What is Traffic Noise?

Traffic noise is unwanted sound that comes from vehicles operating on roadways. Most traffic noise in Edmonton is produced by tires moving against pavement. Engine noise can also contribute, especially from large vehicles like buses and transport trucks.

People experience noise differently based on their personal sensitivity to sound. To help address concerns about traffic noise, the City measures the average sound level on a typical weekday (dBA Leq24) to help evaluate the impact of noise on a community. 

Vehicle Noise Monitoring Pilot

Measuring Noise

Although we may hear background noise at a constant volume, sound waves fluctuate rapidly and include frequencies outside our range of hearing. The decibel scale measures the intensity of sound, where 0 decibels represents the human hearing threshold and 130 decibels represents the human pain threshold. Typical daily noise levels are expressed as dBA Leq24, which is a logarithmic average of all noise over a 24 hour period.

Exposure to Traffic Noise

Prolonged exposure to high noise levels over 85 dBA can cause permanent hearing damage. In General, traffic noise does not usually reach these extreme levels. The standard acceptable noise threshold in an outdoor area in Edmonton is 65 dBA Leq24.

A 3 dBA noise increase is barely audible, whereas a 10 dBA increase doubles the noise level. An urban area where the noise level is 65 dBA Leq24 is six times louder than a quiet rural setting where the noise level is only 30 dba Leq24.

Urban Traffic Noise Policy

The Urban Traffic Noise Policy dictates how the City deals with traffic noise mitigation and was last updated in 2013. The revised Urban Traffic Noise Policy was approved at Council in March, 2013.

City Council March 5, 2013 - Edmonton's Urban Traffic Noise Policy Update Item 6.6