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Commuter alarmed by 'shrieking' stop bell on OC Transpo buses

An Ottawa commuter says the city should turn down the volume on the stop bells of some of OC Transpo's buses.

Engineer recorded bell on hybrid buses at 129.5 decibels

Greg Katchmar recorded the sound of the stop bell on an OC Transpo hybrid bus. 0:19

An Ottawa commuter says the city should turn down the volume on the stop bells of some of OC Transpo's buses.

The city's diesel hybrid buses have stop bells Greg Katchmar says are too loud and cause passengers sitting nearby to wince. (CBC)
The electronic ping on the city's 120 diesel hybrid buses is so ear-splitting that engineer Greg Katchmar bought a decibel reader to see how loud it was.

He said the chime has reached 129.5 decibels, a level similar to the noise level of a fire alarm.

"On certain buses that have this bell it's kind of a high-pitched shrieking kind of bell, it's incredibly piercing especially if you are sitting close to the bell," said Katchmar.

Katchmar said he contacted the city six months ago suggesting they lower the volume on the bells but said he heard no response.

Several commuters CBC Ottawa's Cory O'Kelly spoke with shared his sentiment, saying the bell did not need to be so loud.

Audiologist Eric Olmstead said the highest levels Katchmar recorded are close to the ear's pain threshold.

Greg Katchmar recorded the sound level of the stop bell while on an OC Transpo bus. (Greg Katchmar)
"It's meant to get our attention but if it's making you wince or everyone wince...then maybe it could be lowered a bit," said Olmstead.

James Greer, OC Transpo's manager of transit fleet maintenance, said in a statement the transit agency "is not aware of any large number of concerns about the notification bell and its volume."

Greer said OC Transpo would review the questions raised and provide a response on Tuesday.

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