NYC: tracking noise to turn down the volume

Urban noise

Noise in NYC
© PeterAmadorRivera /

Governing magazine, a leading media platform covering politics, policy and management for state and local government leaders in the United States recently ran an article on noise and what authorities can do about this.

New York University, a private non-profit research university in New York City, has initiated a 5-year study funded by the US National Science Foundation to monitor noise in the city. The Sounds of New York City project aims to track sound across the city, where noise is regularly reported at levels reaching 95 dB. It is currently unclear how policymakers in New York will use the data collected.

The article reports that interestingly no studies have been done on changes in urban noise levels over time. Data are also scarce on whether it is getting worse or to what extent. Since health problems related to noise are now a substantiated fact, these data could prove very useful.

On a national scale, the US Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics mapped noise across the country in 2017. It found that 97% of the population is subjected to man-made noise. A recent study of 290 national park sites found that 67% have significant human-caused noise.

Some cities and states are starting to take steps to make a difference. In Texas, new “quiet concrete” is being tested on two stretches of highway to reduce highway noise. New laws are also being developed or have been implemented to control noise from leaf blowers, helicopters, and loud motorbikes.