Bylaw Officers Making Noise about New Radar for Noisy Vehicles

Blog, Municipal Government, Amanda Achtman

Have you heard about the Noise Snare, a new traffic noise surveillance product?

If you haven’t, perhaps it is because a motorcycle was zooming past you with an engine roaring at such a high decibel level that you missed the news. In any case, City of Calgary bylaw officers have recently proposed implementing a new technology to regulate vehicle noise that exceeds a yet-to-be-determined new decibel maximum.

The Noise Snare technology was invented by Mark Nesdoly, an electrical engineer in Edmonton. In a Calgary Herald story Nesdoly explains the inspiration for the
device saying, “I still remember the day, laying down my daughter to go to sleep and [a motorcyclist] went roaring past -and her eyes just popped open.”

The City received 1,310 vehicle complaints last year. Among these vehicle complaints there are some noise complaints, but they also include many other issues such as oil leaking on the street.

The majority of noise complaints are not vehicle-related. According to the City of Calgary bylaw services, 2500 other (non-vehicle) noise complaints were received in 2010. The Noise Snare is an expensive device that would crack down on only a fraction of complaints.

Calgary has a population of approximately 1,352,200 people. A Noise Snare device costs $112, 500. How many devices would the City procure?  While most would welcome greater peace and quiet in their neighbourhoods, the amended noise bylaw, coupled with surveillance noise regulation, would come at a significant cost.

An article in Richmond News entitled ” Noise police price is not music to
taxpayers’ ears” reveals the costly nature of these practices:

A staff report placed before city council this week detailed how $100,000 is needed to bankroll the updated bylaw: with $60,000 going to counsel/consultants; $20,000 for replacement noise measuring equipment; $15,000 for staff training and another $5,000 for documentation.

Furthermore, it would seem that the cost of such measuring devises is overkill.  On the City of Calgary website the following question and answer are given:

Do you use decibel levels to measure noise from loud parties and other disturbances?

No, a decibel measure is not taken in this case. The intent of the [current] bylaw is to allow people to enjoy themselves without causing a disturbance to their neighbours. A decibel reading is not effective in measuring the effect noise levels has on others.

The proposed bylaw would be a significant change from this common sense approach. The new bylaw would involve determining a decibel maximum and ticketing those who exceed it whether the noise is a disturbance or not, even though we seem certain that it would be ineffective.

In addition, the City does not need to be involved in everything in every neighbourhood. If an individual with a noisy vehicle is continually a nuisance in a residential area, then her neighbours should be able to resolve the issue with their fellow motorist. An “automatic covert traffic noise monitoring system” only perpetuates anonymity and detracts from community spirit and common courtesy. That is an even higher cost to pay.

Follow this link to see a video of the Noise Snare in action.