Behind the Tracks: How we make trains good neighbors

DART’s network of transit options is intended to not only increase mobility, access and economic development, but also seamlessly fit in the existing environment as well. That’s one of the reasons why we identify a project’s potential impacts or issues during the project development process and then identify ways to reduce those impacts through mitigation.

For the Cotton Belt, we’re diving into three main impacts (noise, vibration, and visual) that DART can look to mitigate in the project development process.

Taking measures to be a better neighbor

DART takes the following steps to identify areas where noise from the Cotton Belt could be an issue. First, we identify locations of sensitive uses (including places of worship, homes, parks, etc.). Then we measure existing noise levels and estimate the new potential noise level with the transit project. Finally, we propose mitigation measures to lessen the new noise level.

DART implements measures that seek to avoid or lessen impacts of our transit projects in five different ways:

  1. Avoid: Don’t take a certain action to prevent the impact altogether
  2. Minimize: Limit the degree or magnitude of the action to minimize the potential impact
  3. Rectify: Repair, rehabilitate, or restore the surrounding environment after completion of project
  4. Reduce or eliminate: Use maintenance operations to reduce the impact over time
  5. Compensate: Replace or provide different resources to compensate for potential impacts

How loud is the Cotton Belt?

The proposed Cotton Belt vehicle, running at 50 miles per hour, causes a momentary maximum noise level of 79 dBA as it passes at a distance of 50 feet, or about the same amount of noise that comes from your neighbor’s lawn mower next door. When the Cotton Belt is still, the noise generated is about the same as standing three feet from a clothes washer.

Check out the graph below to see the current noise level of familiar transit systems, like the TRE or the DART Light Rail and City Buses to see how the Cotton Belt stacks up in terms of noise impact.

How engineering along with operations can make trains better neighbors

DART can implement a number of techniques to minimize noise of normal train operations. Techniques include:

  1. Insulating power generators in internal train compartments
  2. Conducting frequent vehicle and track maintenance
  3. Establishing quiet zones where train horns are not routinely sounded
  4. Lowering the sound in volume-warning devices, such as horns and bells, at crossings in sensitive locations
  5. Installing noise walls to create sound barriers and incorporating designs to reduce noise at rail crossings

Being a Good Neighbor Means Being a Quiet Neighbor

We aim to make transit a part of our neighborhoods by tying in local art, to involving the public in the design process, and making sure we work to ease any potential disruptions new transit projects can cause on the surrounding landscape. Guided by the Federal Transit Administration and DART Mitigation Policy, we are making sure to make the Cotton Belt both a quiet neighbor and an effective transit solution for all of North Texas!

About DART Daily

Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) gets you around 13 cities with rail, bus, paratransit, and rideshare services. We serve DFW International Airport and Fort Worth via the Trinity Railway Express (TRE). The service area consists of 13 cities: Addison, Carrollton, Cockrell Hill, Dallas, Farmers Branch, Garland, Glenn Heights, Highland Park, Irving, Plano, Richardson, Rowlett and University Park.
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