NELPAG Circular No. 19

NELPAG Circular No. 19                                    1997 Oct. 9

New England Light Pollution Advisory Group (NELPAG)
Editor:     Daniel W. E. Green [M.S. 18; Harvard-Smithsonian Observatory;
               60 Garden Street; Cambridge, MA  02138]  (telephone 617-495-7440)
Secretary:  Eric Johansson     (telephone 508-667-0137)

     "Subscription" to this news/information Circular is available by sending
self-addressed, stamped (currently 32 cents in the U.S.A.) regular-sized
(9.5x4-inch) envelopes (SASE) to Dan Green at his postal address, or by
sending your e-mail address to NELPAG-REQUEST@HARVEE.BILLERICA.MA.US (Internet).
NELPAG Circulars are issued at irregular intervals, once every couple of months
on average, as news accumulutes.  Contributed information for this Circular
concerning outdoor lighting problems in New England (or pertinent info from
outside New England) are always welcome.  Please circulate this newsletter to
all interested parties.  Look at our World Wide Web site at URL


     Dan Green, Bob Wylie, and Michael Ratner were present to talk at a hearing
of H.4449/H.3418 before the Committee on Science and Technology at the State
House in Boston on Wednesday morning, October 8.  Dan showed some slides, taken
mostly from the IDA slide set and his personal collection, graphically showing
the problem of bad lighting and the solution that full-cutoff fixtures can
provide; he also gave out 27 pages of supporting documentation, taken mostly
from IDA literature, with a page outlining other states and also Massachusetts
communities that have adopted full-cutoff lighting policies.  Bob Wylie talked
about IES Roadway Committee recommendations and about the problem of car and
truck headlights being too bright nowadays, with an IES committee now trying
to address that issue.
     Nothing was said against the outdoor-lighting bill, and all legislators
present seemed favorably disposed toward the bill.  One question asked by a
legislator was whether any senators or any safety groups had expressed support
of this bill (the answer being no, to our knowledge, unfortunately).  I have
been informed that the bill is likely to be reported out favorably from the
House Science and Technology Committee within the next couple of weeks (with
a new bill number!), and the next stop would be the House Ways and Means
Committee (after which, if it passes favorably there, it would go to the House
floor for a vote).  This is all very good news.  Since the 1997 legislative
session ends in mid-November, the Ways and Means Committee may not get to
this bill until the new year.  If the bill does pass a vote on the House floor
in the coming months, it would go to committee in the Senate (likely the
Senate's Committee on Science and Technology, whose chairman has evidently
already expressed support for this bill), and continue through the same
channels toward a Senate floor vote.
     There are a few details worth noting that have developed in the last week
or so.  First, the wording of H.4449 had not been changed yet to reflect the
problems introduced last May, when important key wording was dropped (as noted
in recent NELPAG Circulars), but the issue was discussed, with the important
wording noted as "to be re-inserted" by the current committee before favorably
reporting it out.  However, an additional line added last May, regarding an
exemption for historical lighting, has been requested to be retained, as well.
That exemption was rather poorly (ambiguously) worded, so we are working to
quickly come up with an alternative wording.  But something additional has come
     In the last week or so, I was put in contact with Paul Lutkevich, a
lighting engineer and consultant with the firm Fay, Spofford, and Thorndike
in Boston that is involved in architectural engineering designs throughout
Boston and the Massachusetts highway system (for example) that involve
state-funded outdoor lighting.  Mr. Lutkevich explained that there is one
reservation that some IESNA (Illuminating Engineering Society of North America)
people have, including himself (who sits on the IESNA committee that is
developing new national standards for roadway lighting), about our Massachusetts
state bill --- and that concern is about urban areas with heavy volumes of night
pedestrian traffic, in which it is felt that an allowance needs to be made for
semi-cutoff lights, so that 10 percent of the light can be emitted above the
horizontal.  The problem is coming up with concise, unambiguous wording on a
short time scale that can be easily inserted into the bill, but which will not
seriously take away from what we are trying to accomplish.  One possibility
that I am recommending is to say that, in urban areas with high pedestrian
traffic, semi-cutoff lights can be permitted whereby they exceed no more than
some percentage (say, 40 or 50 percent) of the total number of lights -- or that
70 percent (say) of the total light fixtures must be full-cutoff.  Discussions
on this wording will hopefully be completed sometime next week, and amended
wording submitted to the House Committee on Science and Technology.  We are
hopeful that the amended wording will be a compromise acceptable to virtually
all concerned parties.  The revised wording has been posted on the NELPAG
World Wide Web site.
     Both Lutkevich and Wylie plan to be present at our November 1st NELPAG
meeting, to further carry on this discussion.  My request to NELPAGers is to
contact your state Senator, asking him or her to please ask to be a co-sponsor
of this bill.  We need to get Senators involved, too.    -- D.W.E.G.

