Journal of Urban Health

, Volume 88, Issue 1, pp 1–13 | Cite as

A Study of Riders' Noise Exposure on Bay Area Rapid Transit Trains

  • Alexis Dinno
  • Cynthia Powell
  • Margaret Mary King


Excessive noise exposure may present a hazard to hearing, cardiovascular, and psychosomatic health. Mass transit systems, such as the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system, are potential sources of excessive noise. The purpose of this study was to characterize transit noise and riders’ exposure to noise on the BART system using three dosimetry metrics. We made 268 dosimetry measurements on a convenience sample of 51 line segments. Dosimetry measures were modeled using linear and nonlinear multiple regression as functions of average velocity, tunnel enclosure, flooring, and wet weather conditions and presented visually on a map of the BART system. This study provides evidence of levels of hazardous levels of noise exposure in all three dosimetry metrics. L eq and L max measures indicate exposures well above ranges associated with increased cardiovascular and psychosomatic health risks in the published literature. L peak indicate acute exposures hazardous to adult hearing on about 1% of line segment rides and acute exposures hazardous to child hearing on about 2% of such rides. The noise to which passengers are exposed may be due to train-specific conditions (velocity and flooring), but also to rail conditions (velocity and tunnels). These findings may point at possible remediation (revised speed limits on longer segments and those segments enclosed by tunnels). The findings also suggest that specific rail segments could be improved for noise.


Trains Noise exposure Auditory health Cardiovascular health Hypertension Psychosomatic stress 



We thank Craig Ishida and the Environmental Health & Safety Department of California State University East Bay for the loan of the dosimeters used in this study. We thank Professor Tom Dolan of Portland State University’s Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences manuscript feedback before submission. This study was unfunded.

Supplementary material

11524_2010_9501_MOESM1_ESM.docx (4.8 mb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 3856 kb)


