April 1, 2013

Noise Free America
For immediate release

Ted Rueter
[email protected]

Chapel Hill: The Metro subway system in Washington, DC has won this month’s Noisy Dozen award from Noise Free America for inflicting constant audio assault upon its riders. If you’re a DC Metro rider, expect to be bombarded with unrelenting announcements. It’s enough to give a peace-seeking commuter a massive headache.

Ted Rueter, Noise Free America’s director, recently returned from a trip to the nation’s capitol, where he and another anti-noise activist met with White House officials, EPA officials, and Congressional staff members about noise policy. There were numerous police sirens in DC, especially on Capitol Hill. But Rueter found that the most annoying source of noise during the trip was riding on the Metro.

“There were constant announcements on the Metro,” said Rueter. “Sometimes the live and recorded announcements occurred at the same time. There would be a recorded announcement (‘Step back to allow the doors to open’) on top of an even louder live announcement (‘Blue line train to Largo’).”

Rueter also noted that the recorded announcements were not exactly urgent: “One very loud recorded announcement provided the phone number for the DC Metro police. The phone number is ten digits long; who is going to remember it? Why can’t they just have a sign instead of a blaring announcement? There were other audio blasts telling us about elevator closures at various Metro stops. Why does everyone need to hear about this? Again, why can’t Metro officials put up a quiet, unobtrusive sign?”

“The assumption of all these blasting announcements,” Rueter said, “is that people are stupid–and hard of hearing. Riding the DC Metro is a thoroughly unpleasant audio experience. It does not have to be this way. DC Metro officials should give riders a break and tone it down.”

Metro officials should also do a better job monitoring loud music by riders. A Metro rider recently commented, “The other day I was reminded why I dislike riding public transportation: having to listen to other people’s extremely loud music. It’s usually someone with their headphones on, which is pretty annoying, but the most annoying is people who listen to their music through the phone’s speakers.”

Unfortunately, the District of Columbia is known for its weak noise ordinances. In 2011, the city council passed an ordinance which makes it illegal to “make an unreasonably loud noise between 10:00 pm and 7:00 am that is likely to annoy or disturb one or more persons in their residences.” Rueter noted the clear problem with this ordinance: “It only applies between 10:00 pm and 7:00 am. What about the other 15 hours of the day? Don’t people have the right to be protected from harmful, unnecessary noise when they’re awake as well as asleep?

Also, the DC noise ordinance allows unlimited amplified, non-commercial noise between 7:00 am and 9:00 pm, even in residential neighborhoods. This noise is allowed under the guise of “free speech”–even though there is no constitutional right to make noise. Federal courts have consistently upheld reasonable limits on the time, place, and manner of noisemaking.

“Until government agencies take action,” said Noise Free America’s Rueter, “the constant audio assault in the nation’s capitol will continue. Residents and visitors deserve peace and quiet, not amplified noise.”

Noise Free America is a national non-profit organization devoted to noise reduction. Past “winners” of the Noisy Dozen award include Washington, DC and the United States Congress.