposure to decibel levels measured in the New York City transit system per day has the potential to result in hearing loss. The findings have just been published in the September issue of the Journal of Urban Health, a publication of the New York Academy of Medicine.


Average noise was measured at 95db, where a chainsaw is 100db.

I would guess the age, the condition of the cars and tracks, the metal on metal, the exposed motors all add to the condition the tracks and car are in and the noise levels. Of course, since there is nothing "soft" underground, the walls are all concrete, brick, or tiles, and it's a small space, there's nothing to break up the noise so it just echos around down there.
cordelli is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Search Engine: