Paul Liberatore

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TransLink's SkyTrain noise study in the works as complaints rise

A SkyTrain arrives at Main and Terminal in Vancouver. TransLink is planning to hire a consultant next month who will conduct a comprehensive noise study along the SkyTrain lines.

A SkyTrain arrives at Main and Terminal in Vancouver. TransLink is planning to hire a consultant next month who will conduct a comprehensive noise study along the SkyTrain lines. ARLEN REDEKOP / PNG


Wendy Stephen hasn’t had a good night’s sleep in months.

Late into the night and early in the morning, high-pitched squealing and loud juddering from the SkyTrain line that runs a couple of blocks away from her New Westminster home keep her awake.

“For most of the 16 years I’ve lived there it’s kind of a soft swoosh noise. It’s not that you can’t hear it, but it’s not intrusive. It doesn’t interfere with your being able to be home,” Stephen said. “Right now when I’m at home, my jaw’s clenched. It’s just such a horrible noise.”

The situation is so bad, she’s started looking at real-estate listings.

“I might have to sell my house. I can’t stand this noise, and I think that’s outrageous,” she said.


Stephen is not the only one struggling to deal with the noises that come with living near a rapid-transit line.

Noise complaints to TransLink have risen over the last few years, from 190 in 2014 to 307 in 2016, the bulk of which are coming from Vancouver, Burnaby and New Westminster. Delegations attend TransLink board meetings to talk about the noise.

“It’s not a problem that’s going to go away,” Sandy Zein, vice-president of infrastructure management and engineering, said at a recent TransLink board of directors meeting. “As more condominiums, more towers, more housing — mid-rise, highrise housing — goes in around our stations we will be exposing the public to more noise and they’ll have to learn to live with us and we’ll have to accommodate them as best as we can.”

That’s why TransLink is planning to hire a consultant next month who will conduct a comprehensive noise study along the SkyTrain lines, to look for ways to reduce noise beyond what they’re already doing.

“We’ve decided to take a holistic step and look at this issue in a broader context,” Zein said.

In preparation for the study, TransLink staff have analyzed more than 1,000 complaints that came in over the past three years, analyzed the density of complaints to find out where noise measurements should be taken and developed a work plan and scope of work for the study.

“We’re getting some early information and good data,” said Zein.

The first phase of the study includes measuring noise in areas with the highest number of complaints, identifying the source of the noise, reviewing best practices, performing noise modelling and identifying mitigation options.

Zein said options can range from “lower-cost quick wins” to potentially expensive options such as erecting noise-dampening barriers, improving stations, retiring the oldest SkyTrain cars and making rail modifications.

“It’s a lot of potential dominoes we have to think through before we rush off to any one solution,” said Zein.

Also part of the study will be the formation of a community stakeholder group that will receive progress updates and pass the information on in their areas, recommend locations for noise measurements, review results and consult on mitigation options.

“We need to hear our customers, we need to hear our neighbours,” said Vivienne King, president and general manager of the B.C. Rapid Transit Company.

“Any complaint about noise is not good — we want to recognize that. Hopefully our neighbours see that we are taking this seriously.”

Stephen, who has submitted about a dozen written complaints and called a half dozen times, said she just wants to receive a straight answer about what’s causing the noise around her home in New West and for it to finally stop.

“I have no faith whatsoever that anything is going to change,” she said.

Work will begin later this year and continue through next summer. The second half of 2018 will see options evaluated and less complex solutions implemented. More complex solutions will begin to be brought in, subject to business cases and approvals, in 2019 and beyond.


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