City turns off digital displays of decibel levels after noise complaints spike

The city has shut off the lights at four LED display boards that capture vehicle noise levels after complaints that some drivers were revving their engines to post higher numbers.

Some drivers were revving their engines to see their numbers on LED boards

The City of Edmonton has turned off LED display boards at four locations where data is being collected about vehicles making excessive noise. (CBC)

The city has shut the lights off at four LED display boards that capture vehicle noise levels after complaints that some drivers were revving their engines to see their numbers spike.

The city selected eight noisy locations across the city to be part of the vehicle noise monitoring pilot, which was launched at the end of August.

Four of the locations — on 124th Street, Victoria Park Road, 99th Street and Fort Road — were outfitted with LED boards that displayed the decibel levels of passing vehicles.

But the plan seems to have backfired. There were so many complaints that the city dimmed one LED board, on 99th Street, within a week of starting the pilot.

"You can never underestimate human nature I guess. But the matter in which this happened and unfortunately how it disturbed the public was certainly a bit more than one would anticipate," said Gary Shimko, who heads the office of traffic safety.

All four LED board have now been dimmed, but all eight of the monitoring locations are still actively capturing decibel levels.

Vehicular noise is worse in the summer when motorcycles are out on the streets. (CBC)

The pilot has focused on data collection and hasn't involved any enforcement measures. Shimko said the boards might still be useful, if noisy drivers face the potential for a ticket.

"Once you do enforcement, those who are inclined to do that are making a choice to do it and then are taking a risk to be detected," he said.

Shimko said the data collected so far is very preliminary and must still be analyzed.  Analysts will comb through the numbers to see how many vehicles, recorded at levels higher than the 85 decibel maximum, were actually ambulances or firetrucks.The average noise level on a roadway is approximately 70 decibels, Shimko said.

A report on the pilot is expected at city hall in November. From there, it will be up to council to decide whether to set up an official noise monitoring program. 

The screening areas currently include:

  • 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
  • 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