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4 Aircraft Noise: A Toolkit for Managing Community Expectations for the 1974 Levels Document by the EPA (7) and was based on transportation noise from all sources in urban settings. In 1992, the Federal Interagency Committee on Noise (FICON) deter- mined that the DNL metric remained the best available predictor of community annoyance (8). The FAA's selection of 65 DNL as the threshold of significance was based on consideration of the cost and feasibility of mitigating noise beyond that level. At that time, many older, louder air- craft remained in the operating fleet and contributed to large noise exposure patterns surround- ing the airport. While the elimination of older, louder large jet aircraft has led to the reduction of noise lev- els from individual sources by 20 or more decibels on average, since 1996 the number of pas- senger and cargo flights at domestic airports has increased by 40 percent through the end of 2007 (9). Consequently, the contours of equal noise exposure in Day Night Sound Level (DNL) surrounding airports have shrunk greatly from their size during the 1970s, but if the level of traffic continues to grow to meet increasing demand forecasts, the contour sizes may begin to enlarge from current levels. Unless a new technology is introduced that will result in another significant reduction of noise at the source and the product of that technology is then propagated throughout the operating fleet, noise exposure patterns around airports are likely to remain static or grow slightly. Since the establishment of the metric and the selection of 65 DNL as the threshold of signifi- cance occurred in the 1970s, the number of commercial flights by large aircraft in the United States has increased by more than 100 percent based on statistics published annually by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (9). At the same time, the cities of the United States have extensively grown through suburbanization and ex-urbanization. Many members of the public have questioned the continuing validity of the accepted metric as being representative of all the noise effects the neighbors of airports experience. Airports are concerned that areas recently relieved of significant noise levels will not open to incompatible development in the short-term while remaining at risk for the expansion of contours with the continuing growth of the airport. Airports seek a balance between airport noise abatement and the control of developing noise sen- sitive land uses. Under the policy guidance of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969 and FAA Order 1050.1E, Change 1 (10), environmental planning for airports is required to follow given procedures, processes, and use established criteria and thresholds of significance in determining the effects of various impact categories. Under current rules, the DNL is the established metric of choice, although planning over the past decade has opened to new met- rics that respond to the public demand that action be taken to evaluate and abate the num- ber of events it experiences, to mitigate the loudest of the single aircraft events, and to reduce the activity during the most sensitive periods of time. Such evaluations are currently deemed supplemental to the noise analyses, but are becoming more broadly accepted among airports and more widely known by the public within the airport environs. While thresholds of sig- nificance for any supplemental metric have not yet been determined, future research may be better able to determine more useful ways to define the environmental impacts of these addi- tional factors. Culture Shift Required A basic change required of many airport managers, before public involvement can fully suc- ceed, is one of culture. The culture must shift from an attitude of focus on information delivery (one-way communication) to focus on an engagement relationship (two-way communication). Until this problem is solved, further techniques and strategies are likely to fail.

OCR for page 4
Introduction and Guidebook Summary 5 Formal research on airport public involvement, research on other transportation modes, and research on other institutions that deal with the public all confirm that the "we vs. they" or "decide, announce, defend" (11, p. 3) approach has failed and must transition to strengthened two-way communications to have a better chance for long-term success. Interviews conducted for the preparation of this Guidebook with airport operators, users, and interest groups also support this position, but with less conviction on the part of airport operators. The literature review and case studies presented in Chapter 5 provide detail. Surveys show airports and community groups have different communications goals. Most airports said that their goal was to educate. Most non-airport groups said that their goals related to cooperation, communication, open discussion, and partnership. "An Assessment of Airport Community Involvement Efforts," (12, p. 3) included in Literature Review (Chapter 5) states, Airports tend to conduct public outreach as though the only purpose were to educate the public about reality from the airport's perspective, in an effort to persuade people to let the airport get on with its business. This attitude was confirmed by follow-up interviews to the initial on-line survey for this Com- munity Response to Aircraft Noise Study. Most airport noise officers stated during their interviews that their goal was to educate the public. In contrast, most non-airport interest groups stated some version of cooperation, communication or partnership as their goal. The 2005 Assessment paper also found that, Addressing problems between airports and communities will require changes in the attitudes and prac- tices by both airports and the communities that host them (12, p. 12). The second literature review reported in Chapter 5 was a TRB paper "State of the Practice: White Paper on Public Involvement," (13) published in 2000. Relating to public involvement in transportation, the report stated that a challenge to practitioners was to remove institutional bar- riers by making a serious commitment "to include the public when making decisions and change their organizations and practices to reflect that commitment." It also said that, For many organizations this will involve a dramatic culture change as agency employees from the top down adopt a new policy development and implementation paradigm (13). Universities, like other major institutions that must work with surrounding communities, also are learning the lessons of two-way communication. The third literature review detailed in Chapter 5 is "Crisis in the College/University Relationship with the Community: A Case Study." Its abstract states, Crises can arise in relationships between colleges and universities and their surrounding communities especially when campuses need to grow. If these institutions have focused strictly on sending their mes- sages out rather than establishing two-way communication with important publics, they may suddenly find themselves embroiled in conflict and confronted with a crisis (14). Moving toward a culture of two-way communication is the foundation of all best practices, strategies, and techniques for the airport manager who wants to succeed in their relationship with the community about aircraft noise issues. The success in "engagement" communications on noise issues may pave the way to better relationships and dialogue leading to mutually ben- eficial resolutions to other disagreements as they arise.