The cost of my monthly Metropass went up another $6 this month.
While my wallet may be hurting a little, my ears certainly are relaxing in relief. Enough money in the TTC bank account means the TTC will stay on track with it’s promise to deliver the new Toronto Rockets – 70 accessible train sets (420 cars) in the next three years. And full execution of these plans just may save my hearing. Seriously.
You’ve heard the older T-1 series Bombardier subways. The loud chugging. The high pitch screaming sound of brakes. The crackling and inaudible sound system. My ears hurt daily. But on my first encounter with the next generation subway, the sleek, futuristic vehicle crawled into St. George station as quiet as a mouse. I hardly knew it was there.
Good thing. The sound of older subway cars weren’t just uncomfortable. It was actually a serious hazard.
The Toronto Star’s Joe Fiorito told you first. A few years ago, before our new silver rockets hit the rails, the smart and pragmatic columnist hit the streets with a hearing-loss specialist and took measurements of sound levels downtown. They hit busy corners and food courts. But the worst offender in their inquiry? You guessed it – the subway.
Noise levels from a subway train rolling in to a station and braking to a stop hit between 80 to 100 decibels. Noise from on board a car wasn’t much better. Decibels hit between 82 to 88 as a train rolled through Union Station and up to King.
According to provincial guidelines, comfortable noise levels in Toronto should be 55. If sound reaches 85 or above, it can cause permanent damage to hair cells in the inner ear, leading to hearing loss.
In reading Fiorito’s story, I decided to get some more numbers. Stop watch in hand, I measured the length of time a train was in station and the noise was uncomfortable to me. The average length of time I’d hear the loud chugging, piercing screech and occasional horn was 20 seconds.
At that rate of exposure to increased sound pressure, it added up to 40 seconds a day, 200 seconds (3.3 minutes) a week to 173 minutes (2.88 hours) a year. That is like 3 hours standing at a construction site or sitting on an idling bulldozer without protection.
I don’t think I am being a baby about it either. The Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) says noise-induced hearing loss is the number one cause of workplace claims.
Just another bonus to the new sexy, albeit expensive subway cars. I may be paying $6 more a month, or $17 more than I did five years ago. I still have a subway system that doesn’t cause permanent damage to my hearing. With continued service cuts and cost increases from City Hall, it’s nice to say I’m somehow getting my money’s worth.