Photo credit: New York City Department of Transportation licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, and Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition

In an earlier blog I wrote about the New York State Legislature considering a bill to set up a “noise camera” pilot project, to deal with the growing complaints regarding noisy vehicles. I then asked whether the New York City Council could similarly introduce legislation to undertake a pilot program involving noise cameras, noting that Westchester County is already moving forward with such a project. Thus, I was pleased to learn from Gothamist that Councilman Ben Kallos has introduced a measure calling for cameras to “capture sounds above a certain threshold.” After capturing the sound level, the camera would then send an image of the vehicle exceeding the sound limit to the NYPD which could then issue a summons.

In his interview with Gothamist, Councilman Kallos said that the bill would have to set standards of sound levels that would be considered excessive. Kallos then spoke of a Paris suburb that will be trying out what is called “noise radar” to catch noisy motorcycles. The new device has been already installed near noisy bars and major building sites in Paris and has been tracking vehicle noise in a rural area near Paris. Data from these pilot projects will be analyzed.

Pilot studies on noise cameras are also being tested out in other European cities. It is hoped that the data generated by these pilot studies would enable the actual installation of noise cameras to deter noisy vehicles in our streets. The UK has already collected and analyzed data generated by its noise camera projects in several cities and released a report. The results of the noise camera trials were inconclusive, with the report stating that “confidence with which the measured noise levels can be assigned to an individual vehicle diminishes during heavy traffic.” There were other shortcomings as well that led to the report’s conclusion of “Inconclusive.”

Thus, how should New York City and New York State proceed regarding noise cameras? First, a pilot project appears necessary. Second, I strongly suggest that the City Council members and the New York State legislators obtain a copy of the London report, carefully looking at its methodology and findings, and examine the methodology employed by other European cities before designing their own projects.

Loud vehicles contribute significantly to the noise pollution of urban centers. Councilman Kallos notes that “[e]very New Yorker knows how bad this is.” His statement underscores the importance of conducting a noise camera study that will yield results that will allow the installation of noise cameras with confidence. Hopefully, these actions will lead to the reduction of harmful vehicle noise.