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convulso

tucson: dark city?

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from the first time i visited, i've noticed how dark tucson is at night. the tall buildings are not lit, the downtown does not stand out against the skyline, the neighborhoods are largely unlit by utility lamps (typically there is only property owner-provided light, or none at all), and there is no way to use light as a gauge of the city's density or areas of heightened activity. sam hughes is insanely dark to be so close to the university. the university itself is dark, too. not necessarily a bad thing, just strange to the unacquainted.

only a law against light pollution would normally have such a limiting effect on light at night, especially in a city with more than half a million people in it. i've been told that the abundance of observatories is the reason for the light control. thoughts?

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Welcome back!

There are some anti-light pollution initiatives within the City, I think also in the County. The observatories were the main reason because I believe Kitt Peak was threatening to leave at some point because of it. We also have the one to the east on Mount Graham and the more home-grown Mount Lemmon observatory, all of which are very sensitive to the amount of light Tucson outputs.

However, I've also been told that the City does not pay for streetlighting when they build the streets, and it's up to the neighborhood to pick up the bill. I know that the pitch-black El Presidio has been discussing where to put some street lamps using money we've gotten from the City, but no one can find a place to bury the new electrical box that would be necessary.

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yeah, i had heard that about kitt peak. it surprised me at first, since kitt is 50-60 miles away. we drove past kitt peak on the way to ajo, and it feels remote. i guess the night sky tells a different story.

the dark neighborhoods may, in some cases, be want residents want - that's what i keep thinking every time i'm near sam hughes, since it's so affluent. they can afford lights there (just like the foothills folks can afford them, too), but somehow it just hasn't happened. when i drive up swan to get to sunrise at night, i always think there's a power outage until i crest the final hill before turning onto sunrise. there are a lot of broad, dark spaces connecting well-lit suburban areas up here on this side of town. the thing that kills me is that lighting is so inefficient in the suburbs, where rows of utility lamps line empty four-lane roads at night. that same amount of light would go much further in town, where the lumens-per-person ratio would be far higher (while still not being excessively bright). density!

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I think you're absolutely right. The lower density areas are usually the culprits of excessive lighting. I've always thought this was because the county has a less strict light pollution ordinance than the city, but I can't be sure as I haven't read either (reading through ordinance codes is not my favorite pastime).

Sam Hughes is certainly one of the darker neighborhoods within town. It may be that the residents feel safe enough without the lights (it's a pretty safe area of town) and like being able to see the stars (I believe another driving force behind the ordinance was the astronomy community within town) as well as not having a street lamp blaring through their bedroom window at night.

Street lamps certainly promote safety and are an added security measure, so I see nothing wrong with them. I've always been a proponent of adding more street lamps in El Presido, provided they're not too imposing and reflect the character of the neighborhood.

It's interesting to go up to Windy Point at night and you can clearly pick out the major thoroughfares, freeways and airfields, as they're some of the only places to have regular streetlights.

I'd rather see Tucson stay a "dark city" but also maintain a balance of security.

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i agree about preserving the overall 'dark' feel in town. my concern with it is mosty aesthetic and not so much safety. i'd hate to see increased lighting in the form of sodium-powered utility lights on telephone poles everywhere. the university sets a pretty good example (in places) of how to use minimal lighting at low height to achieve mere visibility, if not safety (i.e., not necessarily blaring security-type light) at night. bright lights would contribute to night safety, i suppose, but dark affluent areas might benefit from some sort of coherent lighting scheme - footllights, even - that could contribute to their nighttime visual appeal. make some of the very pretty areas more walkable, etc. it's all just talk, since this kind of stuff takes money and consensus. i've just seen it done well in other cities, and it would add to the already-great appeal of a lot of urban areas on the perimeter of downtown. there are way more important fires for residents to put out before everyone would tackle a pretty lighting scheme...nice to conjecture, though.

where's windy point? i should have figured a lot of these places out by now, but i'm still learning. i can pick out a lot of the major thoroughfares from the (gag!) swimming pool at my apartment at night, but i want to get some different vantages. sentinel closes at night, so i haven't even tried to drive up there after hours.

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