Miesian Corners

Street lights (and the lack of uniformity)

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Mild rant ahead. Apologies in advance.

We live in a city that is headquarters to the largest electric utility company in America.  Duke, of course, handles the installation and maintenance of Charlotte's street lighting. Yet here we are with no apparent standard. What gives?

In the past four years,  Los Angeles, New York City, Chicago, Des Moines, Atlanta, Sacramento, Seattle, Minneapolis and St Paul. and countless other cities and towns (my rural  SC hometown of 5,400 residents included ) have converted entire street grids to LED. Los Angeles alone replaced 150, 000 fixtures in 18 months and has reaped over $8 million in electricity savings in the second year after conversion.  So why is it Charlotte can't move forward with hometown mega-utility Duke to save electricity and money for taxpayers?

Charlotte currently replaces broken fixtures with LED lighting. That means on any given street, there could be mercury, high pressure sodium, and LED fixtures present in a single block. The lack of a uniform standard, at its most basic, makes city streets look sloppy.  Add the fact there is no city-wide standard for decorative streetlights and it's even worse (see Camden Road in South End for four different styles in the two blocks between Park Ave and East Blvd).  

One phone call to CDOT  this morning got a response of "I don't know" as to why the city isn't replacing its lighting all at once. As for decorative lighting (uptown, South End, NoDa, etc.), the person was unaware there was no standard or that they were all different. 

I am anything but anti-government, but at times like this, I see why so many are. 

 

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A lot of cities have done the whole LED standardization at a cost. think about having to dispose of perfectly good working lights to replace with LEDs. Doesn’t sound like the best use of funding. They’ll burn out eventually and get replaced. On top of that there have been studies that show the negative impacts to life by the use of strictly LED street lights in those large metro due to the color spectrum and wavelength of an LED.

 

 

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When I say life I’m talking about anything that is activated by sunlight such as insects not knowing if it’s day or night.

 

 

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3 minutes ago, flat4inrc said:

A lot of cities have done the whole LED standardization at a cost. think about having to dispose of perfectly good working lights to replace with LEDs. Doesn’t sound like the best use of funding. They’ll burn out eventually and get replaced. On top of that there have been studies that show the negative impacts to life by the use of strictly LED street lights in those large metro due to the color spectrum and wavelength of an LED.


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All new lighting meets the AMA's recommendations. And an $8 million cost savings seems like a good thing. And the fact city employees can't give you an answer to the question as to if there's an official replacement program and if so, how it works, is a bit disconcerting (so is the lack of a uniform policy for street furniture/lighting on city rights of way).

BTW, San Francisco just completed its conversion. Turns out mercury is a really bad thing.

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21 minutes ago, Miesian Corners said:

All new lighting meets the AMA's recommendations. And an $8 million cost savings seems like a good thing. And the fact city employees can't give you an answer to the question as to if there's an official replacement program and if so, how it works, is a bit disconcerting (so is the lack of a uniform policy for street furniture/lighting on city rights of way).

BTW, San Francisco just completed its conversion. Turns out mercury is a really bad thing.

When you made that one phone call this morning, how many city employees did you talk to?  I understand your frustration but you have to give them a brake, not every employee is going to know the answer to every single question you have, plus they could have been a new employee or just filling in for someone.  I'm saying this because I'm a city planner and people get frustrated at me if I can't answer a question the second it's asked.  You have to give these people a brake, just because someone works somewhere doesn't mean they know everything about the place.  Now if that city employee that you spoke to was rude or couldn't direct you to someone that would know the answer or tell you that they would do some research and get back with you, then by all means, be upset. 

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32 minutes ago, Miesian Corners said:

And an $8 million cost savings seems like a good thing.

I am certain that Charlotte pays a lot for the electricity to light all the streetlamps in the city, but to compare electricity rates in LA vs Charlotte shows just how silly it is to compare numbers without the details.

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2 minutes ago, jtmonk said:

When you made that one phone call this morning, how many city employees did you talk to?  I understand your frustration but you have to give them a brake, not every employee is going to know the answer to every single question you have, plus they could have been a new employee or just filling in for someone.  I'm saying this because I'm a city planner and people get frustrated at me if I can't answer a question the second it's asked.  You have to give these people a brake, just because someone works somewhere doesn't mean they know everything about the place.  Now if that city employee that you spoke to was rude or couldn't direct you to someone that would know the answer or tell you that they would do some research and get back with you, then by all means, be upset. 

I spoke to the guy who handles streetlights. At least that's what I was told.

4 minutes ago, Scribe said:

I am certain that Charlotte pays a lot for the electricity to light all the streetlamps in the city, but to compare electricity rates in LA vs Charlotte shows just how silly it is to compare numbers without the details.

Fair enough. So how much is enough to warrant it being a significant cost savings? 

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3 minutes ago, Miesian Corners said:

Fair enough. So how much is enough to warrant it being a significant cost savings? 

There are people in the city government that do this type of analysis for most projects.

