Be a better neighbor. Sign up for EveryBlock to follow and discuss neighborhood news.

Sign up for free →

Added Jan 06 2017

Friends: For those of you who've seen the new LED streetlights, many have had unfavorable comments. They cast a blue light of a piercing and painful intensity. Know that the plan is to replace every streetlight in the city with these lamps.
The city should put forth a bit more effort to make these lamps friendlier to the people that will be living with them for the next 20 years (the bulbs last a really long time.)
Blue light has also been linked with sleep disorders and other possible health issues.
Before the city sinks millions into this infrastructure project, would you consider weighing in? Here's a link to provide feedback.

    Feedback Needed by 1/9: LED Lighting Project | Ward 33
    Mayor Emanuel announced in December that the City is conducting a public demonstration of next-generation streetlights in seven neighborhoods as part of the Chicago Smart Lighting Project, which will upgrade streetlights across the city starting next year. Residents are being asked to visit a demonstration site and provide feedback on the new lighting, which represents the latest advances in lighting technology.
  • Neighborly1~ Values community.

    Note: This is a citywide survey. It was also posted in Ward 33 newsletter but is for the entire city.

  • Rachel writer, indexer, editor, researcher

    There's lots of room in the survey to request warmer-spectrum lights. I filled it out and recommend other people consider doing so as well.

  • Gardener Portage Park

    I live in the Portage Park area and visited the test site on North Ashland. As someone with glaucoma, I'll tell you this lighting is painful and severely limited my ability to see clearly. I almost needed sunglasses at night! If you're interested in the health issues connected with the use of LED lights, here's link to a discussion last week on WBEZ.

  • Thank you for sharing that story and also the info about your personal experience of the lights, Gardener. One of the links in that story leads to an earlier Curious City story that gives a really interesting historical perspective on our light:

    The AMA issued a pretty clear statement re. blue-rich lighting this past June:

    I'd love to see the city use the opportunity of this investment to really study municipal lighting across a spectrum of variables—human and ecosystem health, crime, etc. It's just a great chance to really engage all sorts of people in a very practical investment across so many aspectts of what we call "sustainability."

    We certainly have the educational and healthcare institutions make the most of the opportunity. Just look what all the students at Amundsen have done with it—they went all the way to the Aspen Ideas Festival!

  • Gardener Portage Park

    knot: Thank you for those references! I'm a nurse and medical researcher (retired) and I'd sure like to see more research into this issue before fully implementing the changeover.

  • Why are they doing this test during not just the coldest season of the year, but also during prime holiday and travel time? Sure makes it seem like they don't want much input.

  • Agree @Pamela. Feedback for a couple of months and in the summertime too makes sense to me. Are any of the pilots in a park?

  • Neighborly1~ Values community.

    Please share the link/survey with friends, on FB, etc!!! The deadline is Monday. Hoping people will respond.

  • How would one suggest we respond to the survey if we don't have a chance to go to a site? I for one am willing to commit a white lie to be able to give input. There is a light directly across from my child's second floor bedroom.

    The wording of the survey is biased IMO. Questions 4 and 5 should have a fourth option of "Too Much". The phrase "More Than Enough" generally has a positive connotation.

  • @Pamela, agree that the survey seems biased. Maybe tell truth about not getting to see lights. Less than a month isn't enough time.

    What you wrote about kid's bedroom is good info. I read that the technology will allow lights to be dimmed on case by case basis, which is great, but who will decide that? What if you want a light dimmed and a neighbor doesn't? They aren't thinking this through enough.

  • I am not expert, but I believe that there is nothing wrong with the "warmness" of the LED bulb itself. However, the shape of the light fixture allows the light to beam down in a wide angle (instead of a downward focused beam) and therefore, not only it reaches down into neighboring bedroom windows, but also contributes to the overall light pollution of our city.

  • Rachel writer, indexer, editor, researcher

    It's a bit of both. The default light isn't as cool as the ones that are strongly warned against, but it's not as warm as it could be, either. And yes, the shielding needs to be more directed; there's little point in sending light up or sideways - it's pollution and wasted, when it's needed down below.

  • Just back from tour of location #2, Bryn Mawyr and Spaulding. IMO lights on tall poles on Spaulding would be OK on a commercial street, but second floor residential units are invaded by the white light. The shorter poles on the residential street, Hollywood, invade ground floor residences. The two (three?) poles on this short residential street stub left pools of contrasting too-much light with contrasting darkness. IOW less visual uniformity for pedestrians. Either squinting from bright light or blind because you're no longer looking into bright light. The alley lights were pure hell bouncing off all the pavement and the brick walls. I'd hate to try sleeping in any of the back bedrooms around there. BTW, the test area is a terrible choice, hemmed by multiple same-direction one way streets and odd alley stubs. The test area claimed one alley, but there are actually two. Sorta like the vendor/city was deliberately discouraging citizen involvement. Long downward directing cowls would reduce the terrible impact however the city plans no bleeding beyond 90 degrees, which means residential windows on a typical side street would be invaded. They'd need much longer cowls than in the study. Alternatively the city could use much lower kelvin specifications and still achieve the cost savings the LED lights will deliver. Without invading houses with daylight -- at night.

