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Commuters are noticing the high-decibel screeching sounds among BART's five lines. But could the noise be harmful to your health? Map courtesy

Why is BART so noisy?

on October 24, 2010

We now turn to that age-old question: Why is BART so noisy?

It turns out there are specific reasons for the noise and BART officials know what they are. BART officials also say, however, that studies actually rank BART as one of the quietest public transportation systems in the country.

Lindsay Wasserberger took her microphone into the tunnels to find out more. Hear the full story by clicking play on the audio track below.


  1. daniel on October 24, 2010 at 11:51 am

    Maybe Bill Wattenburg can better illuminate why BART is so noisy vs. a more than 10 year-old study on noise on a straightaway track!

  2. SA on October 24, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    I’m disappointed to click through from the Chronicle’s website and find only an audio story. Please post a transcript.

  3. […] rings in my ears most mornings. Lindsay Wasserberger, from our sister site Oakland North, tries to find out. Filed Under: Today's Mission This entry was written by Bridget Huber, posted on at 5:02 am, […]

  4. Alex on October 24, 2010 at 1:27 pm


    Nice puff piece for BART. Lindsay, why didn’t you take a sound meter on the train? If BART hits 80dB in a straight line, how loud do you think it’s going to be in a curve? BART is not the only rail system in the world deviating from purely straight lines.

    It doesn’t particularly matter what some woman on a train thinks, if your ears are ringing after you get off of BART (or after BART gets through a noisy stretch) you’ve done damage to your ears.

    The noise level generated by BART on a straight section at 30mph is absolutely meaningless if travel mostly on areas that straight and aren’t areas where you’re moving 30mph.

    A while ago a former BART engineer pointed out to the SF Chronicle that BART’s track spacing (gauge) in curves was simply too narrow leading to increased wear and noise. Go ask Linton Johnson if they grease the tracks (they don’t). Go ask Linton *why* they don’t (hint: they can’t because they botched the train control software pretty well in the 70s).

  5. Alex on October 24, 2010 at 1:31 pm

    “The noise level generated by BART on a straight section at 30mph is absolutely meaningless if travel mostly on areas that straight and aren’t areas where you’re moving 30mph.”

    Should read:

    The noise level generated by BART on a straight section at 30mph is absolutely meaningless unless you travel mostly on areas that are straight and only pass through areas where you’re moving 30mph. BART is hardly made up of straight lines. Blaming it on being in a tunnel doesn’t pass the sniff test as (for example) most of the track from Embarcadero to Balboa Park is pretty quiet (all of it is underground)… except for a stretch between 24th St and Glen Park which will handily give the Transbay Tube a run for its money.

  6. GAJ on October 24, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    Rather than bringing your microphone, and trusting BART’s self-serving statements about volume levels, how about taking a sound level meter on board and giving us some real numbers? You can pick one up at Radio Shack for $50. Also, you might suggest that those who disbelieve BART’s notions about about ear damage can use disposable foam earplugs (about 30-cents per pair) to drop the sound level 29dB.

  7. john128 on October 24, 2010 at 6:46 pm

    The noise on the BART is nothing compared to the discomfort and noise of other rapid transit systems. I have lived in NYC, Chicago, Boston, and SF; and BART is one of the best systems out there. I currently live in Chicago and I rode the El today and noticed the enormous jarring and noise as I rode the train. T almost fell down, having to take 2 steps keeping my feet apart more than shoulder width apart while I stood up to get off at the next stop. The train was moving not very fast (40-45MPH) on a straight section of track. The BART is great compared to other transit systems in other parts of the country. Compared to European and Asian train systems, the U.S. Transportation system need some serious overhaul. We need to change our transportation policies to better support public transit systems in the U.S.

  8. Derek Bolander on October 24, 2010 at 11:54 pm

    Mr. Johnson sounds about as ambivalent as you’d expect from a BART bureaucrat. Just measured the sound myself on train from MacArthur to 16th Street. The meter frequently maxed out at 100dB. Average dB at a station, no moving, 68dB. Average moving noise 90dB.

    What are they smoking at BART? Class-action lawsuit indeed.

  9. phil on October 25, 2010 at 7:38 am

    Puff piece or not, it’s still interesting to me to hear BART’s statements on the matter.


  10. Ken O on November 2, 2010 at 11:59 pm

    I second the comments above about getting a sound meter.

    Even better if we could crowdsource funding for a “certified 3rd party” to do the testing.

    I’ve always wanted to architect and market a “bart issues to fix” site. Fixes, suggestions.

    I often see ppl w/ earplugs riding the tube.

  11. […] You might also enjoy this Oakland North audio story: Why is BART so noisy? […]

  12. Ron on July 6, 2011 at 6:29 am

    I rode BART today to the airport. I noted my Db meter pegged at over 100 db several times during the trip.

  13. Audio and Podcasts (UCB) – Open Book on March 20, 2018 at 11:20 pm

    […] Why is BART so noisy? – Oakland North […]

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