Map: 10 locations for LED streetlight testing across Capitol Hill

We interrupt our normal flu pandemic reporting for this coverage of a less serious but still quality-of-life affecting topic: the new LED streetlights being tested by the city at 10 different locations across Capitol Hill.

Neighbor John writes:

Maybe you’ve posted about it, but the city recently installed l.e.d. streetlights along the 1100 block of 16th ave. e. (and some other spots, I’ve heard) to test them vs. the older sodium lights. On our block, neighbors are flipping out about how strange the newer lights are. The funny thing is that the city didn’t let people know about the lights ahead of time. I learned about it from the guy in the truck installing them. Maybe you’ve heard more about what they’re up to and what the benefits of the new lights might be.

I talked again to Mike Eagan, spokesperson for Seattle City & Light. He provided information when we came calling looking for details on another area where the city is testing these new streetlights on Capitol Hill at Aloha and 10th.

Here’s what he told us then about the potential value of LED streetlights:

LEDs have the potential to lower energy use and maintenance costs, but we want to see how they work in the field before making any decisions.  Our hope is that they will align closely with our overall conservation goals as captured in our Five Year Conservation Action Plan.  However, any additional efforts to expand the LED project will depend on available budgets.

The city has more to say about the pluses of going LED in this press release. Here’s the map of Capitol Hill locations that either already have the new lights or will get them soon.

So, back to neighbor John and some of people on 16th Ave who may be, as John put it, ‘flipping out.’ I decided against knocking on doors in the area — hopefully a 16th rep or two will chime in here in comments — but I did ask Eagan why there wasn’t more notice and what his department was planning to do to gather feedback.

Eagan said the city did not flyer or send out mail notices of the tests but did issue a media release. “We want comments from the community,” Eagan said, adding that a consultant is being hired by the Department of Energy who is helping to run this trial. “We’re still working on the survey,” Eagan said. “It will be available online and taken to the doors.”

In the meantime, you can contact City Light customer service with any issues you’d like addressed in a shorter timeframe. That number is (206) 684-3000.

Eagan said the trial will continue for several weeks with a goal of delivering a final report to City Light brass by the end of July. You might notice different lighting at different locations as the city is testing bulbs from six different manufacturers.

Subscribe and support CHS Contributors -- $1/$5/$10 per month

22 thoughts on “Map: 10 locations for LED streetlight testing across Capitol Hill

  1. I was driving through the 10th/Aloha area with a friend last night and she saw them for the first time. She exclaimed how much better she liked them than the sodium lights, and I tend to agree. Looking forward to the Broadway/Roy installation!

  2. They didn’t tell anyone, because the moment they did all sorts of weirdos would crawl out from under their rocks and voice opposition to it.

    This way, they can just put them in and see what people say. No chance for the professional hand wringers to wring their hands ;-)

  3. I like these!

    They seem brighter than necessary, but I think they are an improvement over the old ones which suddenly seem very yellow.

    Yes let us emerge from the Time of the Yellow Nights which we hadn’t even realized was upon us.

  4. I’m all in favor of new lighting technologies, but take a stroll down the 1100 block of 16th ave. e. and see if the new street lights don’t cast an unfamiliar, if not downright unpleasant, glow. I want to like these, but lighting the whole neighborhood/city this way would take a lot of getting used to. The traditional sodium lights radiate at wavelengths much more comfortable to the human eye. (That’s why you can grow plants under them.) The l.e.d. spectrum seems like the beam from an alien saucer just before you and your family are abducted.
    I’m curious how much these lights save on energy use, especially when factoring in the disposal of functional older lights.

  5. I live on Summit Ave E and we have 3 of the new l.e.d. lights on our block. I have to say the color is better but not nearly bright enough. Maybe the poster who thought they were too bright has a different brand, but ours are quite dull at street level. I don’t think they light up the street sufficiently at all. I find it curious that the city did nothing to tell us about the test and that they wanted feedback! So typical Seattle–they don’t really want feedback–they have already decided on what they are going to do and only want to appear as if they care what we think.

