City Council members recently voted to repeal plans to turn off nearly 17 percent of city streetlights after facing complaints from a significant number of concerned citizens who were involved in a neighborhood-specific pilot program.
The pilot program was implemented to gauge residents’ response to the reduced lighting, which aimed to save the city about $120,000, according to Councilmember Christopher Taylor (D–Ward 3). After receiving several complaints from affected residents and walking on the corridors with unlit streets alongside residents, Taylor and Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje sponsored a motion to call off plans to expand the reduced lighting throughout the city at a meeting earlier this month.
City officials determined how many street lights to shut off based on a standard passed in 1970 that determined the minimum amount of lighting necessary for safely operating vehicles. But after talking with residents, Taylor said there’s more than just vehicular safety that must be taken into consideration.
“The pilot program demonstrated that residents experienced streetlights as being a pedestrian and property safety benefit,” Taylor said. “The vehicular standards are certainly not sufficient for residential property and personal safety.”
City Council is now looking for alternative cost-cutting measures that will not compromise its citizens’ feelings of safety and comfort, Taylor said. He added that the city is in the process of installing LED lights in the nearly 22 percent of streetlights that belong to the city.
The remaining streetlights in Ann Arbor are owned and operated by DTE Energy, which has not yet reached an agreement with the city regarding LED technology.
“It’s not an ordinary customer relationship,” Taylor said. “These are lights not owned by the city, so we are sort of negotiating something we don’t have direct leverage with.”
The University is also making efforts to cut costs and energy consumption that result from streetlights. According to a statement from Jim Kosteva, director of community relations, the University is “actively reviewing alternative technology approaches to providing lighting on campus.”
Kosteva said the University’s overall goal includes reducing its energy footprint and cost, but he stressed that “safety is of paramount concern.”
“Our personnel are continually monitoring the progress of technology in providing energy efficient lighting; however, as of yet, they have not found a new lighting methodology that delivers the desired amount of lighting intensity that would meet our safety criteria,” Kosteva said. “They will continue to follow advancements in the electrical lighting industry.”
Taylor said for the time being, City Council members and residents are pleased with the repeal of the original lighting reduction plan.
“It was a good effort to do the city’s work for less,” Taylor said. “We sought to pull back our lights to (the vehicular) standard, and we determined during the course of this pilot program that that standard was inapplicable to the residential experience.”