BART and the Physics of Sound

Most of my reports so far about my walks discuss what I see in Berkeley, but I have not talked too much about what I hear while I am walking. On several of my recent walks in the Berkeley hills I have been thinking about the sounds of BART. For readers outside of the area, BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit), is the rail transit system that connects San Francisco and communities on the east side of the Bay. In some areas BART runs below the ground and in many other places it travels along an elevated railway. The three BART stations in Berkeley (Ashby, Berkeley, and North Berkeley) are underground. According the the BART history, quite a bit of controversy surrounded this decision, which cost time delays and money. I would eventually like to learn more about this decision to run the trains underground. I have no doubt that aesthetics played a big part in the choice, but what about the noise? On my walks, it is puzzling to me that the sounds of the BART trains seem louder up in the hills, far away from where the stations run through the flatlands of Berkeley. Why is this? My non-scientific guess is that it has something to do with the proximity of North Berkeley hills to BART where it comes above ground near the Berkeley-Albany border, and the way that sound travels through canyons and hills. Actual scientific explanations welcomed!

Speaking of BART, these signs at North Berkeley BART make me happy that I walk to and from BART stations. I wonder how many people have missed their trains while trying to figure out exactly who can park here and when?



  1. dave said

    Trains underground would certainly solve noise pollution issues big time.

  2. Spike said

    Underground trains are cool.

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