Seattle Launches Ambitious Streetlight Survey

The Emerald City puts the streetlight of the future to the test – for both safety and feel, and the results could affect how cities everywhere are illuminated in the future, reports William Yardley.

A fifteen-block stretch in Seattle's Ballard neighborhood was shut down to vehicular traffic last week as numerous private utilities and public agencies conducted a study to determine how the City will illuminate its streets for years to come. Roughly 300 citizens were paid to participate in the test, which probed the differences between older high-pressure sodium bulbs and newer LED ones.

Like other cities across the nation, Seattle has replaced tens of thousands of its old streetlight bulbs with LEDs, which promise to provide long-term, low-maintenance lighting at a fraction of the cost.

"Municipalities want to be sure that the significant savings in energy and costs L.E.D.'s can provide are sustainable enough to compensate for startup costs," writes Yardley, "but also that they do not threaten public safety or urban ambience."

Seattle is one of four cities so far to participate in the survey thus far, the results of which "could affect how cities everywhere are illuminated."

The test area featured both the old, high-pressure sodium and new LED lights, and consulted both pedestrians and car passengers on the visibility, safety, and feeling of the street at various points. The street was even watered to reproduce lighting conditions on a rainy night.

Said Scott Thomsen of Seattle City Light, "The big difference is you're talking not only about the efficiency of the change in technology, but also the quality of light."

Full Story: Seattle Gets the Street View on the Quality of Its Lights

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