Policy, Research, Public Consultation and Events

Noise Bylaw Review - Final Survey Summary

Overview

In March 2015, Municipal Licensing and Standards (ML&S) launched the Chapter 591, Noise by-law review.

ML&S began its initial round of consultation in April 2015 with a comprehensive online survey about noise and its impact. In addition to the online survey, the review also includes previously gathered feedback from the Outdoor Café by-law review from 2014, relating to noise from outdoor cafés and restaurants. The review also incorporates feedback gathered from a comprehensive Ipsos-Reid survey completed for the City of Toronto about construction, including construction noise and vibration.

The online survey was posted on the Municipal Licensing and Standards website  www.toronto.ca/mlshaveyoursay and ran from March 31st to April 24th, 2015 and preliminary feedback was collected and the survey was re-circulated June 24th to September 14th, 2015. The purpose of the survey was to seek feedback from a broad range of Toronto residents and stakeholders to consider any changes which may be needed and to ensure that the by-law is current and easy for residents, property owners and business to understand.

The survey focused on questions that provided the public with the opportunity to submit detailed written responses on a range of noise issues. With over 5000 completed surveys, including over 2300 extensive written comments from respondents, ML&S staff completed an in-depth review of the issues and opportunities.

The purpose of this document is to communicate key themes and detailed feedback that were identified in this review.

Respondent Profile

The survey was made available online through the ML&S public website and distributed to Councillors through the Monitor for distribution in his or her ward. The survey was tweeted once weekly via Strategic Communications and 311 twitter accounts. This survey was also circulated to businesses, music and other stakeholders, neighbourhood and residential associations and social media to increase public engagement.

In total, there were 5032 survey responses. Respondents responded individually with the exception of three respondents, who identified that it was completed on behalf of a residents' association. In addition, ML&S received 105 email and telephone responses from the public during this time period.

The survey required each respondent to self-identify in which ward he or she was a resident. The majority of respondents were from wards in or near downtown Toronto. The wards with the highest response rates were Ward 20 (18%), 19 (11.9%), 27 (10.4%), 25(7.9%), 28 (7%).

 

Key messages

Noise is a problem for almost half of respondents:

47.2% of respondents indicated that there is a problem with noise in their ward. However, 48.7% of respondents indicated that noise was not a problem while 4.1% were not sure.

It’s worth complaining about:

A number of the respondents (34.2%) indicated that at some point they have complained to an organization about noise. 

Noise complaints are made to a variety of organizations:

While close to half of respondents identified contacting 311 (45.4%) to make a complaint, they also contacted other organizations depending on the nature and time of the complaint. Examples of organizations contacted to voice complaints were 911 (5.2%), Toronto Police Services (41%), Councillor's office (32.1%), ML&S (17.3%), other (30.9%). “Other” includes TTC, Pearson/GTAA/NAV Canada, the people making the noise, Concierge/property management, resident association, Special Events, GYRA/ABCRA, MP, Developer, Toronto Port Authority, Billy Bishop Airport, University, AGCO, Venue/restaurant, mediation services at St. Stephen’s Community House, Animal Services.

Construction, amplified sound and motorcycle noise were the types of noise most complained about:

Respondents indicated a variety of types of noise that cause them to make a complaint. This survey allowed them to check off more than one type of noise. While respondents identified a number of types of noise, those most often complained about were construction (25.3%), amplified sound (36.1%), loading, unloading, delivery (11.7%) and motorcycle noise (13.3%). 

Even if respondents did not make a formal complaint, construction (35.7%), amplified sounds (21.4%) operation of a power device (e.g., leaf blowers) (22.5%) and motorcycle noise (33.6%) were identified as the most disruptive.

The effects of noise on individual well-being:

The respondents indicated that the most common effects of noise in addition to general disturbance were loss of sleep/insomnia and stress.

Prohibited hours for construction:

The majority of respondents were aware of the prohibited times for construction noise and thought the prohibited times were reasonable. If these times were to change more individuals would prefer that the prohibited times were longer.

Noise Exemptions: 

The majority of respondents were aware of noise exemptions and were interested in knowing when a noise exemption is issued in their ward.

