FOLLOWUP: New technology to enable Alki noise enforcement?

(WSB photo, SPD mobile precinct on Alki one warm night last month)

The sun’s out, and the season of long warm nights is almost here. That invariably brings cruising and vehicle noise to Alki Beach. The city has noise rules, but they’re tough to enforce, Seattle Police say. For more than a year, multiple initiatives have sought to see if something can be done to change that. Local community groups including the Alki Community Council hosted presentations by and discussions with a representative of a group working on new technology, and in the meantime, City Councilmember Lisa Herbold circulated a survey with results that showed the level of concern about the noise problem. She also got an item into the newest city budget requesting a report on the noise-enforcement situation. She released that report in her newest weekly update. You can read it here. In addition to explaining the challenges of enforcing noise rules, the report explains, for the first time, the “new technology”:

In a recent meeting with a community member concerning vehicle noise on Alki, the \ individual shared an emerging technology that could impact the enforcement of vehicle noise. The option utilizes an approach similar to that of automated speed zone cameras. As described, it uses air pressure generated from changes in noise levels to detect excessive noise. Pads or readers on the roadway identify the source vehicle and that vehicle’s license plate is read similar to the existing red light traffic enforcement process.

Should it operate correctly and be validated and accepted, it could operationally function as the automated camera enforcement program does. It would issue the vehicle owner a citation. This concept is early in development, but presents an interesting and innovative approach to the issue of excessive vehicle noise. Such a solution would have to be vetted against both the process and the spirit of the surveillance ordinance, as well as community and city priorities.

So what’s next? Herbold’s update concludes, “My office is currently working with Council Central Staff on follow-up questions for additional detail, and with community on next steps and potential solutions.”

27 Replies to "FOLLOWUP: New technology to enable Alki noise enforcement?"

  • Erithan April 2, 2018 (1:52 pm)

    Hopefully all goes well and can bring some of this technology (still need cops at night..)to the junction. Tons and tons of “boom boom” cars latley, either racing and it idling nearby.  

    My water keeps turning into a prop from Jurassic Park, unnerving when it goes on for hours. :(

    • Heather April 2, 2018 (9:41 pm)

      “My water keeps turning into a prop from Jurassic Park…” 

      Hahahaha! Best thing I’ve read all day. 

  • dsa April 2, 2018 (1:53 pm)

    April fools was yesterday.  This sounds too far fetched for me to believe it will work.

    • dsa April 2, 2018 (3:30 pm)

      So thinking about it for a while, this might work.  I could involve two sound measuring devices, one at the receiver and one at the pavement pad which would be the origination source used for identifying the offender.  What I am assuming is that they would compare the sound signatures of the two recordings.  That is, do the frequency (hz) levels match up?  It might actually work, but I am skeptical about the placement of the street pad.  If sound signature is the “new technology” the pad could be used for snapping a pic of the plate, but the originating mic might be best located to the side of the vehicle such as at the curb.  And the downside of course is that this setup has to be physically monitored.

  • S April 2, 2018 (2:01 pm)

    Hmm. It sounds like this can only be used for vehicles, which is a great start! Anybody else wish there was a way to use this to ticket the gentleman who strolls up and down Alki with the speaker system strapped to his chest? I am so tired of a sunny-day being spoiled by his music blasted at a louder-than-legal volume blaring profanities in a public area. 

    • Guy Olson April 2, 2018 (2:52 pm)

      Speakerman now has a PA system in a car he drives. He drives back and forth on Alki muttering words all day now.

      • Guy lies April 4, 2018 (1:03 pm)

        Yeah right

  • Jort April 2, 2018 (2:40 pm)

    I am in full support of any efforts to decrease the perceived “coolness” of driving a vehicle, particularly the Fart Cars that loudly poop their way up and down our streets. Often these Fart Cars (and Fart Motorcycles) engage in additional dangerous, criminal behavior like speeding. 

    I only have two more hopes about the Fart Car Noise Detection and Enforcement System (FCNDES):

    1) That the cameras also automatically issue tickets to drivers exceeding the speed limit, even by 1 mph. (It is the law. Follow it or stop driving.)

    2) That the punishments for violations increase in severity if they are repeated: 1st offense, $25,000 fine, 2nd offense, car sent to trash compactor, 3rd offense, violator locked in prison for 500 years. Something reasonable like that.

  • dhg April 2, 2018 (2:46 pm)


  • dsa April 2, 2018 (3:43 pm)

    If you are talking about specific individual offenders, tell the cops to enforce the law: 

    25.08.515  and 25.08.520

  • The King April 2, 2018 (4:35 pm)

    So buses, airplanes, ferry horns will be tricky to citate, it will be a shame to see summer music festivals shut down. Or is this just another anti-personal vehicle interest. 

