Dear PoPville – Effects of Living Near a Bus Stop?

Photo by PoPville flickr user elliotmitchell

“Dear PoPville,

We live in an old 1904 row house, end unit. The walls are 18 inch thick brick. There is a bus stop right outside the building. When the bus takes off after picking up passengers the sonic rumble of the diesel engines sends vibrations though the house. If we are in bed you can feel the bed shake (not like an earth quake but like somebody is walking across the floor heavy) or if I am upstairs in the loft which has a steel railing I can feel the sofa shake or the railing shake (again slight vibrations not insane shaking) and the same thing up on the roof deck, big vibrations. It really freaks guests out lol. This can’t be good for construction can it? How can those sonic waves pass through the brick without causing issues with the mortar? Seems like it would cause the sheet rock to vibrate and seams to crack over time, but I have not noticed that issue.

Does anybody else have this issue with a bus stop outside of their home, or know of the effects of the sonic vibrations on brick? It only does it when a bus pulls off from a dead stop (i.e. high torque) not if it passes by without stopping. Same thing for large trash trucks, dump trucks or cement trucks that get stopped in traffic and take off again.”

25 Comment

  • i also live in an old rowhouse (1902), end unit, with a bus stop right beside my home. i have not noticed a bit of rattling or movement due to buses taking off after a stop. you might need an inspector, but my guess is if it hasn’t fallen down in over 100 years, it is probably OK!!

  • I have a bus stop in front of my next-door neighbor’s house. This is for a very frequent bus line with buses that come through every 10 minutes, 24/7. It’s also a popular route for firetrucks and other large vehicles. The houses on my block are pre-1900s and they haven’t had structural problems that I’m aware of.

  • There’s a good chance that it’s a natural gas engine, not diesel.

    But more importantly, your house has survived 109 years, in which much worse things than buses have happened.

  • I used to have a stop by my house that’s now retired, but Metro came along and re-paved the stop on the road, which reduced the vibrations while it was being used. The only thing I can imagine that happened is that he vibration may have caused deterioration of my brick mortar/pointing work. Even more importantly, the earthquake we had about a year ago may have caused a lot of unseen damage on brickwork in houses in DC. It’s important to have someone check your structural integrity every now & then. I used to get water leaking through the bricks on my house. I had the house pointed recently and there are no longer problems with my brick work.

    • ^this!
      Does the stop have a concrete pad or is it just the same old road surface?
      If it doesn’t have the pad – I’d work with WMATA, DC Gov and your ANC to see about getting the pad put in.

  • The house was built in 1904 and is still standing, so I’d imagine you’re OK!

  • We have a bus stop right in front of our house and I have never felt that the house shake from the bus. I barely even notice it come and go. However, we live right above a metro tunnel for the green/yellow line and that definitely shakes the house. Is it possible it is a subway tunnel and not the bus shaking the house?

  • We also live in a 100+ year old row house and have experienced the same situation as the OP. I am not worried about the structure of the house but would love for the shaking to stop. I’ll look into the concrete pad – great suggestion!

  • I live in an 100 yr old corner rowhouse at a busy intersection with bus stops on both sides and the only time I REALLY feel the house violently shake is when a bus driver lays on the gas to make the light before it turns red. But yeah, there are cracks inside and outside the house that no matter how many times they are fixed/re-mortared, they reappear. I’m guessing this is from the constant vibrations.

  • brookland_rez

    I have one in front of my house and I get the shaking. There is no concrete pad.

  • I’ve felt it in tall buildings when heavy trucks go by. Buses are comparatively much lighter than say a loaded dump truck though so I can’t imagine it would cause that much shaking.

  • Jake: How often does the train go by?

    Elwood: So often that you won’t even notice it.

  • the age of your house and the likelihood of many years exposure combined with natural settlilng makes it less likely to be a structural issue. Agree with above poster that the road surface could impact the noise/vibration.

    My biggest pet peave is the amplified and automated prerecorded announcements. I can see the importance for the visually impaired during peak hours where there may be noise, but by 9 or 10 at night and later the volume is entirely excessive. It echos throughout the neighborhood, even when there’s no one waiting for the bus.

  • We live in a corner rowhouse on a major north/south bus route with a stop at our doorstep and definitely feel the vibrations when buses or large trucks rumble by. It’s normal, but I was born and raised in a city so it doesn’t bother me. Our house has similarly stood for 90+ years, and we have little settling cracks here and there that the vibrations probably don’t help, but I’m not not worried of any imminent collapse. It’s not going to suddenly turn for the worse in the relatively short span that we will own the home (measured probably in decades!) in relation to it’s long life.

    When the earthquake struck we noticed much more actual settling activity. Some very small cracks at drywall joints opened up a bit and we had some plaster on an interior doorway crack off at floor level. Eventually I’ll get around to patching everything ….

  • People are funny : ) I never said I expected the entire house to fall down, just can’t imagine vibrations strong enough to easily go through 18 – 22 inches of brick on a regular basis could be a good thing. There also have not been buses running around for 109 years. : )

    I did just look for the pad which I had never considered before. The bus line at the front of the house does have a cement pad, but the bus line at the back of the house (where the vibrations are felt) does not, I had never noticed that before. I wonder why they would bother pouring some pads and not others? It does seem odd that a pad would help with vibrations from sonic waves, it is not the bus pounding by on the street that causes the sound it is starting from a dead stop but I guess it could help? I wonder how much MORE noise and damage we would have if they dig up the street and put in a pad lol.

    As far as the bus sounds, I live on the top floor of the house so I don’t hear those but the people on the bottom floors hear the bus announcements / bus stop fights / phone conversations / psychos, like they are in the room with them lol.

    • I wouldn’t worry about the vibration effects per se, properly constructed brick and mortar should be fine. BUT you may want to evaluate your house for normal age-and-earthquake related wear if you haven’t already. I love DC row houses but most were made in a hurry, all by human beings, and even brick and mortar have a natural life span. If your masonry is like ours (1908, Columbia heights), then you may need some bricks replaced, and some repointing, etc. This isn’t as bad as it sounds! But I’m not sure how heavy vibrations would affect a masonry wall that that isn’t sure it still wants to be a masonry wall.

    • It is probably not the actual sound waves that are shaking your building, but the vibrations caused by the movement of the bus. As a general rule, the concrete pad will dampen the vibrations of the bus so less movement is transmitted to your building via the ground.

    • You’re fine, find something else to worry about.

      If you need to understand what is going on do some research on “low frequency wave forms” and “resonance.”

      The only issue I’m familiar with that living by a bus stop causes is your incandescent bulbs will die quicker from the vibration. Buy some CFLs and worry about mercury exposure when you break them.

  • this is why i am soooo in favour of being able to spend a weekend in a home before you purchase.

    • Right, because it’s impossible to notice a bus stop outside the front door when touring a house.

    • Agreed. I bought my condo a couple of years ago in a tall, skinny building. Soon after I moved in, I found that my house shook when the metro bus or a big truck would drive by on 11h St – but I only felt it in the front.

      I quickly realized that the road needed repair outside my house – I submitted a request on the 311 website and was amazed when they came and fixed the road a week or two later, and the shaking stopped.

      Definitely was not something I was thinking about during my walkthrough, but will certainly think about for the next house!

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