  • headsup not available

    window coverings and blinds correct the residential invasion - and leave the safety advantage on the street - an important goal. People on the street - walking to their destinations and their dogs - need to feel safer. You can fix light invasion problems - and thank the thugs for the necessity for brighter street lighting. My vote - make the switch.

  • Disagree, Wazzup about the effectiveness of blinds. And you make a point you might not intend when you say "feel safer." Illustrating the whiter lights are merely Security Theater. IOW rather than actually addressing crime sources the city fathers put up lights that make people "feel" there's been a useful response. There's no statistical evidence bright white light compared to softer colors delivering the same lumens is a crime deterrent.

  • I agree, Wazzup, that it's important to feel safer, but the Chicago Alley Lighting Project Study published in 2000 found, though explanation could not be found, that night-time crime increased with brighter alley lighting. That's a good example of the type of controlled study that could be carried out on pilot areas before the LEDs are bought.

    I visited one of the pilot areas and found that when a new bulb was in the forefront of my visual field, it was harder than with the existing pink ones to see what was beyond the light. As I approached one intersection, a new bulb in one of the lower ones on a curved pole was so bright that it made it difficult for me to make out both a car moving towards me and a pedestrian. The headlights of the car were overwelmed by the streetlight and the pedestrian was in an area of darkness behind the light.

    When I was on the sidewalk on another street with one of the new bulbs hanging over the street in the treetops to my left, I was pretty surprised when a pedestrian just a few paces in front of me suddenly came into view. There's a pretty good illustration of this kind of problem here: (scroll down to image attributed to George Fleenor where you can mouse over).

    Depending on the height of the bulb and the distance away, a shade could mean that the eye wouldn't have the direct beam. But typical streetlight shades are highly reflective on the inside in order to increase brightness for the same energy outlay. Given the height of many of Chicago's poles, I think it's likely that at intervals the eye would still be trying to see beyond very bright lights.

    That leads to a question: Is investing in the LEDs good money thrown after bad poles? That could be a great question to learn and design around—a cool civic project.

  • Window treatments and blinds are not inexpensive, at least not the ones that would be required to darken a room. Cheaper options are often not the most attractive ones.

  • Window shades don't work to keep out light if you want to have your windows open, which a lot of people do who can't afford air conditioning or just don't like it.

    If people have to run air because they can't have their windows open, that'll eat up a lot of the energy saved by the LEDs. It'll just be paid for by the citizens not the city.

  • Note to all: This is a Chicago Infrastructure Trust "project". From

    "The Chicago Infrastructure Trust was created in April 2012 by executive order of Mayor Emanuel and City Council resolution. The Trust’s purpose is to assist the people of the City of Chicago, the City government and its sister agencies in providing alternative financing and project delivery options for transformative infrastructure projects. To accomplish this, the Trust structures innovative financing strategies to attract capital from a diverse group of investors. The Trust also achieves real risk transfer to third-party investors, creating efficient capital structures via cross-agency financing."

    This reminds me of Rahm's preschool funding "plan":

    Oddly enough, fewer students enrolled in preschool after other ill advised changes were made:

  • nkot, those are great observations, i hope you sent them in on the form.

  • Those are interesting links, Pamela. A social investor model makes more sense to me as part of the city's energy use than with preschools because there's a direct correlation among things that are all already commonly monetized and it'd be a way to optimize public funds by adding more money in a highly controlled way to the pool available for the lighting project. Perhaps that's what they have planned?

    If I remember correctly, the city has historically paid a flat rate to the utility for its street lighting energy costs. So it's easy to imagine a situation where the city could offer investors (who could be very small) a steady rate of return over a certain period of time from the amount of money saved on energy costs due to a streetlight investment.

    I don't know how donations to the City of Chicago are handled in tax terms (for example, the recent donation for the separation of the bike and pedestrian paths on the south lakefront), but if they are treated something like donating to a nonprofit, investors could donate their streetlight investment to the City for a tax deduction at some projected point.

10 neighbors are subscribed to this conversation.

Posted to Ward 47

This was posted to Ward 47

What's the news in your neighborhood? Search for your ZIP code:

e.g. 60615