Welcome to the second issue of The Quiet Zone. In our premier issue, we tried to define the noise problem with our feature article, 20 Noises We Can Do Without. Future editions of the Noise Pollution Clearinghouses newsletter will focus on solving noise problems. In this issue we take on Boom Cars and Airports, and we are asking you to help.
The lead article features our Preserve the Peace project, NPCs antidote to Sony Corporations Disturb the Peace marketing campaign for its car audio systems. We invite you to join the effort by sending Howard Stringer, the CEO of Sony America, a letter asking him to become a better corporate neighbor, stop marketing incivility, and donate the trademark Disturb the Peace to the Noise Pollution Clearinghouse for safe keeping.
In addition, NPC is releasing two new tools for citizens and citizen groups facing aviation noise. The first is a study of the top concerns of those living near airports. The second is a new website, that helps track what the FAA and federal government are doing at each of the 100 most likely to expand airports. We are also commencing a study of airport noise effects and hope youll participate.
Peace and Quiet,
Les Blomberg, Executive Director
A publication of
The Quiet Zone is published twice a year by the Noise Pollution Clearinghouse, a non-profit organization dedicated to creating more livable civil cities and more natural rural and wilderness areas by reducing noise pollution at the source.
Editors: Kathryn Mathieson and James Sharp
Preserve the Peace
PRESERVE THE PEACE. That's what we do. And we want you to join the effort. Join our Preserve the Peace Campaign.
Boom cars are concerts with wheels. Their loud stereo systems can be heard long before the car can be seen. These car stereo systems, capable of being played at deafeningly loud levels, are marketed as sexy and rebellious.
An entire set of magazines, including Car Sound and Performance, Car Audio, Car Audio and Electronics, and Auto Sound and Security, has sprung up with the industry. These magazines, like the boom car systems they sell, are aimed at an audience high on hormones, whose system just isnt big enough.
Sex sells, and sex sells car stereos. The ratio of flesh to fabric of the women photographed in the December issue of Car Sound and Performance is greater than 10 to 1. They are selling din by showing skin.
Incivility and rebellion also sell car stereos. The enemy is your sleeping neighbor, your parents, anyone over 40, and Peace and Quiet.
Just as the tobacco companies before them, the car stereo industry has found a way to coopt and capitalize on rebellion. When multinational corporations incite rebellion, you can be sure it isnt rebellion against injustice or rebellion against war. Nor is it the rebellion of 1776. There is no cause but to disturb the peace.
This corporate co-opted rebellion is a rebellion against neighbors. It is a rebellion that doesnt ask for a sacrifice and doesnt hope to make the world better. It has no goal but to be heard and seen. Its value is measured in decibels and corporate profits.
The worst corporate offender by far is SONY. SONYs Disturb the Peace ads for amplifiers and speakers that offer ALL NEW WAYS TO OFFEND, are designed to appeal to people who feel they are not receiving the attention they are due. The primary purpose of a 300-watt car stereo amplifier, 10 times more power than the Beatles originally used in concert, is to make you notice them.
Boom cars scream into our neighborhoods, I am herelook at meyou cant do anything about it. Their message is all about power. Boom cars are to our streets as bullies were to our schoolyards. They beat you up with decibels instead of fists. They make your chest shake and your ears ache. Boom car owners feel powerful at the expense of their neighbors.
Civility is all about acknowledging others and treating them with respect, as you would like to be treated. The incivility associated with SONYs sales pitch is all about forcing others to acknowledge your presence. This sales pitch isnt coming from a neighborhood thug, but a corporation that is a guest in our country. A very big guest. Fortune Magazine ranked SONY the 69th largest company in the world, and number 6 on the Global Most Admired Companies list. Fortune, of course, doesnt consider corporate responsibility a prerequisite for being admirable.
THE SOLUTION: PRESERVE THE PEACE
NPC created the Preserve the Peace campaign as an antidote to SONYs Disturb the Peace advertising. The first phase of the campaign, planned for this spring and summer has three components.
The second phase of the campaign will be announced this summer if the first phase is not successful. (We dont want to tell SONY all of our plans just now, but it's safe to assume that NPC will use media events to associate SONY with the incivility SONY promotes.)
Here is what you can do to contribute to the Preserve the Peace campaign.
The next step:
For the really committed:
Boom Car Basics:
What is a boom car? Basically, a boom car is any vehicle with a loud stereo system, which almost always requires some modification to the original stereo. More and bigger speakers, capable of playing at much louder volumes, are added to the car. These boom cars are a health and safety risk to the occupants, other drivers, neighbors, and city emergency and rescue personnel.