As I stated above, I am perfectly fine with the current implementation of conversion to LED as the existing fixtures fail/need replacing. Even in this case, I am 90% certain, there is a calculation (that has been done already) that takes into account how often each light fixture is visited for service/repair on average and based on that data, they probably even have an estimated date when all fixtures (or over 95% of them) are upgraded to the LED fixtures.

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2 minutes ago, Scribe said:

There are people in the city government that do this type of analysis for most projects.

As I stated above, I am perfectly fine with the current implementation of conversion to LED as the existing fixtures fail/need replacing. Even in this case, I am 90% certain, there is a calculation (that has been done already) that takes into account how often each light fixture is visited for service/repair on average and based on that data, they probably even have an estimated date when all fixtures (or over 95% of them) are upgraded to the LED fixtures.

I'd like to think so, but after my conversation this morning, I'm not confident such a study has been done. I'll put more calls into the city and see what I can find out.

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Good luck!

They have this data, because every time you send out a tech to fix/replace a fixture you have a record of it and what work was done.

So, it would be silly not to use the data. I have no reason to believe that they are not doing the analysis.

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I'm going to take this another direction (where I was hoping it was going based on the title) - I have been really frustrated by the lack of street lights around the Charlotte area.  Speaking of no uniformity, you can have a really small street well lit and then have a major thoroughfare that's very poorly lit.  I know this isn't really Charlotte's doing, but the interestates are the worst - particularly parts of 77 (like at 485 north).  

Why aren't there more street lights around parts of Charlotte?

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7 minutes ago, allthingsplanes said:

I know this isn't really Charlotte's doing

You know that the lights on the interstates are not Charlotte's responsibility, yet you try to hijack a thread that specifically focuses on city lighting, why?

 

Also, the NCDOT has issued the contract for fixing the lights on I-77 and I-277 but because of construction I do not know when they are supposed to get done.

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Most street lights are under contract with Duke Energy, so while the city should push for more LED it comes down to Duke. 

However if you do notice a streetlight that is broken you can report it here

https://www.duke-energy.com/customer-service/request-light-repair

I reported one in Noda and they replaced it that week with an LED, however I reported another burnt out light and nothing happened. Typical Duke...

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1 hour ago, Scribe said:

You know that the lights on the interstates are not Charlotte's responsibility, yet you try to hijack a thread that specifically focuses on city lighting, why?

 

Also, the NCDOT has issued the contract for fixing the lights on I-77 and I-277 but because of construction I do not know when they are supposed to get done.

Wow, thanks for that.  That was helpful.  To describe this as "hijacking" the thread seems a bit extreme.  I've been reading / following this site for several years now, and don't post too much.  Mainly because I think there are others on here who are more in the know than I am, but also because I've seen way too many times when people lash out at others (though sometimes it is justified).

Please explain how it's hijacking the thread when the topic is street lights and I posted about street lights.  I understand that this isn't the city's responsibility but it still applies to Charlotte lights.

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The current policy was adopted by  city council about 5 years ago as the most cost effective way to do the conversion. So there was a cost analysis done but it was done 5 years ago. Interestingly the stoplights...which are not owned or operated by Duke have almost all been converted to LED, however they run 24/7.

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I have replaced most of the lights in my house with LED bulbs. The biggest change I've noticed is an abysmal failure rate. Seriously, I used to have to replace bulbs maybe once a year. Usually less. with LEDs I'm lucky to have a month without a failure.

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1 hour ago, asthasr said:

I have replaced most of the lights in my house with LED bulbs. The biggest change I've noticed is an abysmal failure rate. Seriously, I used to have to replace bulbs maybe once a year. Usually less. with LEDs I'm lucky to have a month without a failure.

That's very odd, I am on year 3 with my Hyperikon recessed lights - I converted all at once across the entire house. Using both the 6" and 4" recessed lights.

  • not a single failure yet
  • they have 5 yr warranty
  • they have the 2700k - warm white color temp
  • one 4" light had a broken bracket out of the box - their folks sent me a new one and told me to throw the old one out (no shipping back) - so the warranty bit works - all I had to provide is my amazon sales invoice so they knew when I bought the lights.
  • these are the 6" https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0118NPTO4

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20 hours ago, allthingsplanes said:

Please explain how it's hijacking the thread when the topic is street lights and I posted about street lights.  I understand that this isn't the city's responsibility but it still applies to Charlotte lights.

I am sorry for hurting your feelings. It was more in a sarcastic tone, but hard to convey sarcasm on a forum. In any case, let me try to be more constructive...

On the NC DOT controlled lights, here is the article that paints  a better picture of what is going on: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/local/article146826334.html

Note, this is still only "outside of active construction zones"...

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So there are multiple tiers on non-conformity that could be addressed:

Decorative steet lights (poles, lenses) and Lamps:: Miesian alluded to above...

but to me the typical pole hung lights could be improved relatively inexpensively:  There are vintage brackets on some older street that have a little curly que,  but many have been replaced through the years with more modern ones that have a slight curve, but are pretty utiliarian.  I wish they could consolidate the older ones onto some of the more historic streets.

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