Photo credit: Alex Pham

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

In an article on The Atlantic’s “Work in Progress” series, writer Annie Lowery advises readers, “don’t to drive into Manhattan.” In her discussion of coming congestion pricing for motorists wanting to drive into the lower half of Manhattan, she quotes environmental activist and transit analyst Charles Komaroff, who suggests that the real costs to society of a car entering the congestion zone is $100. This figure includes what economists call the “unpriced externalities” of driving a car.

Among these “externalities” are the value of time wasted sitting in traffic, the costs of building and maintaining roads, worsening air pollution, deaths and injuries from collisions and for the purposes of this blog post, noise pollution. Lowery notes that the average decibel level in midtown Manhattan is 70-85 decibels, similar to having a vacuum cleaner running next to a person all the time. The result is auditory damage, sleep disruption and increased cardiovascular disease.

Internal combustion engines make noise. Electric vehicles are quieter, but even without a partial or complete switch to EVs, enforcement of existing laws that govern horn use and exhaust systems can make urban life quieter. Different combinations of paving surfaces and tire composition can also help.

A quieter world will be a better and healthier world for all.

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