Communications:

Respondents indicated that they would like to receive communication in multiple ways. The majority preferred e-blast/bulletin, communication through their councillor, via signage or on the City of Toronto website.

Other feedback:

Just under half of respondents chose to add additional feedback not covered above. A number of individuals had concerns about enforcement, in particular the availability and response time of enforcement staff. Others had concerns about motorcycles driving through residential areas with modified mufflers. Some wanted to revisit banning leaf blowers and others noted that construction/service/delivery trucks were often making noise during prohibited times.

By the Numbers

Types of Noise:

Feedback on types of noise that were the subject of complaints was varied and generated a broad range of responses from survey participants.

Large project construction noise such as condo developments resulted in 25.3% of respondents complaining, but amplified sounds in a residential area (36.1%) and amplified sounds from restaurants/bars (21.2%) and home construction noise (16.1%) results caused the most respondents to complain. Loading and unloading delivery noises and motorcycle noise respectively caused 11.7% and 13.3% of respondents to complain.

Respondents made fewer complaints about transit project noise (5.3%), animal noise (9%), operation of a power device (9.6%) alarm sounds (7.2%) and operation of tools for domestic purposes (e.g., hammer) (3.3%).

The “other” noise category was identified by 44.1% of respondents and included noise such as; honking, airport/airplane noise, TTC, noise from park late at night, people yelling/being noisy, noise from bars, late night/early AM pick up/deliveries, special events/filming, commercial a/c units, emergency vehicles sirens.

For those who had not made formal complaints, the most disruptive type of noise was large project construction (35.7%), motorcycle noise (33.6%), amplified sounds from the residential area (21.4%) and from the bar or restaurant (12.7%), operation of a power device (e.g. leaf blower) and alarm sounds (20.8%).

Effects of Noise on respondents:

Respondents identified that noise can impact their well-being in varied ways. According to the survey, the most common effects were general disturbance (66.7%), loss of sleep/insomnia (45%), stress (32.6%) and headache (13.1%). However, 24.5% of respondents identified that the noise wasn't disturbing them and they could tolerate it.

“Other” effects, which 12.1% of respondents noted, included loss of concentration, loss of enjoyment of yard, anger, cannot leave windows open, inconvenience, loss of business, wakes up baby/kids, causes dog to bark.

Prohibited Hours for Construction Noise:

Most (71.3%) respondents were aware that construction noise is prohibited during certain time periods. The majority (64.5%) of respondents thought that the time period was reasonable. For those that did not think the time period was reasonable 25.3% of respondents suggested to make the prohibited times longer. Some respondents (20.7%) had "other" suggestions such as stronger enforcement, no construction on Saturdays, turning down TTC kneeing buses beeping. 

Noise Exemptions:

The majority 65.7% of respondents were aware that noise exemption permits can be requested for special events, events in parks and/or construction outside of permitted hours. Most (75.1%) respondents identified that they would like to know about a noise exemption granted in their area.

Communications:

When we asked how respondents would like us to communicate about the noise by-law, the majority (65%) identified the e-blast/e-bulletin/email, while others through their councillor (30.9%), signage (33.6%) and/or City of Toronto website (35.6%) were preferred.

Other comments:

Respondents had an opportunity to type additional comments about noise. There were 2313[1] comments in total. The topics were sorted as follows and the number of respondents identifying a similar comment is noted in brackets. The four most popular topics are highlighted in the list below.

Table 1 – Resident comments about noise

Note that survey respondents were able to indicate more than one topic in their comments. 

