Skip to content
CityLab
Maplab

A Map of Noisy America

Transportation-related racket affects 97 percent of the U.S. population, and it doesn’t have to be ear-splitting to be a public health menace.
There's the noise. The signal is (mostly) on wheels.
There's the noise. The signal is (mostly) on wheels. Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Noise is part of the urban contract. If you want all the benefits of living with density, then you’ve got to accept a certain level of baby-screaming, train-screeching, neighbor-humping aural pollution.

But a new map from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics shows that nearly all of the U.S. population—urban, suburban, and rural—risks exposure to potentially harmful levels of vehicular and aviation noise. From the hills of Ventura County, to the streets of Chicago, to the heart of Appalachia, the hum of trucks, cars, and planes meets the ears of 97 percent of Americans, at roughly 35 to 50 decibels. That’s comparable to the noise of a humming refrigerator, according to the BTS.