Street light success: Asking residents what they want is a bright idea

Fri, 2016-05-13 06:00 -- Kevin Ebi

There are people who don’t deal well with change — even if it’s for the better — so you can imagine how much it might shock your residents when their street lights are suddenly putting out a different color or intensity of light.

The good news is when people get used to the LEDs (and the lights are properly adjusted) they almost universally love them, but why not make that transition easier? As you’ll read below, when LED street light programs have gotten off to a bumpy start, it’s usually because citizens feel their voices weren’t heard.

Make outreach a key part of your LED switchover efforts. And see why using adaptive street lights that you can remotely manage will make your job even easier. — Kevin Ebi

Don’t install “zombie lights”
By design, energy-efficient LEDs use less power than high-pressure sodium street lighting. That’s why so many cities are now moving toward them. But when many cities make the switch, they don’t lower the power levels enough, causing what Davis, California, residents call “zombie” or “prison lighting.”

The first LEDs it installed created intensive glare on the roadways, a combination of using too much power and using a color temperature that was set too high. After the outrage started pouring in, the city held community meetings, evaluating everything from the output of the lights to where they were aimed and how the light was directed and diffused.

The second attempt was successful by every measure, but the city had spent an extra $350,000 to hire contractors to adjust and replace lights they had just installed.

Don’t forget about homeowners
Most of the street light attention is given to how well the roadways are illuminated, but many of the complaints after the lights are installed come from homeowners. If you just replace the lamps and don’t consider the intensity and direction of the lights, you could end up blasting blinding light into people’s bedrooms.

“I hate these new lights,” wrote one Berkeley, California, resident on Twitter. “So bright they hurt.”

Others complained they needed to put black-out curtains over their bedroom windows. Adjustments fixed the problems, but that was more work post-installation.

Do your research
Before Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, embarked on its LED street light program, it enlisted the help of outside researchers, including a team from the Remaking Cities Institute at the local Carnegie Mellon University.

That research resulted in a comprehensive report covering everything from ideal lighting colors and intensity to fixture design. You don’t have to guess. In most cities, there are usually plenty of resources available to help.

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