TransLink plans to take measures to muffle the noise from SkyTrain as it passes through Vancouver’s northeast False Creek, after residents made a formal complaint Friday over the “constantly clacking” of the trains as they switch the tracks on the stretch between Main Street-Science World and Stadium-Chinatown stations.
Paul Altilia, who has lived in False Creek since 2004, said the noise from the trains is affecting the quality of life for about 4,000 people in the area, who can no longer have a conversation on their balconies or even watch TV with the windows open.
Tests on a cellphone app, he said, show the noise levels have reached as high as 90 decibels, which he said is above the acceptable standard of 55 decibels for the city.
“There has been a consistent progression; the noise levels have significantly increased over the years,” Altilia said. “The continued gentrification is making (the area) desirable but it’s also undermining our quality of life.”
TransLink met with the residents Friday to outline what it is doing to address the situation. SkyTrain boss Vivienne King, who is president of TransLink subsidiary B.C. Rapid Transit Corp., said she will personally visit two of the residents to see what they are experiencing. At the same time, she said, TransLink has a program to reduce SkyTrain noise over the next two years.
Efforts could include replacing older switches, grinding the head of the offending noisy switch and doing “rail profiling,” which shapes the train wheels to match the rails to lessen the noise, she said. TransLink already grinds the switches regularly.
But she acknowledges some of these measures will take time and money and “can’t be done overnight.” TransLink, for instance, plans to buy a grinder — it now rents one — so it has more flexibility over when to use it. And it has more than 100 switches that need to be replaced along the SkyTrain line. These each take at least two days to complete.
“Steel on steel will make noise,” King said. “This has been a 30-year problem and with more density we will get more people buying houses next to rail lines. Noise is an issue in every singe railway … there are many options to address it but they come with very large price tags.”
King noted the stretch between Main and Stadium stations has a 70-metre curve, one of the tightest on the system, which means there is likely to be noise as the trains round the bend — even though the speeds have been reduced to 50 km/h. Some cities have used rubber bats on the side of the rails to muffle the noise, she noted but they proved to be expensive and ineffective as they fell off.
One option, she said, is to have developers pay some of the costs of reducing SkyTrain noise because they are building right up against a rail alignment.
“We’re a very unique railway,” she said. “Being up in the sky puts another challenge on us.”
TransLink board member Larry Beasley agreed it’s important to resolve the issue, given that 10,000 more people are expected to move to the area once the viaducts are removed and replaced by residential towers. Municipalities across Metro Vancouver are building more dense developments in town centres as part of a regional growth strategy to accommodate a million more people by 2040.
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