Topic

Comments

Construction/delivery/service trucks (back up beeps)

512

Enjoy music and events

390

Amplified music from bars/restaurants

234

Not enough enforcement

220

Motorcycles speeding in residential areas, motorcycle groups, modified mufflers

212

Restrict clubs in residential areas

118

Increase fines

114

Too many noise exemption permits

94

leaf blower banned or muffled

74

Reduce aircraft noise

57

Communication about the impact of noise on health

54

7am too early, prefer 9am

45

Set decibel levels to quantify noise

43

Air conditioner/generator and furnace exhaust noise

43

Emergency sirens could be quieter

39

Loud people/yelling after 11pm

38

Animal noise (dog barking left outside too long)

38

Lack of Communication about exemptions

32

Too many loud concerts/festivals

31

Idling

27

train/streetcar noise

24

alarms

20

Invest more in enforcement

18

TTC honking, beeping

18

Party boats

17

No construction on Sunday or stat holidays

16

Limit amplification on special events

14

Issue on the spot tickets like Ottawa

12

Communication about what is and is not legal/signage

9

Amplified music in residential areas (backyards)

8

Not enough enforcement of night flight limits at BBTCA

8

street cleaning at reasonable hours not 1am

8

Stone cutting offsite rather than at the home being renovated

8

Retailers projecting music outside

3

Rebate for neighbours of residents with building permits

3

noise from vehicle repair facility between 6-7am

2

If a complaint is fielded by 311 an automated call goes to the offender letting them know the nature of the complaint

1

Gunshots at BBTCA

1

Police patrols through parks would be helpful

1

407 noise (new road surface much louder)

1

Piano playing

1

 

Detailed Feedback

1. Construction

There are two types of construction that cause noise, home renovations and large scale construction projects, such as condo developments. Of the two types of construction, large project construction noise resulted in complaints made by 25.3% of respondents. Home renovation noise only resulted in complaints made by 16.1% of respondents. Even when respondents chose not to complain, 35.7% of respondents identified large project construction noise was disturbing the peace and quiet in their wards. Home renovation noise was a problem for 26.3% of respondents who chose not to make a formal complaint.

Currently, Chapter 591, Noise allows for City of Toronto construction identified as necessary municipal work permitted anytime without requiring an exemption permit. However, in a quiet zone or residential area no construction noise is permitted between 7:00pm and 7am the next day, 9:00am on Saturdays and is prohibited all day Sundays and Statutory Holidays. Five hundred and twelve respondents from this survey identified in their other comments that they experienced disruptive noise from construction. Typically this included construction trucks backup beeping before the construction work was to take place (and during prohibited hours). The City of Toronto would have to approve an exemption for individuals for construction that is taking place during prohibited hours.

Service and delivery trucks during prohibited hours back up beeping, loading and unloading were also a source of noise concerns. This is important to note given that the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) is partnering with the City of Toronto and other municipalities in an Off-Peak Deliveries (OPD) Pilot to help reduce transportation demand at peak hours during the Games. While this initiative may reduce congestion it may be more disruptive to residents who will have greater exposure to delivery noise. The Ipsos-Reid survey results support this survey and indicate that residents are less positive toward relaxing noise by-laws to enable construction projects to be completed more quickly.

2. Amplified music:

This survey data is consistent with previous survey gathered in November-December 2014 for the Outdoor Café by-law review. In that survey, which had over 500 respondents, many felt that café noise and nuisance was an issue that needed to be addressed. In particular respondents brought up noise concerns as one of the key factors in deciding whether to support patio hours being open past 11pm. Some suggested noise-related restrictions or some form of noise monitoring, and considerations depending on the location of the patio and the proximity to residential areas.

Approximately 40% of respondents of the Outdoor Café online survey felt that noise was an issue. But it was unclear whether feedback was related to the outdoor café or indoor portion of the establishment. A few suggested better management of the noise by-law and more enforcement generally would be useful.

In this survey amplified music whether it is coming from a licensed bar/restaurant or from a residence was a concern for many respondents. In addition, amplified noise concerns was a common topic for respondents who chose to include other comments. In fact, 234 respondents chose to identify amplified noise as a key concern. However, there were are larger number of respondents (390) who indicated that they supported music events in the City regardless of the noise.

3. Motorcycles

Respondents, regardless of whether they made a complaint, identified motorcycle noise as a source of noise that most often disturbs their ward. In fact, 33.6% of respondents identified motorcycle noise as disturbing the peace and quiet in your ward. However, motorcycle noise was much lower (13.3%) in the number of respondents who made a complaint. This may be as a result of the limitations of Chapter 591, Noise which are identified on the 311 website and by staff who receive motorcycle noise complaints. 

