Chicago dials down LED street lamp intensity — and controversy
As the city of Chicago begins converting more than a quarter-million street lamps to high-efficiency LEDs, the light — and public reaction — hasn’t been as harsh as what was seen in cities that were earlier adopters.Magnifier lamp
“It’s definitely a cleaner light, and it feels safer in general,” said Andrew Shedden, 36, as he walked his dog Odie along Touhy Avenue on a recent afternoon under a bank of newly installed LED street lights.
The Chicago Department of Transportation has already upgraded 18,000 lamps, and by 2021 it plans to install 270,000 of the energy-saving lights, which up to three-quarters less electricity than high-pressure sodium lamps.
“The Chicago Smart Lighting Program is off to a great start, delivering modern, reliable, energy-efficient lighting that is already improving quality of life in Chicago neighborhoods,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said.The city piloted the LED lights in a handful of neighborhoods beginning in December of 2016 and left public comment open for more than a year. Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld said it was important to conduct field tests “so that both residents and our lighting experts can see how these lighting levels perform.”
The conversion to LED street lamps prompted public backlash in cities like Seattle and New York, where residents complained that the first-generation of lights were too bright and bothersome. One critic in New York called them “ghoulish” and “invasive.” Some complaints were bolstered by an American Medical Association paper that warned of glare and sleep problems.
Chicago hasn’t been immune to such criticism — on a neighborhood forum, residents complained of “painful and piercing intensity light” — but it’s been relatively muted compared to the controversy in other cities.
In part, at least, that’s because Chicago’s LED lamps are not as intense as those installed in other cities.