  6. they are testing different kinds all over the city. the ones on 16th are awful. horrible.

    the new led’s emit a deathly blue light that makes people look like zombie’s at night. and they are REALLY bright. the one across the street from where i live lights my whole house up to the point where i can read a book in the darkness of my house at midnight.

    also the pollution they emit is outrageous. they may not emit light upwards, but one light makes the street look like a runway at sea-tac.

    is there no light that has a warmer glow? these are cold and very blue/white.

    lighting fail, city. go back to the drawing board.

  7. I’m not an expert but my understanding is the energy savings are one benefit, but the maintenance of LEDs over traditional lighting represents a bigger financial benefit. The old lights have to be replaced far more frequently at great cost — and that’s if they even are replaced. My wife and I see a ton of lights out all the time, we’ll be happy to have reliable lighting, even if it’s a space-age hue.

  8. Two important features of street lighting, clarity of color and amount of lumens, are important safety features of outdoor lighting. Current sodium lights eliminate much of the usable color spectrum, rendering cars and clothing either “dark” or “light”. Was that car that just hit you black? blue? green? In daylight, the color differences will be profound, under sodium lights, well…you know…it was dark…

    The same holds true for clothing on people, and for facial recognition on the sidewalks. Can you really see through those shadows to make a good i.d. of someone that just stole your wallet? Even in low-level LED light you can get a color-correct sense of those things.

    Lumens – how bright the thing really is…the human eye needs time to adapt to seeing in low light conditions, and then again, 20 minutes to fully adapt to dark conditions after exposure to bright light. This is important because if the streetscape is too bright, your retina will be “bleached” and you will not be able to see what is crouching on your porch when you go home. Is that a dog? a person? a gnome? Oh, Joey returned my shopping cart.

    Successful and safe street lighting will be color correct, and not so bright that it makes deeper shadows or impairs human vision in nighttime conditions.

    You might be surprised at just how little light needs to be present when it’s the *right* kind of light. As you are walking through these areas, check out how clearly you can recognize details of faces and car colors. You might get a sense of what the differences are between the different test zones.

    CPTED = “crime prevention through environmental design” (honoring the human physiological needs in creating safe environments)

    Here is a somewhat clear explanation of CPTED ideas:

  9. Induction street lights are similar fluorescent light but have a much longer service life (up to 100,000 hours),long history of application(over 20-years in highway and traffic use) and longer history of manufacture and warranty. Just like LED, Induction fixtures use 1/2 of the power. And the cost less than LED, have a longer material warranty and proven industry record. What’s not to like?

  10. I haven’t been able to find the right contact at Seattle City Light that will say which manufacturers of LED street lights they are installing. Typically these municipal test programs use Beta LED, Cyclone LED, Leotek LED and Relume LED light fixtures. Beta says their fixtures are made in America but I have not determined if all of the components are made in America. Sometimes the fixtures are assembled in America but the components are mad elsewhere.

  11. I HATE these new LED street lights. (for all the difference it’s gonna make)

    This new light is so bright it makes me feel like I’m living next to a sodium light from the football stadium parking lot.

    I have been living here for nearly 30 years and paying taxes and I am now VERY unhappy with this new ‘improvement’ to my street.

    I’ve talked to my neighbors and they don’t like it either. This new light seems to protrude outside the metal hood somehow, so that the blinding bulb is in direct line of sight to my living room. The old lamp did not protrude.

    In light of the fact that the City of Seattle is in a financial crisis, I find it unbelievable that the city would waste money on replacing a perfectly good street light just to install something that IRRITATES the taxpayer!

    I was just talking to the lighting crew that installs them and he told me that they have been getting a LOT of complaints from people. So I don’t believe the political double-talk about how positive the response has been from the community.

    Get your sunglasses out… if you used to value having a peaceful night, those days are over.

  12. We just had a new light placed in the street right outside our house. Holy cow! If you try to look out the window or door you have flashbulb effect in your eyes for a time afterwards. How safe is that! Not to mention my house now looks like I’ve had a 500,000 candle light spotlight focused purposely on my house. I will never, ever be able to hang Christmas lights again. I woke up last night at 2:30 and saw the light and thought I missed the alarm and overslept. Couldn’t fall back to sleep after that. Whoever thinks this is a great idea should have one of these planted right in their front yard a few feet from their bedroom windows like mine is. Let not “moving forward” be without respect for people.

