Noise-control technology now on Edmonton streets, listening and watching

The late summer roar of vehicles on Edmonton streets is getting recorded on tape and camera for the next four months in an extended pilot project that could result in automated noise enforcement by next year.

Photo-radar style noise equipment at eight locations

Four cameras with accompanying microphone were installed this past week in Edmonton to monitor noise levels. (Nathan Gross/CBC)

The late summer roar of vehicles on Edmonton streets is being recorded for the next four months.

Four cameras are up and monitoring noisy spots in the city with another four digital display boards being installed at different locations.

It's an extended pilot project to measure just how revved up motorcycles and vehicles can get.

"Sometimes it's just beyond belief," said Coun. Scott McKeen, who lives downtown. "People have altered their cars, trucks or motorcycles to make them really loud and then they roar around."

In April, city councillors agreed to continue testing the noise-monitoring equipment to determine whether it can be used to enforce extreme noise, similar to how photo radar tickets drivers for going too fast. However, cameras in this pilot project are not issuing tickets. 

Cameras at four locations will take pictures of vehicles exceeding 85 decibels — a level comparable to a power lawn mower.

Camera

  • Jasper Avenue from 109th Street to 124th Street
  • 114th Street south from 82nd Avenue and into Belgravia
  • Groat Road
  • 137th Avenue between 97th Street and 127th Street

Four digital display boards are also being installed to show drivers how loud they are, even if they register under 85 decibels.

LCD display board

  • 124th Street from 118th Avenue to Jasper Avenue
  • Victoria Park Road
  • 99th Street between Whyte Avenue and Whitemud Drive
  • Fort Road from 66th to 137th Avenue

Dave Mark works at a bookstore on Whyte Avenue and supports the idea of a photo-radar style noise enforcement. 

"It's obnoxious and it's very frustrating," he said. "I like the idea of that pilot project, I think that's a good place to start."

Mark said otherwise, enforcing noise bylaws is a challenge for police and bylaw officers. 
Vehicular noise is worse in the summer when motorcycles are out on the streets. (CBC)

"You can't be chasing people down the road and flagging people down," he said.

Cailyn Shaw, a sales associate at a store on Whyte Avenue, said the shop's alarm has gone off more than once because noise outside made the windows vibrate, mimicking a break-in.

"It was some sort of motorcycle thing and it didn't have a muffler and it actually set off our break glass alarm." 

A loud siren goes off in the store and an automated voice comes on saying the police are on their way, she said.

"Not only does that cause intense stress to us but anyone that's in the store that doesn't understand what's happening, I'm sure it causes some form of panic."

They have to reassure customers and let them know that there's no emergency and that they're not in danger. 
Cailyn Shaw said loud motorcycles have set off the break-glass alarm at their shop on Whyte Avenue after the noise made the windows vibrate. (Nathan Gross/CBC)

"I don't think it's fair with the businesses or residents in the area that have to deal with that noise."

McKeen and several other councillors support the idea of eventually using automated enforcement for noise infractions. 

"I know that somebody out there is yelling 'cash grab' as we speak," he acknowledged, in light of past criticism the city has had on photo radar. 

But getting people to curb their muffler and motorcycle noise is difficult to enforce.

"The police can't make it a priority."

In 2017, Edmonton police gave out 29 tickets under the city's motorcycle noise bylaw. To date this year, the number of tickets is up to 47, police told CBC News Wednesday. 

For all other vehicle noise infractions, the police must issue tickets under the province's Traffic Safety Act. Last year, they handed out 113 of those and so far this year they've given out 49. 

Late start

The pilot project is late getting started this year. The city planned to start monitoring earlier in the spring and report back to councillors in September.

It took more time than expected to procure the specialized noise monitoring equipment, which came from the USA, Gord Cebryk, the city's deputy manager, said.

So the cameras were installed in the past week and the digital display boards are going to be installed next week, he said. 
This noise-monitoring camera is perched on a pole on the east side of 79th Avenue at 114th Street, near the University of Alberta. (Nathan Gross/CBC)

Cebryk said the traffic safety branch is aiming to report back to council in November, after compiling the pilot's data.

"I think there's still time to make decisions because we have the whole winter to put together a program."

Cebryk said the city must determine whether current legislation allows them to move forward with automated enforcement or whether the city will have to work with the province. 

@natashariebe

About the Author

Natasha Riebe

Journalist

Natasha Riebe landed at CBC News in Edmonton after radio, TV and print journalism gigs in Halifax, Seoul, Yellowknife and on Vancouver Island. Please send tips in confidence to natasha.riebe@cbc.ca.

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