Bill to install noise sensors on Philadelphia streets advances

noise sensors
A pedestrian waits to cross Roosevelt Boulevard.
AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Drivers with modified mufflers and souped-up sound systems might be in for an unpleasant surprise next time they tear through a Philadelphia street.

City Council advanced legislation Tuesday to install automated noise radar sensors — similar to the red light and speed cameras currently in use — to catch vehicles deemed too loud.

Once the automated system is in place, the sensors will be triggered when a noise, whether it be music or a car backfiring, raises the background noise level by five decibels, as measured from 25 feet away.

A camera will snap a picture of the violator’s license plate and mail them a $100 ticket, according to the bill, sponsored by Councilmember Mark Squilla.

Similar noise sensors have been tested elsewhere, most notably in Paris and other French cities.

“It seems to be successful in tamping down some of the loud noises that are coming from vehicles,” Squilla said Tuesday during a virtual hearing on the legislation.

The bill passed through committee without objection, and Council is expected to hold a final vote next Thursday.

A spokesperson for Mayor Jim Kenney’s office said the legislation would be reviewed by the city’s law department if it passes.

Anne Kelly King, Squilla’s chief of staff, told Metro that the intention is to install the sound radars alongside the red light cameras and to prioritize streets and neighborhoods with a large number of noise complaints.

The legislation indicates that the Managing Director’s Office, part of the Kenney administration, will pick a department to determine the placement of the sensors.

No timeline has been established regarding when the sensors will be installed, should the bill get approved, King said, and no company has been identified yet to develop the technology.

The Philadelphia Parking Authority would oversee the system. It currently manages the city’s 138 red light cameras and the speed sensors on Roosevelt Boulevard.

Except in the case of a stolen vehicle, the owner of the car would be responsible for the fine, no matter who is behind the wheel at the time of the offense, according to legislation.

If a person has three delinquent tickets — from parking, noise, speed or any other violation — the PPA will put a boot on their vehicle.

An exception is written into Squilla’s bill for any permitted event or activity.

Squilla introduced the noise radar legislation last October, and the bill stalled while his office discussed details with the PPA and the Kenney administration.

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