    • Jon Wright April 2, 2018 (5:18 pm)

      There is no escaping the War On Cars!

    • dsa April 2, 2018 (5:20 pm)

      Buses? seriously?  Commercial airplanes are supposed to stay in the noise abatement paths which avoid West Seattle.  However in the last few days I have seem some cut across the peninsula.  If it continues I’m going to start complaining like the old days.  Do ferries still toot on landing?  It seems absurd.  Otherwise marine horns are for safety.  Music festivals have permits and should have specific operating times, locations etc.   They used to be acoustically monitored, probably not now.

      • C April 2, 2018 (5:38 pm)

        I too noticed the air traffic pattern change about a month ago. Thought at first maybe it was a wind issue but it hasn’t stopped. It doesn’t bother me, just noticed it…

  • MJ April 2, 2018 (5:14 pm)

    What I cannot hear you over that darn boom box.  Hopefully, the SPD targets the most agregious violations.  

  • flimflam April 2, 2018 (6:13 pm)

    The city has noise rules, but they’re tough to enforce, Seattle Police say. “

    the city seems to think lots and lots of rules/laws are tough to enforce….

    • dsa April 2, 2018 (7:16 pm)

      I know for a fact that 25.08.515  A.1 and A.2 were written specifically for police enforcement.  Note how they apply only to parks.  75 feet is a short distance, but in a serene park one should keep their radio or whatever down to keep the sound from carrying.  Yet in a loud park it could get drowned out before getting far so a louder level is reasonable.  Cops know how far 75 feet is and what objectionable sound levels are.

  • Admiral neighbor April 2, 2018 (7:25 pm)

    Has anyone reported Speakerman to the police, someone needs to step up and report this individual! Totally ridiculous that this be behaviour is going on!

    • dsa April 2, 2018 (7:49 pm)

      It’s been a long time since that piece of code was written.  The current men in blue need to be shown the chapter and verse.

  • wetone April 2, 2018 (7:38 pm)

      Will it turn into a racial issue ?  What good does it do to ticket or arrest someone just to have courts dismiss ?   wish city would just hire more cops and or have them walk the beach enforcing laws we have now.  Once again our tax dollars at work……  

  • dsa April 2, 2018 (7:43 pm)

    BTW, traffic noise is exempt, being addressed in parts and pieces by others.  In order for this “new technology” to work it will have to have a legal basis for measurements and standards.  Seattle has created their own code for traffic noise emissions but it appears to me there is a legal issue even if the technology works.  

    This is the abbreviated Seattle code identifying measurement method.
    “25.08.430 Sounds created by operators of motor vehicles
    It is unlawful for any person to operate upon any highway any motor vehicle…clip…that the motor vehicle’s exhaust noise exceeds 95 decibels as measured by the Society of Engineers (SAE) J1 169 (May 1998)”

    Here is a reference to that procedure, which has been deleted as it has been canceled as of July 2007.

    The proposed “new technology” is an in motion method while the SAE code method is a stationary one so I think it will be difficult if not impossible to enforce without a code update.

  • Jim April 2, 2018 (10:12 pm)

    I’m so looking forward to noise code enforcement on motorcycles. It has been a difficult code to enforce but technology can help. High-rpm sport bikes are annoying but the anti-social behaviors (illegally modified exhausts designed to produce hearing-damaging noise) of the Harley-Davidson owners needs to be terminated. It’ll be wonderful to see them get fined this way.

    Yay technology!

  • Swede. April 2, 2018 (10:56 pm)

    “it uses air pressure generated from changes in noise levels to detect excessive noise”

    Sound IS air pressure and the level will be relative to ALL sound at the same time. So iF it’s already noisy it won’t be possible to ticket just one targeted source. Just like if everyone didn’t slow down on the freeway when they see a cop, nobody would get pulled over…

    Older vehicles, busses and larger trucks etc. won’t be included either since they can’t meet passenger vehicles levels, so that will make it even less likely. And like ‘dsa’ pointed out, there isn’t any standard for noice anymore either! That was pretty surprising to me! 

  • Bill April 3, 2018 (7:58 am)

    This should be illegal in Washington. So should traffic cameras that issue tickets. Some states have made it illegal. Just another way to make money. 

  • drahcir61 April 3, 2018 (12:03 pm)

    My wife uses an ingenious method of eliminating excessive sounds & vibrations that wake her up at 2am each night.  It’s called her elbow.

    • momof3boys April 3, 2018 (1:55 pm)

      thank you DRAHCIR61!! 

  • LINDA4747 April 3, 2018 (11:08 pm)

    If only……GTOs, Camaros, Steve Miller, Heart…thats the Alki I remember.

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