Do we really want silent trains?

In my (unpopular) opinion, I am of the belief that trains should be as loud and as removed from pedestrian and vehicular traffic as possible. As much as I love trains – let’s face it: they’re dangerous. And unless you can HEAR it coming, there’s an increased chance of you getting clobbered by one.

Well, apparently that’s a risk we’re willing to take in Sacramento. Residents have been fighting for silence from freight trains that run through the city- and except for a little stalling on part of the engineers, it looks like they’re finally going to get it.

This idea seems ridiculously short-sighted to me. I mean, I’m a homeowner – I totally get why someone would want a quiet neighborhood. But doing a risk-of-injury-to-benefit-of-no-horn analysis does not lead me to thinking that this is a good idea. Trains roll fast; they can’t stop on a dime; they’re lethal as all hell. All you need is one parent on a cell phone (or even on a hands free device), driving a kid to a friend’s house with 10 other screaming gromlets in the back of the van — and maybe they wouldn’t notice a train coming; especially if the crossing guards are on the fritz and that train didn’t blow its horn.

I don’t know. Seems like a large price to be willing to pay. To those in favor of the policy, just remember: you asked for it.

3 Comments so far

  1. Erik (unregistered) on September 25th, 2006 @ 6:03 pm

    Maybe Reno had the best solution–they put their tracks underground last year for $300 million. Of course, there are other (Arena) or even better things (anything else) we could spend that kind of money on.

    I understand that neighborhoods are great at organizing to say no to the issue du jour, but there are others who may not be sitting behind the safety of the crossing arm (children, bicyclists, pedestrians, homeless, the blind). RT recently switched to gongs, which are somehow supposed to be less bothersome.

  2. cd (unregistered) on September 25th, 2006 @ 11:22 pm

    I agree with tot on this one: that crazy doppler effect already means that hearing trains when you’re ON the tracks is difficult (that would apply to horn noise as well, true), but for as long as the trains do run through town, at grade level, keep the damn horns.

    cutting out a passage would be great – the rapidly growing midtown area and its traffic flow could use the break, especially as freight-by-rail continues to increase, but the price tag and the MASSIVE amount of time and inconvenience required to bury the tracks is likely prohibative. i wonder what neighbors would think about the noise from THAT project.

  3. cd (unregistered) on September 25th, 2006 @ 11:26 pm

    and, come to think of it, the number of and extent to which neighbors are bothered by the train-sounds is probably impossible to quantify, let alone decide is more important that general public safety. i work 2 blocks from the tracks – and i hear the horns and hear/feel the rumble. then again, i live 3 blocks from the tracks and i hear and feel nothing except if i’m sitting very, very quietly with the TV off. i don’t hear it at night – ever.

    wind patterns, other buildings, and general dynamics must just be better by my house. those along the tracks lose out the most, but then again, i’m guessing the tracks have been there longer than any current adjacent residents.

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