Research Notes: The Chinatown neighborhood of Boston is, perhaps, the loudest area in the city. It is right next to I-93, is intersected by three subway lines (orange, green, and silver), is serviced by a major bus route, has an entertainment district, is home to a major hospital, has a few large scale construction sites, and is, apparently, on a major flight path!. I’ve measured in chinatown extensively–even at night, where I’ve never seen sound levels go below 65 decibels. Keep in mind, according to the World Health Organization, the recommended night time decibel level is 45 decibels. Incredible.
This community sound portrait is of Doug Brugge, a professor at Tufts University. While he does not live in Chinatown, he spends the majority of his work day here. In addition to introducing us to the soundscape in one of the loudest places in Boston, his portrait also sheds light on indoor versus outdoor noise.
Name: Doug Brugge, Phd
Date: 6/4/2016, 5:30 pm
Neighborhood: Chinatown, Boston
On a scale of 1-10 , how loud is Chinatown? Inside office: 2; Outside office: 8
Actual decibel level: 40 dBA (inside office) and 73.4 dBA (outside)
Tell us about the noise in your neighborhood: My office is generally quiet and I am rarely bothered by noise. The ventilation is in the background, but I don’t notice it until we started recorded sound in my office. Sometimes people are talking in the hallway, but that is infrequent. Sounds from outside almost never get in. Just the medivac helicopter coming or leaving from the hospital and sirens now and then.
But outside Chinatown is a noisy place. When I go out I am assaulted by very loud noises immediately and continuously. Most of it is traffic. Cars, trucks, busses. Sirens and construction sounds also. Maybe because I experience these sounds only briefly each day I am at work, they tend not to bother me much, at least on a conscious level. Maybe I am less bothered by noise than some people too. But I don’t like the noise on the street in Chinatown either.
Sound is an ubiquitous urban environmental exposure. However, noise--defined as unwanted sound--is best described by those who live with it every single day of their lives. The goal our Community Sound Portrait Series is to put a human face to the city soundscape and gather a better understanding of how noise impacts residents in the Greater Boston Area, both positively and negatively. The Community Sound Portrait Series is an online interactive exhibition of interviews, audio sound clips, noise measurements, and photographs of residents in the Greater Boston Area. These stories include residents in their neighborhoods as well as in their places of employment. We invite you to read and listen to their stories!
World Health Organization’s Community Noise Guidelines: