Safety is an important concern for students, whether they are on or off campus. And adequate street lighting is essential to keep students safe. Earlier this month, the Ann Arbor City Council decided against plans decrease city street lighting. It’s important that the city continues to recognize the importance of streetlights by implementing policies that improve lighting to protect residents — both student and year-round — rather than reduce it to save money. And it is the responsibility of the Michigan Student Assembly to represent students’ interests. City Council must work with MSA to improve off-campus lighting without overspending to maintain this important safety measure for students.

According to an Oct. 5 AnnArbor.com article, City Council voted at its Oct. 4 meeting to repeal a plan that would turn off 17 percent of city streetlights. Their decision came following complaints from residents who were affected by the pilot program. With the plan, the city would turn off lights based upon a 1970s study on the smallest amount of lighting required for safe driving. The move was intended to save the city about $120,000 annually in energy costs. The city has decided to move forward with other money saving plans, such as using more LED lighting in the city, according to an Oct. 21 Daily article.

While all students must be smart about their safety, college-aged women are particularly vulnerable. Especially here in Michigan, where it’s dark by late afternoon in the winter months, quality lighting is vital. Improved lighting not only makes these students feel more secure — as confirmed by the pilot program — but it also helps them be aware of their surroundings and potential threats.

But costs must be taken into consideration, too. Switching to LED lights is one way to save money in the long term and also become more environmentally friendly. Installation of LED lighting is already underway in some areas and it’s important that the city continues to invest in this smart lighting option.

And to increase lighting around the town, the city should also encourage local business owners to switch to LED lighting. Using cheaper lights may make business owners more likely to leave lights on longer after the end of business hours, which would make the city brighter and safer. LED lights cost less to fuel and could pay for themselves in the long term.

Students travel on foot more than the average Ann Arbor resident, and City Council needs accommodate students’ need for safer streets. It’s the Michigan Student Asssembly’s responsibility represent students and work with City Council to encourage the installation of more lights throughout the city in areas frequently traveled by students. For years, MSA presidents have promised to work with City Council to improve off-campus lighting, but these promises haven’t come to fruition. In fact, the LSA Student Government has managed to make more progress on the issue than MSA. MSA must put student safety at the top of its to-do list.

While saving money is important, cutting city lighting is not a safe option. City Council, with the help of MSA, should work to improve the quality of lighting in the city and help students and year-round residents alike stay safe.

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