Many communities located near rail transit rights of way are exposed to ground vibration produced by passing trains. Train induced vibrations can disrupt sleep, interfere with conversation, create rattling noises, distract audiences in lecture and concert halls, and affect vibration sensitive equipment. Community response to rail induced ground vibration had not been extensively researched in the United States. While the well-known Schultz dose-response curve is routinely used to predict the prevalence of annoyance produced by airborne transportation noise, no similar relationship had gained widespread acceptance for noise and vibration due to ground vibration. The National Academy of Sciences awarded a research grant (Transit Cooperative Research Program D-12 Study) to Acentech to develop dose-response relationships between rail transit-generated ground-borne noise and vibration, and human annoyance.

The study included telephone interviews and field measurements in five major North American cities; Sacramento, Dallas, Boston, New York and Toronto. The measurements and survey results were used to generate several dose-response relationships between vibration/noise exposure and annoyance. When compared to the current noise and vibration criteria specified by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), the dose-response analysis predicted a probability of 0.05 to 0.10 that a D-12 study respondent would be highly annoyed by vibration and noise at the current FTA criterion levels.

In addition to their application to new transit systems, the dose-response curves also offer a way to predict what proportion of residents in a new development might be annoyed by noise and vibration from an existing transit line.

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