  13. Dreadful. Anyone want to take a protest to our SPOTLIGHT lit streets? Make city light go back to the drawing board! Our beautiful city is going to look like a parking lot at Seatac.
    Seattle: the tastless city.

  14. Speaking of moths, I don’t know exactly what attracts moths to light, but these LED street lights don’t emit infrared or UV rays.

  15. The color temperatures emitted from a High Pressure Sodium (HPS) lamp cover a spectrum (some red, some orange, some yellow, etc.) Many incandescent lights such as metal halide(MH), HPS, halogen, fluorescent, etc. produce a spectrum.

    With the LEDs, you get more color specific. For example, your plants LOVE the red spectrum. So if you look for LED grow lights, you will see a lot of red. If the LED street lights were red, it would be easier to look at and feel warmer. But then you lose the Color Rendering Index (CRI) which is essentially the ability to determine what color something is under a given source of light. HPS is bright, but not good for color rendering.

    With the HPS grow lights, you get more of a heater than a light. That is one advantage LEDs have over incandescent; less heat.

    But I do agree with you, it would be nice to find a happy medium, something more like the color emitted from an indoor light bulb (i.e. 3000K-3500K).

    Another advantage the LED has is its impact on the environment. Most LEDs are made of an aluminum heat-sink, silicon, poly carbonate(plastic) printed circuit board, copper wire…typical materials that most computer recycling facilities would accept. Many incandescent lights contain mercury and/or lead. How does a person dispose of their fluorescent lights? Each one contains mercury (albeit a relatively small amount). Does a person drive to the hazardous materials site every time they need to dispose of a bulb? No? Landfill? How about the ballast?

    [I was on a job site in Sequim. I tried returning a dead fluorescent lamp and fixture to Home Depot. They would accept the dead fluorescent lamp but would not accept the ballast. And i had to drive 12 miles round trip to do it.]

    I’m not a biologist, but something tells me the rising level of mercury found in salmon may have something to do with water run-off. If I understand it correctly, mercury stays in the water cycle for a long time.

    LEDs don’t usually contain any toxic substances but even if they did, it would be a minutia given the tiny size of the diode. Also, since an LED is a solid (not gaseous) light source, it’s contained. Drop an incandescent and you’ve got glass, glass slivers, gas, and mystery substances to clean up. Drop an LED and pick it up and drop it again, and again…just don’t ruin your floor.

    And I hope you don’t get abducted by aliens, but if you do, keep us posted on a twitter account.

  16. You are correct, sir.

    The city is making an investment that is supposed to pay off eventually. I am not sure how Seattle has calculated their Return On Investment (although I’m guessing 3-4 years of a 8-10 year life cycle). So during those last years will Joe Taxpayer see a refund? We will see…but I doubt it.

    Consumers will benefit from LEDs when they have to foot the electric bill, i.e. Joe Homeowner, Joe Renter, Joe Business Owner, Joe Hotel Owner, etc. But given the great geographical hydro-features around us, we have very cheap electricity compared to the rest of the country. So induction lighting would be an excellent option.

    But also consider that you’d still have to change out the entire cobra-head. Consider the environment: induction is not recyclable and contains toxic materials.

    Also, with the phasing out of incandescent lights, the cost of phosphor (used in both LEDs and fluorescent lights) should increase.

  17. I have heard the same from many, many people. The city needs to make a cut-offs available. It’s a quality of life issue. Otherwise, it’s ten years of an unwelcome guest in your home.

    You can see an example of cut-offs in use on street lights when you go out to Alki, near the condos on the point that faces Seattle.

  18. Just had them installed. It’s like having the lighting from a prison yard outside. There are many LED street lights the city could have selected that have a directed, color balanced lens and that had a few less lumens. General Electric makes a highly rated one. Unfortunately, the ones selected have a blue cast, are way too intense, and have no optics to direct the light. Too bad. We will wonder in a few years why our city is so cold looking. There will be no more romance of an evening street lit walk with these search lights hurting your eyes. What a mistaken selection.