Most of the generic stereo systems delivered in new cars have radios (with CD players and/or tape players) capable of putting out about a total of 25 watts of power into two pair of little speakers, usually 4 to 6 inches in diameter. These speakers are used to play all the frequencies of the music.
THE MAKING OF A BOOM CAR
Making a car louder can be cheap and easy, requiring only a hundred-watt stereo amplifier and a couple of efficient low-frequency speakers. Installing the new parts is easy and can require little or no modification to the car. The addition of several speakers and several hundred watts of power may require installation by a specialist and is quite expensive.
In modifying a stereo system, people often start by adding a bass speaker (bass driver) to emphasize the low-frequency notes from the bass and drums in music. Theyll add a crossover, a device which filters signals based on frequency, to separate the low notes from the rest of the music, and an amplifier to drive the added speaker.
After the bass drivers have been added the original speakers are often changed, and more power added, so that what are now the mid-range speakers will play louder. Separate tweeters may also be added, with their own amplifiers and crossovers, to get the high frequencies to play at the same sound pressure levels as the rest of the system. A big system can have multiple bass drivers, and several mid-range drivers and four or more tweeters. After all the amplifiers and speakers have been added to a boom car, a car alarm is often added to safeguard the stereo system that is often worth more than the car.
BOOM CARS BY THE NUMBERS Turning the volume all the way up in a car with its original stereo might produce 100 dB, but mostly youll hear a lot of distortion. A typical stationary or slowmoving car with the radio turned off has an interior sound pressure level of 50-60 dB (all measures presented here are with windows shut). Driving the car on the street or highway gives about 60-70 dB mostly wind, tire and engine noise inside the car. Drivers generally set their stereo to 6-10 dB over interior noise levels. Therefore, typical interior levels with the stereo playing are 60-80 dB.
Most of the noise of an original stereo system is trapped inside the car, especially when the windows are shut. Sound pressure levels for a typical car are about 40 dB less 50 feet from the car than they are inside the car (measured to the side of the car with speakers in the door). So if you listen to your radio at 70 dB, the outside level is about 30 dB. The noise from the car traveling at 30 mph at 50 feet is about 60 dB, so the resulting stereo levels outside are lost in the background noise.
A boom car, however, really stands out. Boom cars have been measured at sound pressure levels in excess of 170 dB. It is not uncommon for interior levels to exceed 110 dB. In car stereo competitions, loudness points are awarded up to 130 dB. Often these cars are parked in a public area with the doors and trunk open and a party going on nearby. A moving boom car can be heard coming and going for blocks from the listener.
Just as a typical car traps most of the noise from standard sound systems inside the car, most of the outside noises cannot be heard inside a car. The background levels inside the car are already quite high (50-70 dB, possibly 80 dB with a fan and stereo going) and the typical car attenuates or reduces outside noises by about 30 dB. The only outside sounds people need to hear in their car are police, ambulance and emergency sirens as well as horns honked in emergencies. Typical interior sound pressure levels from sirens and horns peak at about 75 dB. At interior car stereo sound pressure levels much greater than 80 dB, emergency warning devices are masked by the sound system. Drivers do not have time to safely react to emergency warnings.
REGULATING BOOM CARS
Controlling the noise from boom cars, therefore, is not just an effort to increase community peace and quality of life, but also an effort to enhance public safety and the safety of emergency and rescue personnel. If you can hear a boom car as it passes by at 50 feet, not only is the car disturbing the neighbors and deafening the occupants but it is also masking emergency warning signals.
Typical sound-pressure-level-based noise ordinances are ineffective against boom cars, because the cars are mobile. By the time the police officer goes back to the police station, gets the meter, calibrates it, and takes a measurement, the violator is miles away. In addition, low-frequency noisethe boom of boom carsis not picked up by sound level meters that are set on the A scale, which is used in many communities. There is, however, a simple solution that has been adopted by hundreds of communities that is easy to enforce. In the accompanying article on page 7, Eric Zwerling of the Rutgers Noise Technical Assistance Center describes the Plainly Audible standard that has been adopted by hundreds of communities.
Boom Car and Boom Box Code Drafting
Enforcement of a performance (decibel denominated) standard is difficult with boom cars and boom boxes, as the sound is transient and the source is mobile. While some jurisdictions enforce a curbline sound level limit, the enforcement agency must set up in advance in the location at which they suspect a violation may occur. While enforcement and deterrence is extremely effective during the operation of such an enforcement action, it is only effective at the time and in the place this action occurs. Outside of these parameters, deterrence is minimal.
