Chicago street lights are going to be getting a much needed update. Following a brief trial run this past December, the city is committed to replacing 270,000 old sodium pressured lamps with new smart LED replacements (Wisniewski, 2017). These new lamps will ultimately reduce energy consumption while also cutting maintenance costs. There is also a belief that these lights will help to reduce crimes because they last longer and will not leave communities in the dark. However, the city needs to approach this program with more caution. Concerns about increased light pollution are coming to light.
According to some US researchers, LED street lights have potential drawbacks on the overall health of an urban ecosystem. The harsher bright blues of LEDs are believed to affect sleep cycles of both the human residents and local fauna. There are also concerns about whether the December trials were effective. A Chicago curbed article questions if enough residents were surveyed; after all, who goes outside in the winter cold just to observe the lights? (Koziarz, 2016).
Despite these concerns, ultimately this project is much needed in order to update Chicago outdated street lighting infrastructure. Not only will these street lights be LED energy efficient but also will have a smart component that will communicate with city workers. This allows for the city to pinpoint broken lamps and replace them quicker (City of Chicago, n.d.).
Ultimately, this project contributes to making Chicago more sustainable. Clearly, it will address economic, environment, and energy factors. These new lamps are a needed upgrade from the older lamps, yet the project needs to do more in order to insure social equity and health concerns. These are the two major concerns that opponents present. If addressed, the project would be more sustainable.
In particular, the city must consider the brightness and color of the new lamps. This will insure the program being successful. More emphasis is needed on the smart component these new lamps offer. This will immensely improve the current response times responding to outages. The city must also make sure the program is implemented throughout the entire city. If only done in ‘dangerous’ neighborhoods, it demonstrates an obvious bias.
City of Chicago. (n.d). Chicago’s Smart Lighting Project. Retrieved from: https://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/cdot/supp_info/chicago-s-smart-lighting-project.html
Koziarz, J. (2016, December). Chicagoans urged to weigh-in on new LED street lighting options. Chicago Curbed. Retrieved from: http://chicago.curbed.com/2016/12/19/14007922/chicago-urban-planning-new-led-streetlight-program-demonstation
Wisniewski, M. (2017, March 27). Chicago chooses vendor for massive streetlight replacement program. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved from: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-chicago-streetlights-leds-met-20170328-story.html