Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Glendale Updating Street Light Technology

When I was an undergrad at the University of Arizona in the late '80s, there was a lot of talk about Low Pressure Sodium lights. (These are the darker, yellowish, not-so-bright streetlights that you see in some parts of town.) Everybody was talking about how great they were, well mostly my professors and some newspaper articles – keep in mind I didn't know many locals. I was told "They use less energy", and "They allow the Hubble Telescope to see further into space," and "They're the future of lighting." Well, my friends and I never quite agreed. Frankly, we thought, as far as lighting goes, they're awful. Lights should be … well, light.

Fast forward to today. There has been such a revolution in lighting over the last few years.. Car headlights are brighter and more focused. Cell phones' display screens are amazing (who hasn't seen a concert where cell phones in the crowd have replaced cigarette lighters from years past?) Fluorescent bulbs have become more "natural". I have a tiny little flashlight, that I bought for $3 at a checkout counter, that shines a terrific, clean, pure white light. But the kicker was last holiday season – did anyone else notice how awesome the LCD Holiday Lights looked? It just seemed outdated to not be able to use any of this technology for larger purposes.

Well, fortunately the City of Glendale agrees with us. It turns out they have been quietly replacing every Low Pressure Sodium streetlight (all 18,500 of them!) with brighter white lights, while at the same time adding a shield to focus the light downward (to help darken the sky for astronomical purposes) and a tracking monitor so they can respond immediately when a light bulb burns out. Here's an article posted on

Good for Glendale – I hope other cities follow suit, and make yellowish low pressure sodium lights another one of those '80s fads that has run its course. (kind of like Members Only jackets, Valley Girl expressions, and Rocky movies… oh wait!)

- Chris Butterworth