Journal of Urban Health

, Volume 83, Issue 5, pp 802-812

First online:

Pilot Survey of Subway and Bus Stop Noise Levels

  • Robyn R. M. GershonAffiliated withDepartment of Sociomedical Sciences, Columbia University, Mailman School of Public Health Email author 
  • , Richard Neitzel
  • , Marissa A. Barrera
  • , Muhammad Akram

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Excessive noise exposure is a serious global urban health problem, adversely affecting millions of people. One often cited source of urban noise is mass transit, particularly subway systems. As a first step in determining risk within this context, we recently conducted an environmental survey of noise levels of the New York City transit system. Over 90 noise measurements were made using a sound level meter. Average and maximum noise levels were measured on subway platforms, and maximum levels were measured inside subway cars and at several bus stops for comparison purposes. The average noise level measured on the subway platforms was 86 ± 4 dBA (decibel-A weighting). Maximum levels of 106, 112, and 89 dBA were measured on subway platforms, inside subway cars, and at bus stops, respectively. These results indicate that noise levels in subway and bus stop environments have the potential to exceed recommended exposure guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), given sufficient exposure duration. Risk reduction strategies following the standard hierarchy of control measures should be applied, where feasible, to reduce subway noise exposure.


Excessive noise exposure Hearing protection devices Mass transit Noise-induced hearing loss Sound level meter Subway noise Subway riders