Gorgeous, breath-taking, world-class shopping, top-rated restaurants, colorful history, booming business, fun events…and noisy: this is downtown Chicago, an exciting place, but darn loud. There are many noises that make up the sound of the city:
· Rush hour traffic: horns honking; traffic cops shouting and blowing whistles to direct traffic.
· Sirens: fire trucks, ambulances, police cars; some days (or nights) there’s more.
· Buses: overly-loud on-board announcements that one can even hear outside the bus; an almost deafening beeping sound as the bus lowers to let people on. Some bus stops even have a high-pitched beeping noise that pelts your ear drums while awaiting your bus.
· Trains, underground and overhead: the els are really loud, especially when two trains pass; and the screeching sound of an el rounding a corner can be painful. Don’t try to talk on your phone while under an el.
· The blaring sound that signals vehicles exiting from parking garages.
· Police and traffic helicopters.
· People: loud phone talkers; Streetwise vendors; beggars; workers; delivery guys; rowdies; disturbed people; outdoor restaurants and bars; hoards of folks who pour into the city for big events; chants of protesters at rallies; hotel doormen blowing ear-piercing whistles to hail taxis.
· Music: pounding out of cars, sometimes so loud, the whole vehicle rattles; neighbor’s music, sometimes just the bass pounding through your wall; and the more pleasant strains of music festivals in the parks and street musicians. Seagulls make their own kind of music down at the lakefront that sounds like the overly-excited screams of children playing.
· Festivities: fireworks: twice a week from Navy Pier and seasonal parades.
· In some neighborhoods, the bang of a gun.
· Construction: noisy machinery, the back-up beeping sound, the slamming of metal against concrete. Sometimes when a job is left till the next day, gigantic metal plates are laid over the street; and when vehicles drive over these, it sounds like a shotgun. To get it done during low traffic, much construction happens in the city during the night, sometimes overnight. It’s extremely inconsiderate of the city to allow this, as downtown residents pay high prices to live there.
· Delivery trucks: men shouting and banging stuff around; when this happens in an alleyway, the noise is magnified. Some downtown businesses, especially retail, take deliveries early weekend mornings and often outside of designated residential quiet hours during weeknights. Drivers often let their engines idle, creating noise pollution and air pollution to those who live next-door. These businesses aren't good neighbors if they're in a residential district with designated quiet hours.
· Garbage pickup: also at all hours, even in residential districts (wrong, on so many levels, during quiet hours). Unless they relish being awaken often in the middle of the night by a seemingly callous waste management firm, residents need to be vigilant enough to complain to the local police and to their alderman, who needs to be tough enough to levy fines. You should not have to wear ear plugs to bed to sleep through the night due to this type of inconsiderate, illegal behavior.
As one downtowner remarked, "The city is a calliope of noise." Those who don’t live downtown must wonder why anyone would. One good reason is this: a choice between being crammed in a crowded train or spending hours in a car on gridlocked highways to get to Chicago from the burbs, paying a high price for parking once you arrive -- if you can find parking -- and eventually arriving back home late and dead-tired OR being mere steps from everything: your office, shops, bars, theaters, restaurants, Buckingham Fountain, the lakefront, music fests in Millennium and Grant Park…For this and so much more, city residents endure some noise.