Lots of Questions. No answers from the City.

Two hearings. No good answers.

On August 19, 2015, and September 2, 2015, the Honolulu City council heard Resolution 15-215, which asks the Administration to answer some simple questions about the streetlight replacement project. We’ll paraphrase their answers as well, below, to questions like:

  • How much will the project cost? (The City’s Answer: They don’t know at this time.)
  • How much profit will the contractor keep? (The City’s Answer: They don’t know at this time.)
  • Why weren’t lower color temperature lights considered? (The City’s Answer: because this is what we want.)
  • Why aren’t dimming controls going to be used? (The City’s Answer: they are too new, we can add them later)
  • and more…

Let talk about the money… Is the City really preparing to sign a contract whose cost is unknown? That seems unlikely. And does it make sense, in the case of a contract worth millions of dollars per year, and perhaps as much as $50 million over the course of the contract, to let the contractor profit as much as they want? Maybe, as other cities have found, that the cost savings could be as high as 77% (Camden, Mass.) So should we pay a fixed amount every year (say $6 million) and let the contractor pocket $4 million each year in profit?

Color temperature: this is our big issue, and the City insists on using 4000K lights which are very blue. These are ten times brighter in the blue than the existing high pressure sodium lights. They have no coherent answer as to why blue lights are required, except to say that they wanted lights with better color rendition. But that doesn’t mean that 4000K lights are required. The standard light bulbs in your home are 2700K, and you can discern colors just fine in your living room.

Dimming controls: after the Arab oil embargo of the mid-1970’s, this technology became widely used to reduce or turn off lights, which were then activated by motion sensors. Forty years later, it’s fair to say that the technology is tested and accepted. And they are supported in the guidelines from the Illumination Engineering Society of North America. If nobody is using the lights very late at night, why should they be turned on full brightness? (The city argued that bicyclists might get confused. As a bicyclists, we assure you that we can handle it.)


Confirmed from Space: Bad LED Streetlights Make Light Pollution Much Worse

Julia Calderone at Tech Insider wrote a great article on how the LED streetlight retrofits in other cities around the world have made light pollution much worse-exactly what we’ve been saying about Honolulu’s plans all along. These are results from the PhD research by Alejandro Sánchez de Miguel described at the Cities at Night website. The website has a lot of information about the effects of light pollution and what can be done to lessen it.

Los Angeles from space before and after LED streetlights.

Los Angeles from space before and after LED streetlights.