Some Sound Transit light-rail screeches just won’t stop
Just to raise the sights a little, light rail, often promoted here as the solution to all our transit concerns, is proving far from problem free in Seattle. Noise is a serious issue – and they are working hard to do something about it.
Surface light rail does have impacts on its surroundings. Indeed, it would be foolish to think that any technology has no impacts at all. Wind farms look very good in comparison to off shore oil wells these days, but are still a threat to birds.
While I do not recall there being very many public outcries against the noise of our rapid transit, the one that bothers me as a reasonably frequent passenger is the squeal on the Canada Line as it winds its way around the granite outcrop underneath Queen Elizabeth Park. Initially I thought this might get better as the track was conditioned – or through a combination of wheel turning and rail grinding. I cannot say I have noticed any improvement. That did seem to work at some places in Seattle – but not all of them
Rail grinding last winter improved the sound on much of the line but loudness inexplicably increased near the river
They are also going to to try flange lubricators
Transit contractors installed lubrication machines to reduce screeching on curves. The biodegradable gel automatically is squirted on the rails, where wheels pick it up and spread it near Mount Baker Station. The lubrication is helping somewhat, and Gray said one lube point will be moved closer to the Beacon Hill Tunnel soon.
Since the squealing only occurs inside a tunnel there are no neighbours to annoy, and I suppose that users of the Canada Line are expected to simply tolerate it. It does not happen on SkyTrain since the trucks under the cars have steerable axles. I don’t think that is an option with conventional traction motors which tend to be hung on the axles on most electrical multiple unit trains. But I would also think that since the noise is created by metal grinding on metal that is must have cost implications in track and wheel wear too.