An alternative enforcement standard is required to address this specific sound source, if enforcement is to be regular and predictable, thus providing the desired deterrence. When the deterrent is not successful, the enforcement standard must lead to successful prosecution. After a careful review of precedents and challenges in other jurisdictions, it was clear that any successful standard would have to be objective, specific and easily understood. A plainly audible standard has been applied in numerous jurisdictions across the United States, and this standard has been held to be neither vague nor overbroad (State v. Ewing, 914 P.2d 549, Haw. 1996). It is also clearly understandable to those it is intended to regulate. Using this standard, subjective value judgments associated with ordinances that rely on finding a noise disturbing or loud and raucous are avoided.
Plainly audible means any sound that can be detected by a person using his or her unaided hearing faculties. As an example, if the sound source under investigation is a portable or personal vehicular sound amplification or reproduction device, the enforcement officer need not determine the title of a song, specific words, or the artist performing the song. The detection of the rhythmic base component of the music is sufficient to constitute a plainly audible sound.
Restricted Uses And Activities
Full-Color Insert -- Click here for the PDF version.
The Failure of America's Aviation Noise Policy
This spring, the Noise Pollution Clearinghouse is releasing a report, The Failure of Americas Aviation Noise Abatement Policy: Citizens Top Five Concerns about Aviation Noise. This report is a study of the response to the FAAs draft Noise Abatement Policy. It is written by Les Blomberg, Executive Director, and James Sharp, Senior Researcher at NPC.
The study exposes the aviation industry and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), its federal regulatory body, as oblivious of the true impact aviation noise has on the public who live near airports and ignorant of the science of noise impact assessment. Based on the technique of content analysis applied to the 1,261 public comments received by the FAA concerning its draft Noise Abatement Policy 2000, this study finds that the overwhelming majority of commenters believe the FAAs noise abatement policy is a failure. 96% of the more than one thousand people who submitted comments to the FAA believe the draft Noise Abatement Policy will not adequately protect citizens from aviation noise. The major findings include:
The Noise Pollution Clearinghouse is looking for airport noise activists to help publicize this report in local communities. NPC will make about a 1,000 copies of the report available to local activists, and it will also be available on our website at www.nonoise.org/library/failure.htm. The publication date is set for April. NPC will coordinate national media exposure and hopefully local airport activists will also gain local exposure.
To sign up to receive an advance copy of the report so you can be part of the media effort, go to the NPC website (www.nonoise.org/failure/) and fill out the form or call 1-888-200-8332.
September 11th and the tragic crash of a plane in Queens brought a dramatic change in aviation policy and security. For the 7,500 commercial aircraft in the United States, security is a much higher priority. Unfortunately, the 200,000 general aviation aircraft have not received the same attention. When it comes to general aviation, the FAA and aviation industry have taken a pray it never happens attitude. This means less safety and more noise for those on the ground. Airport neighbors need to recognize just how closely noise and safety are related.
The airline industry reacted quickly to the September attacks and immediately secured a 15 billion dollar bailout from the US Congress and President Bush. In what many take as a clear signal of relative priorities, the Congress took a lot longer to pass an aviation security bill. Nevertheless, they have begun implementing many of the aviation security measures recommended by the Gore Commission after the crash of Flight 800, solutions that the industry and some of the more conservative members of Congress rejected as unnecessary and too costly just a couple of years ago.
Most of the burden of increased safety has fallen on the public through a decrease in liberties and privacy, and an increase in tax money spent to make the airlines safer. The FAA is much more willing to search your luggage than it is to impose safer flight routes. In the aftermath of the crash in Queens, the FAA is just beginning to realize that it is safer to route planes over water than over homes. Ocean routing and over-water flight paths, which promise to reduce noise and increase safety for millions of people living on both coasts, is not yet being seriously considered.
Nowhere, however, is the resistance to assessing the risks and taking appropriate safety measures as great as in the area of general aviation. The FAAs Report to Congress, Improving General Aviation Security highlights the problem, but it doesnt make a single recommendation as to what to do about the problem. The industrys line is that these planes arent big enough to cause the damage done to the World Trade Center.