There are no provisions within Chapter 591, Noise that would enable the City to deal with the referenced complaint. Motorcycles and vehicles travelling along any road are subject to the Highway Traffic Act. Currently, section 75 of the Ontario Highway Traffic Act requires every motor vehicle (including motorcycles) to have a muffler in good working order an in constant operation to prevent excessive noise. It also prevents a driver at any time to cause a motor vehicle to make any unnecessary noise, including the alteration of a muffler. In this survey 212 respondents had other comments that identified concerns about motorcycles speeding in residential areas, motorcycles with modified mufflers and motorcycle gangs creating significant noise.

In Toronto motorcycle noise issues are addressed in Chapter 591, Noise section 3 which states "the operation of a vehicle, engine, moto, construction equipment, or pneumatic device without effective exhaust, intake-muffling device or other sound attenuation device of a type specified by the manufacturer, which is in good working order, and in constant operation." However, a Municipal Standards Officer has no authority to stop a motor vehicle or demand a driver's licence.

4. Enforcement

In this survey, while we did not ask respondents to comment on enforcement or pose questions related to enforcement, this was the most popular topic. This survey noted 220 respondents and another 80 email respondents who had concerns about enforcement. The nature of their concern was that there is not enough enforcement of the noise by-law.

Many of the most common complaints were amplified sounds and construction during prohibited hours. Often concerns indicated that the respondent identified a delay between when the noise occurred and the complaint was made and when the complaint was investigated. Some thought more money should be invested in ML&S to fund more officers working the night shift. Others would like to see higher penalties such as increased fines or issuing on the spot tickets.

5. Aircraft Noise

While the survey didn't include aircraft noise, aircraft noise was one of the most frequent comments in the "other" comments. There were respondents from a few different wards who identified their experiences with aircraft noise either from Billy Bishop Airport or Toronto Pearson International Airport. Of particular concern were the volume of flights and night flights.

6. Emergency and municipal services

While the survey was not explicit in identifying the noise created by emergency and municipal services, respondents were. Several respondents identified concerns with the noise level of emergency vehicle sirens (e.g., fire, policy and ambulance). Thirty-nine respondents would like to see quieter sirens.

Twenty-four survey respondents also identified TTC vehicle noise as disturbing the peace and quiet of their ward. TTC honking and beeping (when the bus is kneeling) was identified as the most disruptive.

7. Leaf blowers

Leaf blowers have been a topic of noise in the City of Toronto and City council considered a proposal to ban leaf blowers in 2006. Twenty-two percent of respondents in this survey that noise from leaf blowers and other power devices disturbing, but only 9.6% has made a formal complaint. Seventy-four respondents had additional comments about leaf blowers. One even suggested mitigating the noise by requiring a silencer for the leaf blower. Another suggested transitioning from gas powered to electric equipment to mitigate noise.

It is possible that the responses about leaf blowers are lower for two reasons: one, this survey is taking place in the spring/summer and "leaf blower" season has not yet begun and two, the majority of the respondents identify residing in wards in or near downtown where properties are smaller and there are fewer trees.

8. Increase communication

Public education or communication about this by-law and its application is of interest to respondents. It is clear that while most respondents understood that exemptions exist 34.3% were either not aware or not sure about exemptions. Seventy-five percent of respondents wanted to know if a noise exemption was granted in their area. Most applicants also wanted the City to communicate with them about the noise by-law in general and identified several preferred options for communications, such as email, signage, through their councillor, or City of Toronto website. This is consistent with the other survey findings referred to, such as Ipsos-Reid survey on construction.

Even though the Ipsos-Reid survey identified that residents were not in favour of limiting special events, they didn't want to relax the noise by-law. In this review's survey, some respondents identified that they would like more information about what is legal and what is not legal. Others wanted to know more about noise exemptions, such as, why some many are being granted. Others wanted to have an opportunity to voice their concern about an exemption prior to it being granted for a special event.

Overall, is seems that it would be useful to consider ways to better communicate and increase the public's understanding of this by-law.