Mark Martin's alarm goes off at 4:30 a.m. Monday through Friday. The alarm is an air horn on the Sprinter rail line one mile from his Vista home. That sound has been the wake-up call for Vista residents living within earshot of the track ever since officials at the North County Transit District opted to switch to air horns on its trains in early 2009.
Since the switch occurred, Vista residents claim that the nuisance has dropped property values. They have requested that NCTD use a quieter, neighborhood friendly bell or whistle for its 36 crossings along the Sprinter corridor, such as the one that was in use when service began in 2008. Reacting to recent news that NCTD is expanding Sprinter's service hours until 11:33 p.m. on weekends, the residents are doing more than requesting — they are debating whether they should take NCTD to court.
Martin is one of those Vista residents. He appeared before the NCTD's board of directors on October 18 and demonstrated to the members the difference between air horns and mechanical bells.
Three days later, Martin wrote to NCTD's executive director Matt Tucker, who responded to Martin's concerns in an October 21 email. “I want to assure you that we do understand your concerns, and we are actively exploring ways to reduce horn noise,” wrote Tucker. “ I will be meeting with our Rail staff next week to discuss options related to the current horn on the Sprinter. I commit to get back to you within two weeks to let you know if and what steps we can take.”
“They are just giving us the run-around,” said Martin during an October 22 phone interview. “They refuse to answer one simple question: Are the horns quieter than the original horns?”
When asked what the next step will be if NCTD doesn't lay off the horn, Martin responded, “We're going to sue them. This is a quality-of-life issue. They can go back to the original horns, which no one had an issue with. It's just ridiculous.”