This week’s Sound Transit CEO newsletter contains an update on the work that Sound Transit is doing to mitigate Link noise.

A few months ago I told you about our plans to cut down the noise from Link light rail trains. (STB: see our previous coverage.)

Those plans included actually grinding the tracks to reduce train noise. I thought you’d be interested to know that the grinding was completed in the Rainier Valley in mid-December, and elsewhere on the line just before New Years Day. Although the grinding has reduced the high-frequency noise in many areas, there are some locations where it’s still present. We’ll measure noise levels again in early spring, after the grinding marks on the rails have worn smooth.

Another problem we’re working on is “wheel squeal” noise on curves, such as where trains enter and leave Mount Baker Station. In those areas we’re installing solar-powered machines that periodically dispense a dab of lubricant on the tracks. The track lubricators have been purchased and work is expected to begin in mid-to-late March. Work will take place overnight starting at 10 p.m. to minimize inconvenience to riders.

Finally, another noise problem in the Rainier Valley is the “ka-thunk” sounds created when a train goes through the crossover switches near S. Walden and S. Willow streets. A Sound Transit contractor will modify the two switch crossings so train wheels have a smoother running surface. Work will be scheduled between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. over eight weekends beginning in March. The project should take about two months.

We reported the first round of work late last year.

25 Replies to “Update on Link Noise”

  1. Now instead of high-pitched squealing, it’s a low groan. I guess that doesn’t carry as far, but I really miss when they were just testing and it sounded like Cylons.

  2. I find it fascinating that there are even problems such as squealing and high-pitched sounds. Since Portland has basically the same system, why weren’t these noise problems fixed BEFORE the system came online? I lived in Portland when the second line(to Hillsboro) opened up and there were complaints about the sharp turn before the trains entered the tunnel. The sharp turn caused painfully loud squeals and scrapes. But, after a while, they were able to figure it out and find a way to minimize, if not get rid of, the loud noises. So, why wasn’t that done up here before the system started so there wouldn’t be these complaints?

    1. Because it takes a long time to do that kind of work, and it only becomes apparent when and where it will be needed after trains are in service.

  3. Is it fair to assume that trains will be really absolutely quiet – I mean, it is an urban means of transportation in an urban corridor and I think the plusses outweigh the minuses. Of course I don’t live along the line but I haven’t felt thrown about when on Link.

    1. I agree with this comment completely: we’re running a train in a city, it’s not going to be whisper quiet. Link is not that loud; try standing next to an L stop in Chicago.

      Any other city and the powers that be would say: “it’s a public transportation system. Get over it.”

  4. Speaking of nuisances…how about that burning smell every time the Sounder pulls into a station. It’s really noxious…smells like a combination of burning rubber and ozone.

    Thoughts? Is that from the brakes?

    1. Yes, that is brake smell, no getting around that. Stopping that thing so that the doors line up with the “welcome mats” is no small feat for a train that big. All the engineers that do it have my respect…

    1. It’s reduced significantly since the grinding.

      The grinding is in two parts – first the rails, then the wheels. Each car only goes in for real take-it-apart service periodically, so the wheel half of the equation isn’t done yet.

    2. Today, for instance, I was on cars 101 and 132. 101 is much less shimmy-y. 132 doesn’t seem like it’s gotten the wheels done yet.

  5. How common are these sorts of lube dispensers around the world?

    Is there a more permanent solution for dealing with this sort of “squeal”?

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