What's the City doing about Noise?
Elected officials and City staff actively monitor airport planning and operations and pro-actively seek and advocate for policies and procedures to reduce noise and reduce overflights over Minneapolis. The City advocates for;
Noise-reducing procedures - There are some policies and procedures in place at MSP intended to reduce noise, or to avoid concentrating noise; the City monitors how they are used to ensure compliance. For example, the straight-out policy asks the FAA to avoid sending departures straight off the runway when possible, so that the people impacted by arrival paths are not also impacted by departures. There is also a policy, the Runway Use System, which asks the Control Tower to use alternatives to flying over Minneapolis when conditions allow it. There are limits to what these procedures can do, and they require the cooperation of the FAA control tower, but they can and do make a difference.
Balanced use of runways - Complaints often arise when a certain "flow" or a single runway seem to be used excessively. Minneapolis will almost always have either arrivals or departures over-head, but we do not like to get "stuck" in one flow where the arrivals or departures are constant. We also do not like to see a single runway used to excess causing repeated noise over the same areas. We support diversifying flight patterns and not concentrating noise. The FAA has complete authority over runway selection and flight paths and their choices are often dictated by wind or guided by the origin or destination of flights. We must rely on the voluntary actions of the FAA to address these concerns. With encouragement, and accountability, the FAA Control Tower has made efforts in this regard.
Federal Influence - Minneapolis is actively engaged on issues of federal law and policy- understanding the real impact that these policies have on our community. They City has been a strong and consistent voice for new ways to measure noise impacts, and for greater public engagement and stronger environmental review for FAA changes to flight paths. On the first two issues, there has been progress made. The FAA is looking at new noise metrics and has also been looking at how to improve public engagement. There is a long way to go, but the City continues to be part of this critical conversation. The City’s pro-active engagement on these issues signals to the FAA that we have high expectations when any local issues come up. The City maintains good, collaborative relationships with Minnesota's Federal delegation. The City has a pro-active agenda of federal Aviation Policy Positions.
Better noise measures - Understanding the impacts of airplane noise starts with measuring it in a useful way. The City has communicated with Congress and the FAA our concerns about how noise is measured and modeled, and as an influential member of the National Organization to Ensure a Sound Controlled Environment, we have supported reform as part of the organization’s federal agenda. Among our concerns, the tool uses average noise which does not capture the impact of how frequent the planes are, or even the number of planes. The average noise from 100 planes could be the same as 50, but we know the experience is different. We also know that constant noise, with little break, is often a source of frustration for residents. The FAA Noise office is now taking a serious look at the existing noise model and is exploring potential changes.
Quieter planes - As members of the Noise Oversight Committee (NOC), the City encourages airlines to replace planes in their fleet with quieter models and to explore new technology that can reduce noise. Delta and American Airlines have taken action recently to improve their fleet mix and get rid of some of the loudest planes at MSP (MD-80s). The City supports retrofitting planes with parts that can help reduce noise, like vortex generators. The federal government has required that certain planes (stage 2) are phased out and replaced with quieter technology. The City and NOC monitor data to ensure compliance with this requirement.
A reduction in nighttime flights - Flights that interfere with sleep are particularly disruptive and have a tremendous impact on peoples’ live. Addressing this issue is challenging; federal law favors an unrestricted aviation system. Airports may not impose curfews or provide financial incentives or penalties to influence when planes fly. As members of the Noise Oversight Committee we contacted each airline and asked them to voluntarily refrain from scheduling early morning or nighttime flights. The City is currently looking at best practices in other communities for other approaches. The City has also raised these concerns to the local FAA control tower and asked for their voluntary effort to utilize flight paths over less populous areas during those early morning and nighttime hours.
Noise relief at home– While the City does not see noise-mitigation as a solution to the problem of noise, it can contribute to the improvement of people’s lives. The city advocates for noise mitigation while also seeking noise reduction at the source. There is currently a mitigation program in place as a result of a 2013 agreement with the Metropolitan Airports Commission. Mitigation is provided if noise meets or exceeds certain thresholds for three consecutive years. Depending on the amount of noise, homes will be eligible for improvements like central air or new windows, or a more extensive package.
Protecting local noise standards - The Metropolitan Airport's Commission (MAC) mitigation programs are unique in that homes experiencing an average noise at or above 60 DNL decibels are mitigated. Nationally, mitigation is typically only available for noise at or above 65 DNL decibels and there is also a requirement that mitigation is not available unless sound inside the house is also exceeds certain thresholds. These are significant barriers to mitigation. Local expectations about noise mitigation were including in a 2007 Consent Decree with MAC and have generally been recognized by all parties as local custom. However, it’s important to preserve this standard and City did so when it entered into a new agreement with MAC and other parties in 2013. The new agreement created new obligations for mitigation if noise exceeded certain thresholds, and it re-enforced local noise expectations.
Accountability; monitoring of operations, complaints and noise - City staff review data at least once a month which describes runway use, the number of nighttime flights, flight patterns, changes to the fleet, noise complaints, and noise measured at remote monitoring towers. This allows the city to be aware of changes or concerns. An internal working group of staff and City Council members meet monthly to share observations, discuss trends, and to continue to push proactively on the City’s airport-related goals.
Representation on Noise Oversight Committee - the City is an active participant in the Noise Oversight Committee (NOC). NOC is advisory to the Metropolitan Airports Commission and is made up of 6 community representatives and 6 industry representatives (airline, pilots etc.) Minneapolis has one seat on the committee; Council Member John Quincy is City’s representative and Loren Olson, Government Relationship Representative, is the Alternate. The City is an active partner to shape the work plan of the NOC, and to seek information and action to address noise concerns. NOC reports can help to track and analyze issues important to residents – such as the impacts of RNAV arrivals.
Last updated Oct 6, 2016