The other day, I decided to take a little walk through Compton, CA to hear for myself what it's like to live next to the Blue Line (a light rail train). The 2.4 mile walk from the Compton to the Imperial/Wilmington station got me thinking about the different kinds of noise problems a rail line can cause.
On this segment, the line starts at grade, goes up over Rosecrans Ave. and descends again to run at grade for the rest of the way. There are no sound walls anywhere along the segment. The most common land use along the segment is housing. There are three kinds of noise to consider: rail noise, horn noise, and crossing gate noise. I didn't have a decibel meter for any of this, my goal was to come up with a completely subjective description of how annoyed I was by the noise. After all, when a noise problem is driving someone crazy, they don't pull out a decibel meter to decide if they're going to move or not, they consult their memory and decide what to do.
Here are the results:
1) Rail noise - this is quite loud when the train is right alongside you. I could definitely imagine this waking somebody up at night, especially since it's a periodic noise, as opposed to a constant noise.
2) Horn noise - this was the loudest noise; the train honks its horn at every at-grade crossing, usually more than once. While this improves safety, it does so at a serious cost to quality of life for the adjacent houses.
3) Crossing gate noise - this was the mildest noise, but still quite noticeable, and it persists for almost a minute. Again, this improves safety at the at-grade crossings but at a cost to quality of life for the people living there.
We need public transportation that is reasonably quiet for its neighbors. For the people of Compton, the Blue Line isn't doing the job.