Aural Postcard: Canada Line Skytrain

I originally started this recording going out to meet my mom on one of the busiest Olympics 2010 weekends. I see now that I have made the dB measurement the evening before – also a busy Olympic evening. Actually ever since the Canada Line was open I’ve been wanting to measure the sound levels there, because it seems excessively louder than the other underground skytrain lines. First, even the spatial acoustics for some reason sound boomier, bigger (as per Truax’s notion of ‘volume’) and more reverberant due to the lack of any damping material and the open mid-section architecture that allows sound to travel up, resonate and form standing waves (something which isn’t the case in Granville station or Waterfront, etc.).

Because of this space, the skytrain sounds quite ominous and noisy, more of its broadband spectrum contained and audible inside…as it arrives through the tunnels, it literally sounds quite a big bigger – like a commuter train on railroads pulling into a station. To add to this, the PA system announcing the trains and other information, when first installed was really too too loud – I heard informally that due to complaints Translink actually adjusted the volume down…It still sounds very loud and reverberant in large part to the issue described above – the spatial acoustics that allow it to reflect, resonate and reverberate in a bigger space.

The next recording I took inside the train, partially because I wanted to capture that moment of inside-outside acoustically (I have always been fascinated by it) and partially because I’ve always been struck by how loud the skytrain can sound on the inside, particularly when it picks up speed. It can be heard here again, increasing in intensity almost to painful levels, almost to a “jet pause” – where people no longer being able to compete with the engine noise have to seize their conversation temporarily. Then…arriving at the next station, it seizes to almost silence, then it all repeats again.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *