2,000 LED Streetlights On The Way

Thomas MacMillan PhotoThis spring, a bright white light began shining in Newhallville. With a new approval from city lawmakers, the light is spreading, and may one day engulf nighttime streets all over New Haven.

The light shines from new LED (light-emitting diode) streetlights, which offer better illumination with half the electricity of traditional streetlights.

In May, at the behest of neighborhood organizers, the city installed 11 LED streetlights on Lilac Street. Along with saving energy, the lights are meant to increase public safety by keeping the street better lit at night.

Newhallville Alderwoman Delphine Clyburn said the lights have improved safety. “On those streets it’s actually been better.”

Last month, the Board of Aldermen authorized an agreement with the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund for the installation of about 2,000 new LED lights. City engineering department staffer Giovanni Zinn said that’s a little less than 20 percent of the city’s total of 10,300 “cobra-head” streetlights (named for their shape). It’s part of an effort to eventually convert all of the city’s streetlights to LEDs.

The new deal, which is administered by UI, comprises a grant and financing. It won’t lead to change in the city’s energy bills in the first three years, but will result in savings after that, Zinn said.

Here’s how it works:

The total project cost for the installation of about 1,800 streetlights is about $600,000. One third of that would be paid for by “incentive payments” from the Connecticut Energy Efficiency fund. This amounts to a grant of $200,000. The city will pay the remaining $400,000 through three years of interest-free financing—a no-interest loan. The monthly payments will appear as part of the city’s regular bill to United Illuminating. The increase in the monthly bill is equal to the savings projected from the reduced use of energy by LED streetlights, Zinn said. The project is thus “cost-neutral” for the first three years.

After that, the city will start to see significant savings, Zinn said. Savings will amount to $100,000 per year after the first five years, according to a letter from city engineer Dick Miller to Board of Aldermen President Jorge Perez.

The savings come despite the fact that LEDs cost more then traditional streetlights.

“It’s the next lighting technology,” said Zinn. He outlined a number of the advantages LEDs have over the current high-pressure sodium (HPS) lights the city has.

LEDs are “much more directional,” able to “light the road and only the road,” he said. This saves energy and prevents light pollution, including spillover light shining into people’s windows or up into the night sky.

LEDs also offer a much whiter light than the orange light put out by HPS lights. “It’s closer to daylight,” Zinn said.

As a result LEDs have a much higher Color Rendering Index, meaning it’s easier to differentiate between colors under an LED. “Any time people can see better their surroundings, they’re more aware of what’s going on,” Zinn said. That leads to a safer community, he said.

Because LEDs produce light to which the human eye is more sensitive, they don’t need to produce as much light as a traditional fixture, which makes them more efficient.

LEDs also employ “solid-state” technology, and thus require less maintenance, Zinn said. The lights are advertised as lasting for 100,000 hours, which amounts to about 22 years, since the lights are on only at night. The city’s HPS lights last at most seven years, and require a significant amount of maintenance, Zinn said. “They’re much more finicky.” The city expects the LEDs will be completely maintenance-free for the first 10 years, Zinn said.

Paul Bass File PhotoLED streetlight fixtures comprise 20 to 120 LED “chips,” he said. If one goes out, the light will still function. That’s different from a HPS light, which has just one bulb. “There’s a partial failure mode in an LED that you don’t have in a conventional fixture,” Zinn said.

In addition to the 1,800 lights the city will convert under the latest deal, plans are already underway to convert another 250 HPS lights to LEDs in the next couple of months, paid for by a grant from the state Department of Energy, Zinn said. Those LEDs will be installed around Lilac Street, expanding on the conversion that’s already occurred there.

Zinn said it remains to be determined where the 1,800 new lights will go, starting in the spring. “We’re looking at areas where it really would enhance public safety,” he said. The city wants to convert a variety of sizes of fixtures, and to do whole blocks at once, he said.

The city aims to eventually swap out all its HPS lights for LEDs, Zinn said. “We’re looking to change the whole city over as soon as we possibly can.”

