Expo Line video on train noise (or lack thereof)

The Expo Line Construction Authority posted the above video last month and today has been sending the link around to interested parties.

I’ll throw in my two cents: My experience is that most roads are far, far louder than light rail lines. I live a mile from the 210 freeway and can often hear traffic on the road from my house. I’ve never heard anyone complain that they can hear light rail from a mile away.

Phase one of the Expo Line will run between downtown Los Angeles and Culver City; train and signal testing has been underway for the past couple of months. The second phase — funded by Measure R — will run between Culver City and downtown Santa Monica and is expected to begin construction later this year.

The Construction Authority is an independent agency that is constructing the project that will eventually be turned over to Metro to own and operate.

6 replies

  1. This is an important issue that doesn’t get talked about enough.

    Honestly I think you guys are down playing rail noise here. The points about arterial streets and freeways being noisy are valid, but if you look at the Blue Line, there are a lot of sections in residential areas that don’t have the benefit of sound walls.

    You really can’t hear the noise impacts of a train from inside the train. You have to get out and walk along the tracks to get a sense of what it’s like.

    The crossing bells and horn honks are a real drawback of at-grade alignments, and the impacts are felt almost exclusively by the people who live in the immediate vicinity.

    I support the Expo Line, but this is something Metro has to do better on. That’s a factor in getting more people to live near transit as well.

  2. You should think more about acoustics inside the trains too. In this case I’m referring to excessive intercom chatter and ear splitting “door closing” bells. Honestly, I think most people get it the first time when they hear the stop announced.

    Hopefully, we can build more lines and improve the riding experience on the existing ones as well.

    This isn’t New York City, where few people have parking spaces. This is LA, and you’re competing with cars.

  3. I’ve been using the Blue line (plus bike) to get to work for the past month, and I ride along a section of the line in Compton for about 1.5 miles after getting off the train. The train noise is noticable, mainly due to the wind noise. It sounds pretty similar to a large truck going 55 mph. I definitely find it more pleasant to ride along Willobrook (the street that parallels the tracks) instead of high-traffic streets like Wilmington or Alameda. The cars going 45 mph are a little quieter than the train, but the noise is nearly constant.

    The only really annoying thing is the horns at grade crossings, which are quite loud. Is there any proof that horns prevent grade crossing collisions? The blue line and Metrolink uses there horns about 3 or 4 times before every crossing, yet there are still lots of accidents in certain places. If I lived near the line, I would definitely prioritize getting rid of the horns before worrying about soundwalls or more aerodynamic trains.

  4. This issue is important, and metro certainly should mitigate excessive sound on rail lines, but it is also often a source of misunderstanding. The orange line bus is a perfect example of how noise concerns in the valley glen area made it what it is; A rather slow running BRT with abysmal signal coordination, major capacity issues, and all the other ways that buses simply don’t work well as backbone lines, because a “train” would have been “loud”. This video is good in that it clarifies the difference between urban rail and more conventional railroad operations. People hear “train” and they think freight. Maybe this will help quell future concerns about noise with new rail projects and not be lead down the same path as the orange line. And this certainly does not mean that metro shouldn’t upgrade the orange line to rail as that is the only real solution to the problems the current orange line has.

  5. This is the great argument for all subway, and I think the residents of Little Tokyo weren’t just thinking of the safety issues or physical impact of the Regional Connector going through their neighborhood, but also NOISE.

    As a supporter of LRT, I had a good friend whose South Pasadena condo was literally right next to the Gold Line ROW. I telling you her front door was 6 paces away, and her living room window overlooked the ROW. We used to watch the very few freights go by and she lived with that and didn’t have any complaints. She and other condo residents were assured by Metro that the noise impact would be minimal and LESS than the freights.

    When Gold Line service began, my good friend and all the residents of the building next to the ROW were FUMING ANGRY. “WE WERE LIED TO,” was what she told me in a VERY loud almost screaming voice to make impact.

    Apparently, something I knew from riding LRT, the noise of the pantograph running along the catenary at higher speeds creates quite a noise. But what really makes the noise objectionable is the frequency of its occurrence, and this is why 1 or 2 freght trains a day were tolerated or altogether missed, depending upon here schedule. But with the noise of an LRT using catenary design several times an hour, it drove them crazy.

    The horns and other noise making safety devices are often mandated by the PUC or required to get insurance, so don’t look for the MTA to be doing much on those fronts as Metro had little or no choice in the matter (MTA LRT vehicles have a variety of electronic horn and bell sounds, but at certain points they are required by either PUC or MTA policy for safety reasons to use the KL5A type of really loud horn sound similar to the real KL5A used by Amtrak and freight trains, especially along the fast moving Blue Line.

    Metro does need to do more, and Metro ought to seriously consider the new technology of using electrical contact BENEATH LRT vehicles instead of catenary. The new technology could be less noisy, but certainly improves the visual impact on a street as it requires no overhead wires (Metrolink started using a muted horn–I don’t know its official designation–some years ago after people complained from all over the system of the blaring KL5A horns at 5AM next to their bedroom windows).

    So, all in favor of the LRT and view the noise as a necessary compromise, but I have great empathy for those who live with the constant noise of LRT and believe Metro needs to do even more. No doubt grade separation solves the problem in many instances and increases speeds, efficiencies that make the line more attractive to more people, but, as we’ve seen, that take money, and if Metro couldn’t build the grade separation at Farmdale that would have solved all the problems there (mostly having to do with safety), don’t look for the MTA to do so elsewhere. More noise to come, it seems.