Edmonton's latest vehicle noise reduction pilot came with challenges: city report
EDMONTON -- The latest phase of a pilot program designed to catch loud motorists may need some retooling before it can be called a success and launched full time, according to a new report set to go before Edmonton city council next week.
The report, authored by city administration, details findings since the second phase of the vehicle noise monitoring pilot program began.
It's a cause that's seen its fair share of problems. The city's first vehicle noise reduction pilot project backfired back in 2018, when drivers used noise measuring display boards to compete to be the loudest while revving up their engines.
Flash forward to 2020 - a similar project, with different problems.
Among them: loud sirens. They can trigger the cameras equipped with microphones. When that happens the videos captured must be manually identified and thrown out.
Another problem, according to the report and Ward 6 councillor Scott McKeen, is the recordings often aren’t strong enough evidence in court.
"‘Oh no no no no, what the camera didn’t capture is the vehicle right behind me, or just ahead of me. That’s the one that was making all the noise,'" McKeen re-enacted during an interview with CTV News Edmonton.
McKeen says vehicle noise has been an ongoing issue in Edmonton's downtown for quite some time.
"I’ve had constituents say, ‘thank god winter has come, because it’s suddenly quiet again.’"
But, McKeen says, the latest pilot has at least shown some progress.
During the second phase of the pilot project – which took place over the summer months of 2020, police were able to use noise monitoring equipment to aid with detection and enforcement.
The five month pilot, dubbed Project TENSOR, (Traffic Enforcement Noise/Speed Offence Reduction), enabled officers to issue 1,684 tickets under the traffic safety act. Just over one-fifth of those were vehicle noise-related.
"So it seems that we’re finally getting somewhere," said McKeen.
From July to September a third-party vendor setup one mobile and three static noise monitoring systems for Project TENSOR and rotated them through nine locations.
A threshold of 95 decibels was set as a triggering noise level and the equipment recorded sound 24 hours a day.
Once enough data was collected, officers were deployed to locations deemed problematic to verify the information, disrupt driver behaviour and issue fines when necessary.
Officers spent roughly 150 hours at or near the locations targeted for enforcement, using a combination of their own observations and the audio and video of the noise violations.
One challenge, administration says, is the model of deploying officers in conjunction with noise monitoring equipment is resource-intensive and resulted in limited success in identifying a significant number of offenders.
The pilot cost taxpayers $192,000 for equipment rentals, installations, monitoring, maintenance and software use, while fines generated just $98,000.
So while there may be some benefits to the fight against vehicular noise pollution, the list of complications could mean fully automated noise enforcement is not quite ready to be launched in Edmonton just yet.
Administration's report says among the next steps will be to review tactics from other municipalities to reduce the impact of excessive vehicle noise.