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Turn the volume down on vehicle noise, Toronto residents ask city, police
July 6, 2022

More than two years ago, the streets were quiet around Ingrid Buday's west-end Toronto condo. COVID-19 had just hit and the roads were empty.

"I felt like there was just this expanse where I could enjoy my balcony and I could sleep at night with the door open," Buday said.

It didn't last. At 3 o'clock one morning in April 2020, the roar of a motorcycle's engine went on for 10 minutes. She figured it must have been more than six kilometres away. And then it hit her, one person on one motorcycle has the potential to disturb thousands of people.

"Just because somebody is doing this behaviour, that doesn't mean that I should have to accommodate it by putting in ear plugs," she said.

The repeated disturbance from motorcycles prompted Buday to buy an $8,000 environmental noise meter and begin taking measurements. In August 2021, she joined the DVP Noise Action Group. She and other residents say noise from motorcycle racing and modified exhaust systems is common late at night. They say engines often rumble, growl and backfire on city streets.

The DVP Noise Action Group says the city and police aren't doing enough to stop it and ticket numbers appear to back that up. Under its noise bylaw from October 2019 to April 2022, the city issued one charge for unnecessary motor vehicle noise and nine charges for motorcycles exceeding the permitted decibel level. Under the Highway Traffic Act, police laid 983 noise-related charges in 2021 and 304 noise-related charges in 2022. In September 2019, a blitz designed to crack down on excessive vehicle noise in Toronto resulted in police mostly issuing tickets for speeding.

The group is calling on the city and police to step up automated enforcement. Members have called and emailed city councillors and reported incidents to police. Some have submitted photos of cars, licence plates and mufflers. But they say nothing is changing.

A city council committee is set to meet on Wednesday to consider a staff report on "outstanding noise directives." The city plans to review its 2019 noise bylaw next year. Police say they hope to conduct joint enforcement blitzes with bylaw officers this summer, but some residents don't think any of this will help.

On Wednesday, the city's economic and community development committee will consider whether council should:


Toronto Deputy Mayor Michael Thompson, chair of the city's economic and community development committee, said much work has been done on what he called a complicated and challenging problem.

"We are encouraging members of the community to reach out to 311 or to councillors' offices to inform them as to where these activities are taking place and generally when," he said.

"As a government, we have to work harder to be able to address the complaints that are coming through."

City received 900 emails about noise over 3 weeks
Thompson, who represents Scarborough Centre, said he believes the problem has gotten worse across the city.

"Now it's an epidemic, quite frankly," he said. "It's challenging for enforcement but even more so it's challenging for residents who are on the receiving end of the noise."

Thompson agreed that street racing and stunt driving have made the problem worse. According to the report, staff solicited feedback from the public about vehicle and leaf blower noise from March 30 to April 20 this year and received 900 emails.

According to a summary of those emails, residents said they believe excessive vehicle noise is the result of speeding, aggressive and dangerous driving, and modified exhaust systems -- particularly in areas along Lake Shore Boulevard, Gardiner Expressway, the Don Valley Parkway, and in Yorkville. Residents reported hearing street racing and stunt driving frequently at night.

The report says the majority of residents support an increase in enforcement.

Both city bylaw, police officers needed for enforcement
Thompson said the problem is complicated because enforcement is done by both police and bylaw officers and it is regulated by both the city's noise bylaw and the province's Highway Traffic Act.

The bylaw regulates what the city calls "episodic types of noise" and it stipulates a decibel limit for motorcycles but not for other vehicles. Motorcycles are not allowed to emit any sound exceeding 92 dB(A) from the exhaust outlet as measured at 50 centimetres, while the motorcycle engine is at idle.

The bylaw prohibits the emitting of sound "resulting from unnecessary motor vehicle noise, such as the sounding of a horn, revving of an engine, squealing of tires, banging, clanking or any like sound that is clearly audible at a point of reception."

The act, section 75 (1), states: "... no person shall use a muffler cut-out, straight exhaust, gutted muffler, Hollywood muffler, by-pass or similar device upon a motor vehicle or motor assisted bicycle." Fines for a first offence start at $500 and can go up to $1,000.

The report says some residents want a specific decibel limit to be introduced for all vehicles.

'Certainly, we are doing something,' Toronto police say
Police, for their part, say they are enforcing the act and working with bylaw officers to enforce the bylaw. City bylaw officers require the presence of police to issue tickets for noise bylaw infractions. That means the police pull vehicles over, the bylaw officers perform tests using a decibel meter, and then they issue tickets.

Sgt. Melissa Kulik and Const. Sean Shapiro, spokespeople for the police's traffic services unit, said last summer police conducted a blitz with bylaw officers, and will do so again this summer. Kulik said police are constantly patrolling the DVP and Gardiner Expressway.

"We do always have officers out there on those roadways looking for infractions," she said.

Shapiro said there is no question that police are making an effort to curb excessive vehicle noise.

"Certainly, we are doing something," Shapiro said. "To some degree, what we do doesn't end the problem. It addresses the behaviour and documents it. Even if we were to ticket five different people, you may get five new ones who drive by tomorrow."

Buday said she has collected thousands of hours of data using the noise meter that she bought, and motorcycle racing continues to keep her awake at night.

Buday said the city should have a maximum decibel level for all vehicles, not only motorcycles, and that the noise bylaw should be redrafted, and enforcement blitzes need to be like the RIDE programs that look for impaired drivers.

"People are increasingly frustrated at the prevalence of the noise and lack of enforcement," she said.

"We're tired of it."