“We’ll Be Glad”

Tyrone Alexander, standing on his second-floor porch at the corner of Winchester and Lilac streets (pictured) said new street lights don’t prevent crime.

“Street lights don’t make it safer,” he said. “People make it safer.”

Alexander said the brighter lights might make traffic accidents less likely, but they won’t stop criminals.

Alderwoman Clyburn disagreed. “I wish I could get that brightness on every street,” she said. “If it will save money and give us some light, we’ll be glad.”

Tanya Smith-Long, who lives near Lilac Street, said the LEDs are “absolutely a definite improvement.” The LEDs are not only brighter but harder to break, she said. Drug dealers in the neighborhood throw rocks at lights to knock them out, she said. That’s more difficult with the LEDs.

Tammy Chapman, who lives on Winchester near Lilac, said the next step is to introduce “second-stage lighting.” The street still needs more light from porches to deter crime, she said. “Our goal is to push the gangs out.”

Smith-Long suggested the city should have some sort of incentive program to help people to install exterior lighting on their homes. 


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posted by: OccupyTheClassroom on December 10, 2012  11:54pm

Nothing says “drugs readily available” more than these lights. I’d be ashamed to have these in my neighborhood.

posted by: anonymous on December 11, 2012  12:10am

I disagree, Occupy. Cities are really nice when they have these.

You are probably thinking of “flood lights” (maybe because the photographs make these LEDs look much brighter than they are), which have been used in New Haven in the past on higher-crime street corners, and are very unattractive.

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on December 11, 2012  9:03am

“[C]rime decreased by 21% in areas that experienced street lighting improvements compared to similar areas that did not.”
Brandon C. Welsh and David P. Farrington. “Effects of improved street lighting on crime.”
(Campbell Systematic Reviews; 2008)

“[S]ensitively deployed street lighting can lead to reductions in crime and fear of crime, and increase pedestrian street use after dark.”
Kate Painter. The influence of street lighting improvements on crime, fear and pedestrian street use, after dark “Landscape and Urban Planning” Vol. 35, Issues 2–3 (August 1996) pp. 193–201

“Precisely targeted increases in street lighting generally have crime reduction effects. More general increases in street lighting seem to have crime prevention effects, but this outcome is not universal Older and U.S. research yield fewer positive results than more recent U.K. research. Even untargeted increases in crime prevention generally make residents less fearful of crime or more confident of their own safety at night. In the most recent and sophisticated studies, street lighting improvements are associated with crime reductions in the daytime as well as during the hours of darkness.”
Ken Pease. A Review Of Street Lighting Evaluations: Ctime Reduction
EFFECTS “Crime Prevention Studies” Vol. 10, pp. 47-76

“Improved street lighting is widely thought to be an effective means of preventing crime, second in importance only to increased police
presence. Indeed, residents in crime-ridden neighborhoods often demand that the lighting be improved, and recent research generally bears out their expectation that improved lighting does reduce crime.”
Ronald V. Clarke. Improving Street Lighting
to Reduce Crime in Residential Areas “Problem-Oriented Guides for Police” No. 8 (Center for Problem-Oriented Policing, Inc.; 2008)

“[I]mproved lighting leads to increased surveillance of potential offenders (both by improving visibility and by increasing the number of people on the street) and hence to the deterrence of potential offenders. [I]mproved lighting signals increased community investment in the area and that the area is improving, leading to increased community pride, community cohesiveness and informal social control. The first theory predicts decreases in crime especially during the hours of darkness, while the second theory predicts decreases in crime during both day-time and night-time.”
Farrington, et al. Effects of improved street lighting
on crime: a systematic review “Home Office Research Study 251” (Home Office Research, Development and Statistics Directorate; August 2002)

posted by: streever on December 11, 2012  9:35am

These sound good—are they shielded properly to prevent light pollution?

posted by: Curious on December 11, 2012  10:26am

We desperately need these on George Street, up by the old SNET building.  That whole area is deserted and unlit.  Same with big stretches of Dwight street,

posted by: anonymous on December 11, 2012  10:42am

Jonathan, police departments have tried to suppress studies like these - and publish counterarguments - because they want cities to invest in cop overtime, not things that actually work such as improved lighting, trash pickup, and more walkable streets.

