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Screeeechhh! Does The Noise On The T Affect Your Hearing?

The Green Line train is notorious for the loud screeching noise it makes out of the Boylston Street and Government Center stations. (Flickr/Pylon 757)

If you depend on the T to get to work, you’re probably familiar with this sound: the screeching of brakes in those noisy, under-ground stations. But you might not know that those screeches could actually be doing serious damage to your ears. Boston University journalism student Emily DeHority looks into the issue.


  • Emily DeHority, Boston University journalism student

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  • Anonymous

    The noise polution isn’t limited to the rails.

    The T has too many overly long, pointless and too frequent announcements in the stations. 

    The tunnels should never have been wired for cellphones. 

    The commuter rail now has automated stop announcements which begin with an annoying tone.  The conductors often announce them as well.  A long nagging announcement now reminds people to take their trash with them (plays at least three times).

    Instead of the concise and clear automated announcements on the subway, now T employees with varying levels of clear voices on often poor equipment telling far too much detail about the next stop.  Anyone who needs detailed travel info and didn’t plan ahead should consult on of the numerous T employees at the stations.

    Lastly, now are Park St on the Red line there is a little man who sits in a box and makes superflous announcements during rush hour when 90% of people there have heard him.

    • drofmot

      I think the MBTA could take some inspiration from the New York Metro with regards to announcing stops; while there is still the customary announcement before each one, the announcement is quieter, and accompanied by a digital display on the side of the car.


      While it would likely cost the MBTA some money to install such displays, it would be greatly advantageous in the long-run, instead of dealing with lawsuits from customers and employees over hearing-loss.

      • Anonymous

        I agree, but the MBTA only likes to compare itself to NY’s far superior system when they want to discuss fares. 

        • drofmot

          The one thing we have going for us is the lack of urine in the stations…

          • Anonymous

            Which somehow they managed without an extensive PR campaign and announcements like, “This is MBTA Chief Paul McMillan.  Do you like a subway ride without urine?  Of course you do.  Please put your urine in the urinals and put your solid waste in a toilet.  Remember courtesy counts.  And thank you for riding the T.”

  • http://www.fibrowitch.net Jan Dumas

    I would be more concerned with the drivers exposure to noise over the 8 hours of their shift than the less than a minute exposure of the riders.  

    For reference here is the OSHA standard.  https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=standards&p_id=9735

    • Anonymous

      Their union is more concerned with making sure that bus drivers fired for playing chicken with buses get their jobs back than with actually making sure their members have a safe workplace. 

      • http://www.fibrowitch.net Jan Dumas

        Not true, both as someone who has a T driver in the family and as my profession as an Occupational Safety Engineer

        • Gcampbell

          Why do the employees not set a class action law suit against MBTA?  I”m sure riders would also join.  It is absurd that this problem has not been addressed

          • http://www.fibrowitch.net Jan Dumas

             Because while the noise is annoying, it is not a hazard.

  • Nhopkin1

    why do they screech so? What causes such a racket? Is it unavoidable?

  • dth9269

    My father worked at MIT years ago (late 1950′s), and told me that they did a study for the MTA (the MBTA’s predecessor) to try to determine the best way to lower the volume of the steel wheels on steel track.  They apparently researched all sorts of lubricants, including corn oil, but in the end they determined that the best, lowest cost solution would be…water.  He told me this story at Lechmere Square, and it’s true that the screeching is much less horrible on rainy days.

  • Ilsa2

    I agree, the T should address noise and get rid of needless announcements that cannot be understood anyway.  However, I think Ms. DeHority might find more relevance if she did a story about how people are ruining their hearing running around with I-pods plugged into their heads. 

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