Published for The Boston Herald November 5 2018 Issue
This story was written by Emerson College students Luis Alejandro Mercado, Victoria Gonzalez Garcia, Lily Hennessy, Alex Haskell, Brendan Kane, Philip Noble and Melissa Rosales under the direction of the Herald’s Joe Dwinell.
Even louder than jets at Logan International Airport and World Series cheering, the most constant ear-splitting noise in Boston is at the Green Line’s Boylston Station, according to a survey of the loudest hot spots in the city.
The screech of the wheels at that stop hit 111.3 decibels — a level considered “too much at any time” under the city’s own noise ordinance. Other readings at the station registered 110.9 and 101.7 decibels.
“It sounds like screaming,” said college student Joe Green, 21, as he waited for the next train at the Boylston station. “It never stops being outrageous.”
“It’s very intense,” said software engineer David Karlin, 32, as he climbed up the stairs away from the squealing. “It would be great if they could do something about it.”
The MBTA blamed the brutal racket on the “sharp radius of the almost 90-degree turn” of the track at the Boylston station.
“In order to ease the noise issue that occurs, the MBTA has implemented greasers on the lines throughout the years,” said T spokeswoman Lisa Battiston.
It’s not working.
The Emerson College/Boston Herald Reinventing Journalism class spent the past week recording some of the top earaches in the city using a portable decibel meter. Anything above 130 dBA — decibels in the air — is considered the threshold of pain, according to hearing experts.
The crowd cheering for Alex Cora as his duck boat rolled by during Wednesday’s Red Sox victory parade was the only reading higher than the infamous Green Line station next to the Common. The popular Sox manager garnered a 120.8 decibel roar.
Jets over East Boston hit 104.8 decibels. A fire truck’s siren registered at 102.1.
Steel beams being pounded into the ground at a Seaport District construction site struck 99.2.
Hotel strikers drummed out 93.9 outside the Ritz-Carlton Boston.
And the roar from the crowd at Fenway Park during the fifth-inning rally during Game 2 peaked at 104.6 decibels, just after J.D. Martinez hit a two-run single at the bottom of the inning.
But the Green Line station at the corner of Boylston and Tremont streets continues to be the city’s top hold-your-ears location.
City Councilor Ed Flynn, who represents the area, said residents and riders complain all the time about the screeching of the steel wheels.
“We need to do a better job and see what health risks we could be dealing with,” Flynn said. “Riders, businesspeople and residents all say it’s a problem.”
Massachusetts Eye and Ear audiologist Dr. Stephen Hill said he’s concerned T riders may turn up their music to overcompensate for the assault on their eardrums.
“Damage to your hearing in that environment is potentially more risky from your own devices,” he said. “In order to hear what you want to hear over that, you’re going to raise your own volume.”
Straphangers should try to bypass that station, said another expert.
“It matters how long you’re exposed to it, but anything over 100 decibels is enough to do damage,” said Boston University biomedical engineering professor H. Steven Colburn. “I avoid levels like that.
“It’s like going to a rock concert,” he added. “People who are exposed to loud sounds like that can have short-term hearing loss.”
Graduate student Afton Andreadis said it’s so bad she can hear the T wheels cry in her bedroom at night. “You go to European cities,” she added, “and it’s a lot better than ours.”
WORST NOISE IN BOSTON
The pounding, blaring, screeching and other assorted noise pollutants hit high notes in the city last week. Here’s a sampling from the Emerson College/Boston Herald Reinventing Journalism team using a portable decibel meter:
120.8 — Peak roar from the crowd as Red Sox manager Alex Cora’s duck boat passes in front of the Four Seasons during Wednesday’s World Series parade.
111.3 — As a Green Line train makes the turn into Boylston Street station. Numerous other readings topped 100 dBA.
104.8 — In East Boston — outside the Wood Island MBTA stop — as a jet roars overhead after taking off from Logan Airport.
104.6 — At the bottom of the 5th inning in Game 2 of the World Series at Fenway Park after J.D. Martinez hits a two-run single. Heard from the first-base photo pit.
102.4 — During a rally for transgender rights on the Common.
102.1 — As a fire truck passes, siren blaring, in the South End.
99.2 — A steel beam is pounded into the ground at a Seaport construction site.
98.7 — Orange Line and Commuter Rail trains passing next to the Mass Pike.
93.9 — Hotel strikers at full protest in front of the Ritz.
68 — D Street on a windy day. No strikers; no pile-driving.