It doesnt take a big plane to cause big problems, however. A small crop duster, if flown over a 70,000- person baseball or football stadium even if it was spraying nothing but water could initiate panic and chaos sufficient to kill hundreds of people. Even the FAAs report recognizes the danger of small craft carrying explosives. The report states, General aviation aircraft could be used to strike ground-based targets. Their load-carrying ability, even if limited, enables the delivery of explosives, compensating for their relative lack of kinetic energy or fuel. In fact, many general aviation aircraft can carry twice the explosives used to bring down the Federal Building in Oklahoma City.
The scale of the problem is enormous. There are over 200,000 general aviation aircraft in the United States operating from over 18,000 airports, according to the FAA report. Many of these airports have few security measures. And once these aircraft are in the air, its like the wild west. They are not restricted from flying over many vulnerable targets. For some there are no minimum height restrictions. And there are no state police or local sheriffs patrolling the sky.
And the problem is growing. As commercial flights become less convenient, companies and the rich are opting out of commercial aviation and purchasing the equivalent of time shares in private aircraft. Barrons reports, Since September 11, interest in taking partial ownership in private jets has increased sharply. Orders are up for planes that do not have to meet Stage III noise requirements and that carry significantly fewer people, which means more noisier planes taking off and landing to move fewer people. This is the next big aviation noise problem.
Private jets are the aircraft best suited to carry explosives and threaten urban buildings, power plants, pipelines, and dams. Before the September attacks, the FAA used to brag that 8,000 aircraft passed within 50 miles of the Empire State Building each day. Now we know that that is a problem. Planes that are not taking off or landing should not be over a metropolitan area, and general aviation aircraft should not be able to fly wherever they want, whenever they want, and without the FAA knowing exactly where they are at all times. This is what the anti-noise-pollution community has been saying for years. It is time we join with the environmental and public safety advocates to reduce noise and increase safety at the same time.
Perhaps the greatest threat from general aviation is to nuclear power plants. On the ground nuclear power plants have fences, barriers, and a security team in place to prevent a Ryder truck bomb from being crashed into the reactor, control building, or radioactive waste. The fences are only 12 feet high, however, and provide absolutely no defense against an airborne attack. There are thick reinforced containment walls around some parts of nuclear plant, but generally not around important facilities that control the operation of the plant and not around the waste.
The Germans have been much more honest about the impacts of air attacks on nuclear plants than the U.S. Government, aviation industry, or nuclear industry. The spokeswoman for the association of German electric power utilities said, No power plant in the world could withstand an airborne terror attack like the one on September 11. Edwin Lyman from the Nuclear Control Institute in Washington said, The possibility of an unmitigated loss-of-coolant accident and significant release of radiation into the environment is a very real one. Physics Today reports, Experts fear a commercial commercial jet could breach reactor containment walls.
Two of the biggest and most powerful industries in the country, the airline and nuclear power industries, are trying to avoid additional restrictions being placed upon them. The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), for example, has mounted a multi-million dollar campaign to protect their right to fly wherever they want. A recent AOPA fundraising letter highlights an industry that is preparing for future damage control, not for increased public safety. Even though we are back in the air [after September 11th], I fear the potential ramifications if another incident occurs. The governments finger is on a button, ready to shut down general aviation once again with even harsher restrictions, if something else happens.
The AOPA is conducting this type of damage control with political action committees working behind the scenes in Washington. Our success in reopening airspace [closed after September 11th] is due to AOPA PACs efforts. The letter goes on to state, Your contribution will also aid AOPA PACs efforts to elect more GA [general aviation] allies in Congress and expand our political pull into committees that will have an increasing influence on the future of general aviation.
The nuclear industry is also working behind the scenes to make sure the threat of an airplane attack does not damage the industry, complicate relicensing, or significantly increase security costs.
Airport noise activists, who are among the best-educated citizens when it comes to aviation, are well suited to help raise safety concerns in their communities, and should team up with environmentalists and public safety advocates to counter irresponsible industry efforts.
Noise activists and environmentalists are not the only ones concerned about aviation safety. The Governors of Vermont and New Hampshire have requested 50 mile no fly zones around nuclear power plants. Representative Anthony Weiner is trying to get the FAA to move flights from over Queens to out over the ocean. The New Jersey Congressional delegation is leading the effort for ocean routing.
With the increase in general aviation, the increased use of private jets, changes in flight paths, and flights over populated areas, aviation safety has become an important issue to aviation noise activists. People should not assume that the FAA is addressing the safety issue, just as they should not assume the FAA is working to solve the noise problem. Currently, pilots are only advised not to loiter over nuclear power plants. Helicopters can still zip in between skyscrapers. Airports continue to get noisier everyday.