Dangerous noise levels on TransLink’s trains need to be made a top priority

High levels of noise on SkyTrains are well known, now the health risks are too

TransLink’s lack of concern for passengers’ health is ear-responsible. Photo: Maxwell Gawlick / The Peak

By: Marco Ovies, Staff Writer

Taking the SkyTrain is one of the most common ways for students to get up to campus, as well as being much better for the environment than driving. But is it worth the risk to your own health? According to a new study, certain sections of the SkyTrain are so loud that they can cause permanent hearing damage. The issue of noisy trains had previously been ignored by TransLink, until residents living near the tracks complained — and that lack of concern is unacceptable.

Noise levels of up to 106 decibels (even louder than active construction sites) have been recorded, and prolonged exposure to this amount of noise is not only extremely annoying to listen to, but can also cause permanent damage to your ears. TransLink is advocating several improvements to our transit system (the gondola, line expansions, extra buses), however, the issue of noise has been ongoing for years now. The fact that nothing has been done yet to address it when these decibels are clearly dangerous is, frankly, shocking.

WorkSafe BC says that hearing loss can occur during prolonged exposure of just 85 decibels, and with students transiting to-and-from classes on the regular, this exposure adds up. Even levels lower than these can create health problems. Being continually exposed to noise of even 70 to 80 decibels could increase the risk of heart disease. 

So why has so little been done to fix this issue? The worst of this noise was recorded on the original Mark I cars, with the Mark III being significantly quieter. But the old Mark I trains won’t be replaced for another five years. If TransLink had any concern for the public’s health then an immediate solution should be put into place. 

Twenty percent of people in the Lower Mainland rely on transit for their daily commute. Many of those people may be unaware of the permanent damage they are doing to their hearing and the risks they are taking with their health. 

Before we can start talking about further line expansions and gondolas, TransLink needs to fix the issue of hazardous noise rather than sweeping it under the rug. However, with no immediate solution in the near future, riders should consider wearing earplugs on their next SkyTrain ride.