Silencing the Subway
Inside a high-tech effort to minimize the maddening racket in the New York underground.
If you’ve ever stood in the Spring Street subway station in Manhattan and asked yourself, “Hmm, I wonder if standing here is a terrible idea?” then a quick consultation of the noise exposure standards promulgated in June 1998 by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health will show that, indeed, standing there is a terrible idea. During the lull between trains, the station is a quiet enough place. You can hear a woman’s boot heel clacking against the concrete platform, the MetroCard reader’s piercing electronic beep, the click-click-click of spinning turnstiles, a train in an adjacent tunnel shaking the walls with tectonic rumble.
This is the rush hour’s quietest moment, when noise levels inside the station drop to a low of seventy-one decibels. The hush, on a Thursday morning in January, lasts eight seconds.
An uptown 6 local train arrives. Its doors open with a staggered “thunk-unk-unk”; the fans inside the train’s twenty roof-mounted, six-and-a-half…
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