Now that the arguments for environmental improvement are iron clad, police unions have backed down on this approach in many cities, but not in New Haven. Here, for example, our police have shown great reluctance to letting business improvement districts (BID) like Town Green expand their services. BIDs are associated with enormous crime drops when they roll out. 

The NHPD and City Hall’s current strategy has involved a lot of very expensive consultants and Mayoral airplane trips to other cities, but will have zero long term impact on crime reduction.

NHPD is justifiably nervous about the approach you suggest, because when crime drops by 50-80% after some elected official finally gets tired of the hundreds of shootings per year in New Haven and implements BIDs, we will have less need for their overtime services. 

In addition to fixing up lighting and parks, the tens of millions that we spend on police each year, who almost entirely live in the suburbs, would be put to better use hiring hundreds of young men from places like Newhallville to help fix up their own neighborhoods.  Unemployment, a primary driver of crime, would decline dramatically using this approach.

Crime in New Haven will remain unacceptably high until we elect someone who is willing to stand up for the people who actually live here—not just the suburban police unions.

posted by: HhE on December 11, 2012  2:17pm

anonymous, it is time to roll out your evidence.

posted by: btocchi on December 11, 2012  4:36pm

This is such a great thing for New Haven.  I live in the Brighton section of Boston, and over the past couple of years the City of Boston has replaced all of our street lamps with LED lights.  Not only do the give a much more pleasant glow, the LED lights make the streets much brighter.  It makes the streets seem safer and in my opinion, the best aspect of them is as a urban motorist, you can see pedestrians crossing the street much more easily.  Good job New Haven!

posted by: Curious on December 12, 2012  4:48pm

HhE, don’t hold your breath.

posted by: HhE on December 13, 2012  1:26am

Curious, I am still suffering from oxygen debt from the last time I called upon anonymous to cite or prove.  What worries me is claims like this left unchallenged might gain some traction. 

Like Lt Sweeney has toy drives and book bag drives to assuage her guilt.  Or that (then) Lt Reddish volunteered to be district manager of his home district so he could look out for dealers in his neighborhood.  Really?

Next we will read how teachers fail students so they will get more work.  May be arborists are planting trees right now that they will need trimming or removal years from now.

posted by: anonymous on December 13, 2012  11:31am

HhE, your line delves into the weeds, instead of maintaining focus on the big picture argument - which is that we need to invest directly in our communities, not primarily in the staff who do not live there.

I challenge you to look at exactly how much we spend on patrol staff, parole officers, etc, in neighborhoods like Newhallville, and compare that to how much we spend directly investing in those areas. These numbers look very different in East Rock. This information is readily available.

Sorry if you missed it, but I’ve posted extensive information, local research, and peer-reviewed literature citations on this topic on several other stories. Asking for sources on a comment section is appreciated, and I often provide them, but at some point it is no longer worth re-posting them on a forum every time.

posted by: HhE on December 14, 2012  7:57pm

Anonymous, when, where?  Was it two years ago when I was in China for three weeks?  Was it four or more years ago, before I read the NHI regularly? 

Anonymous, you have made a claim that the police union actively opposes measure that will reduce crime because it wants a high crime rate.  I opine that this is libelous.  It is incumbent upon you, the accuser, to provide the evidence.

Comparing East Rock to Newhallville is what misses the point.  Police patrols in East Rock are driven by the presence of criminals from Newhallville and The Hill.  However much the city invests in East Rock, it is far less than what the city gets from East Rock in taxes. 

I am all for investing in Newhallville, but not by finding the moneys to do so by gutting our police.