  1. 1.
    Corey, Canapary & Galanis Research. 2008 BART customer satisfaction survey. Commissioned study report. San Francisco, CA: Corey, Canapary & Galanis Research; 2009.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Corey, Canapary & Galanis Research. 2008 BART station profile study. Commissioned study report. San Francisco, CA: Corey, Canapary & Galanis Research; 2009.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Curiel JSF. BART noise needs to be silenced. San Francisco Chronicle. December 11, 2008; B-2.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    John from cyberspace noise in the tube, kids in the car and kudos for the queen. The Oakland Tribune. Available at: April 25, 2007.
  5. 5.
    Rocha A. BART goal: stop SCREEECH! The Examiner. October 25, 2007.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Bhattacharya SK, Bandyopadhyay P, Kashyap SK. Calcutta metro: is it safe from noise pollution hazards? Ind Health. 1996; 34(1): 45–50.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Gershon RRM, Qureshi KA, Barrera MA, Erwin MJ, Goldsmith F. Health and safety hazards associated with subways: a review. J Urban Health. 2005; 82(1): 10–20.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Gershon RRM, Neitzel R, Barrera MA, Akram M. Pilot survey of subway and bus stop noise levels. J Urban Health. 2006; 83(5): 802–812.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Neitzel R, Gershon RRM, Zeltser M, Canton A, Akram M. Noise levels associated with New York City’s mass transit systems. Am J Publ Health. 2009; 99(8): 1393–1399.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Vernez Moudon A. Real noise from the urban environment how ambient community noise affects health and what can be done about it. Am J Prev Med. 2009; 37(2): 167–171.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Ising H, Kruppa B. Health effects caused by noise: evidence in the literature from the past 25 years. Noise Health. 2004; 6(22): 5–13.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Lusk S. Noise exposures: effects on hearing and prevention of noise induced hearing loss. AAOHN J. 1997; 45(8): 397–405.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Babisch W, Kamp I. Exposure–response relationship of the association between aircraft noise and the risk of hypertension. Noise Health. 2009; 11(44): 161–168.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Haralabidis AS, Dimakopoulou K, Vigna-Taglianti F, et al. Acute effects of night-time noise exposure on blood pressure in populations living near airports. Eur Heart J. 2008; 29(5): 658–664.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Jarup L, Babisch W, Houthuijs D, et al. Hypertension and exposure to noise near airports: the HYENA Study. Environ Health Perspect. 2008; 116(3): 329–333.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Stansfeld S, Haines M, Brown B. Noise and health in the urban environment. Rev Environ Health. 2000; 15(1–2): 43–82.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Passchier-Vermeer W, Passchier WF. Noise exposure and public health. Environ Health Perspect. 2000; 108(Suppl 1): 123–131.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Babisch W, Beule B, Schust M, Kersten N, Ising H. Traffic noise and risk of myocardial infarction. Epidemiology. 2005; 16(1): 33–40.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Evans GW, Lercher P, Meis M, Ising H, Kofler WW. Community noise exposure and stress in children. J Acoust Soc Am. 2001; 109: 1023–1027.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Stansfeld SA, Matheson MP. Noise pollution: non-auditory effects on health. Br Med Bull. 2003; 68(1): 243–257.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Matheson M, Stansfeld SA, Haines M. The effects of chronic aircraft noise exposure on children’s cognition and health: 3 field studies. Noise Health. 2003; 5(19): 31–40.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Sanz SA, García AM, García A. Road traffic noise around schools: a risk for pupil’s performance? Int Arch Occup Environ Health. 1993; 65(3): 205–207.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Harris CM, Aitken BH. Noise in subway cars. Sound Vibration Mag. 1971; February, pp. 12–14.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    World Health Organization (WHO). Guidelines for community noise. WHO expert task force report. Geneva: World Health Organization; 1999.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Criteria for a recommended standard: occupational noise exposure revised criteria 1998. DHHS (NIOSH) Publication. Cincinnati, OH: Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health; 1998.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Protective noise levels: condensed version of EPA levels document. EPA report. Washington, DC: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; 1979.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Friedman JH, Stuetzle W. Projection pursuit regression. J Am Stat Assoc. 1981; 76(376): 817–823.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Royston P, Cox NJ. A multivariate scatterplot smoother. Stata J. 2005; 5(3): 405–412.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    StataCorp. Stata statistical software: release 11. College Station, TX: StataCorp LP; 2009.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Cohen MP. Sample size considerations for multilevel surveys. Int Stat Rev. 2005; 73(3): 279–287.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Kelley K, Maxwell S. Sample size planning for multiple regression: power and accuracy for omnibus and targeted effects, chapter 11. In: Alasuutari P, Bickman L, Brannen J, eds. Sage Handbook of Social Research Methods. Thousand Oaks: Sage; 2008: 166–192.Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    Figueiras A, Domenech-Massons JM, Cadarso C. Regression models: calculating the confidence interval of effects in the presence of interactions. Stat Med. 1998; 17(18): 2099–2105.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Babisch W. Traffic noise and cardiovascular disease: epidemiological review and synthesis. Noise Health. 2000; 2(8): 9–32.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Babisch W. Transportation noise and cardiovascular risk: updated review and synthesis of epidemiological studies indicate that the evidence has increased. Noise Health. 2006; 8(30): 1–29.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Barregard L, Bonde E, Ohrstrom E. Risk of hypertension from exposure to road traffic noise in a population-based sample. Occup Environ Med. 2009; 66(6): 410–415.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Bluhm GL, Berglind N, Nordling E, Rosenlund M. Road traffic noise and hypertension. Occup Environ Med. 2007; 64(2): 122–126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    van Kempen EEMM, Kruize H, Boshuizen HC, Ameling CB, Staatsen BAM, de Hollander AEM. The association between noise exposure and blood pressure and ischemic heart disease: a meta-analysis. Environ Health Perspect. 2002; 110(3): 307–317.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. 38.
    Gordis L. Epidemiology. 4th ed. Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders; 2008.Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Pearce N. Traditional epidemiology, modern epidemiology, and public health. Am J Publ Health. 1996; 86(5): 678–683.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. 40.
    Levins R, Lopez C. Toward an ecosocial view of health. Int J Health Serv. 1999; 29(2): 261–293.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  41. 41.
    Benjamini Y, Hochberg Y. Controlling the false discovery rate: a practical and powerful approach to multiple testing. J R Stat Soc B Methodol. 1995; 57(1): 289–300.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The New York Academy of Medicine 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alexis Dinno
    • 1
  • Cynthia Powell
    • 2
  • Margaret Mary King
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Community HealthPortland State UniversityPortlandUSA
  2. 2.Department of Geography and Human Environmental StudiesSan Francisco State UniversitySan FranciscoUSA

Personalised recommendations