Statistical Release

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National Transportation Noise Map

Release Number: 
BTS 15-17
Date: 
Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ (BTS) initial National Transportation Noise Map, released today, shows that more than 97 percent of the U.S. population has the potential to be exposed to noise from aviation and Interstate highways at levels below 50 decibels or roughly comparable to the noise level of a humming refrigerator.

A much smaller segment of the U.S. resident population has the potential to be exposed to higher levels of aviation and Interstate highway noise. Less than one-tenth of a percent of the population could potentially experience noise levels of 80 decibels or more, equivalent to the noise level of a garbage disposal (See Table).

The purpose of the noise map is to facilitate the tracking of trends in transportation-related noise, by mode, and collectively for multiple transportation modes. The data allow viewing the national picture of potential exposure to aviation and highway noise. The data also allow viewing of the potential exposure at the state or county level.

The National Transportation Noise Map will be an addition to the National Transportation Atlas Database (NTAD), a set of nationwide geographic databases of transportation facilities, networks, and associated infrastructure available from the BTS Geospatial Data Catalog. The layers will be updated on an annual basis, and future versions of the National Transportation Noise Map are envisioned to include additional transportation noise sources, such as rail and maritime.

The BTS map contains aircraft and road noise inventory data provided as web map services (WMS) for use with Geographic Information Systems (GIS), computer programs that can store, analyze, and present spatial or geographic data.

The geospatial data provides a basis for understanding what-if scenarios and helping policy makers to prioritize noise-related transportation investments. Using the National Transportation Noise Map data, BTS highlighted the percentage of total U.S. resident population that had the potential to be exposed to the following A-weighted 24-hour equivalent sound levels (LAEQ) (a-weighted, average sound level for the day) from aviation and Interstate road noise in the year 2014.

View Table Data
A-weighted 24-hour LAEQ (dBA)Common comparable soundsAviationRoad (Interstate)
Less than 50Refrigerator humming (~40 dBA)97.1298.00
50 to 59Quiet office (~50 dBA)2.651.30
60 to 69Conversational speech (~60 dBA)0.210.44
70 to 79Vacuum cleaner (~70 dBA)0.010.25
80 or moreGarbage disposal (~80 dBA)< 0.010.06
Notes: 

1.  24-hour equivalent sound level (LAEQ) is the (logarithmic) average of sound energy over a 24 hour period. A-weighting is a correction applied to sound levels to better reflect the way the human ear hears sound. A-weighted sound levels are described by the unit dBA (a-weighted decibel). 

2.  While only National Highway System Interstates are included in the estimate of percentage of population affected by road noise, additional road types are included in the dataset. See the documentation for more information.

3.  The acoustics modeling used in the National Transportation Noise Map represents a worst-case scenario, and shielding effects are not included in the model. Please see documentation for a full list of acoustic modeling assumptions.

Source: 

Sources: U.S. Department of Transportation, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, National Transportation Noise Map; U.S. Census Bureau, 2014 American Community Survey 5-year Estimates; National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, I Love What I Hear! Common Sounds , available at :https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/i-love-what-i-hear-common-sounds

This national, multimodal transportation noise mapping initiative used data sources from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to create a comprehensive map of noise levels. The FAA’s Aviation Environmental Design Tool was used to model the average number of daily flight operations from airports across the country, excluding airports with exclusively military operations. To determine daily road noise data, algorithms from the FHWA’s Traffic Noise Model were used in conjunction with data from the Highway Performance Monitoring System to obtain the average daily noise levels for automobiles, medium trucks, and heavy trucks. Data layers are available for download.

The acoustics modeling used in developing these noise layers uses conservative, simplified methods, and only considers transportation noise (no other ambient noise sources). Documentation on the modeling assumptions is available at https://maps.bts.dot.gov/noise/. The noise data in the layers should be used for the purpose of tracking trends, not for assessing impacts. This data release represents the first year of data that can be used to analyze future trends.