     I officially joined the Lighting Options Committee of the Town of Lexington
(via application to the Town Hall) in the winter/spring of 1995, and was able to
get a meeting called a few weeks thereafter.  Unfortunately, the chairwoman is
rather possessive of the committee and apparently does not like to call meetings
(and generally does not like have committee members that disagree with her
priority of hating sodium lamps because of their color rendition), and a meeting
has not been called to my knowledge in nearly two years despite my requests for
meetings to discuss happenings.  My knowledge of what is occurring is thus a bit
incomplete, but I'll do my best to inform the world about some very unique
things happening in Lexington, a suburb northwest of Boston with population
28,000.  (Some of this has been discussed in brief in issues of this Circular
back to the second issue.)
     Several years ago (early 1990s, apparently), Boston Edison (the power
company for Lexington) began replacing old mercury-vapor (MV) and incandescent
lamps with dropdish-cobra HPS light fixtures in east Lexington, particularly
along Massachusetts Avenue (a main thoroughfare).  The intensely bright lamps
(a result of maintaining the old-MV wattages in the new-HPS lammps, as well as
the lack of shielding) and yellow/orange color alarmed many local residents,
some of whom objected loudly enough to get the town to order Boston Edison to
cease putting in any more lights until the town could decide what it wanted
in outdoor lights.  A "Lighting Options Committee" (LOC) was thus formed to look
into the matter and report back to the town with solid advice.  But this
committee dragged its feet for several years, and in 1994 persuaded the town to
spend a rather considerable sum of money to have Ripman Lighting Consultants
come in and act as a mediator between the town and Boston Edison.  Christopher
H. Ripman of Belmont (MA) managed to get Boston Edison to agree to put in 50
test streetlights in the Town of Lexington, so that residents could view them
and vote on what they preferred --- in terms of fixtures, lamps, and
lumen-output.  By 1995, some 75 test lights were actually installed, but a
series of very poor (unreadable) maps was produced by Ripman, and many of the
lights were not installed as labelled on the maps (meaning that numerous lamps
had different fixtures, lamp-types, and/or wattages than was given in the
literature from Ripman).
     Ripman wrote a 2-page report (with photographs) on this project in the
February 1995 issue of Architectural Record Lighting (page 14) under the title
"New Concepts in Street Lighting".  In this article, Ripman gives some
interesting (undocumented) historical information on the evolution of the HPS
luminaire as "the de facto utility-company standard for street lighting".  The
conversion from MV to the much-more-energy-efficient HPS lighting in recent
years accompanied the realization that the intensity of HPS lamps being put
out --- undoubtedly by power companies who wanted to retain the same wattages
as the old MV lamps, thereby putting 2 to 6 times more light into the
environment! --- was too intense for the conventional dropdish fixtures that
are so prevalent with MV streetlights:  "Research revealed that people could
see a uniformly lit pavement surface better if the light source were shielded
from view, minimizing direct glare."  Ripman goes on to present his (biased,
perhaps non-representative) view of the Lexington situation:  "Dropped-dish
cobraheads create unacceptable glare; flat-lens cobraheads create bright
pools of light and almost total darkness between fixtures, especially when
bracket-mounted low onto wooden utility poles.  The source is completely
invisible beyond the cutoff angle of the luminaire.  It is no surprise that
people in communities besides Lexington have vigorously opposed the change
to high-pressure sodium cobraheads."  He goes on to add from "research" that
"gas and incandescent luminaires, though not as bright [as HPS and MV
full-cutoff luminaires], were visible from far away, and gave people a sense
of the light and awareness of the source.  It was seen as safe, friendly, and
adequate, despite very low average and maximum light levels, and poor
uniformity."  [In 1993, Ripman had proposed replacing 87-watt (1000-lumen) and
176-watt (2500-lumen) incandescent and 100-watt (3500-lumen) MV lamps on
residential streets with 35-watt (2150-lumen) and 50-watt (4000-lumen) HPS
luminaires, as well as 28-watt (1600-lumen) compact fluorescent luminaires.
For so-called "collector streets" (slightly higher volumes of traffic), he
proposed replacing 376-watt (6000-lumen) and 577-watt (10,000-lumen)
incandenscent and 213-watt (7000-lumen) and 250-watt (11,000-lumen) MV lamps
with 100-watt (9500- and 7300-lumen) HPS and 100-watt (8500-lumen) metal-halide
lamps.  On "arterial streets", the recommendation was to convert 400-watt
(20,000-lumen) and 700-watt (35,000-lumen) MV luminaires with 250-watt (25,000-
and 22,500-lumen) HPS and 250-watt (19,500-lumen) metal-halide lamps.  The
proposed conversion numbers were 59 luminaires on arterial streets, 521 on
collector streets, and 2499 on residential streets.]
     Eventually, a 10-page "Lexington Street Lighting Demonstration Project
-- Preference Survey" was produced, 8 pages of which include the same poor maps
with "Pole Numbers" denoting the test sites (with the main project streets
inked in to be a bit more legible).  A sample page is produced here.  Note
that the residents were assumed to be too ignorant to comprehend fixture type,
lamp type and wattage, and lumen output --- which was very unfortunate, because
all this is part of the education process in outdoor lighting!  Residents were
merely asked to rate each lamp on how pleasant, safe, adequate, glare-free, and
uniform is the light from each fixture, and also how good the color rendition is
perceived to be; an overall rating of "overlit", "just right", or "underlit" was
also given.
     Following is some text from the first page of the survey:  "Thank you
for participating in a study which will have a SIGNIFICANT impact on the
quality of our Town's environment at night! . . . The performance of the
approximately 75 streetlights being tested will be followed for one year
[this was evidently extended to two years or more].  Those judged most
desirable in terms of the criteria listed below and service life will be
submitted to Boston Edison.  Boston Edison will provide rates on these
fixture to the Town and, based on these rates, the Town will make a final
selection of fixtures.  Boston Edison will then replace all light fixtures
in the Town, with the exception of a few special fixtures."
     Also provided here are three pages giving the (internal) list of fixtures
in the Lexington survey, to give you an idea of the different types of lighting
included in this survey.  The LOC members (not including myself, who favors
low-wattage LPS or metal-halide) have leaned towards a standard full-cutoff,
compact-fluorescent luminaire for the Town of Lexington, even though
fluorescent fixtures are more variable with cold temperatures than other
types of discharge lamps.  The test luminaires were put in place by Boston
Edison in 1995, and some 60 or 70 total test lamps were erected.  While the LOC
has stressed the color-rendition issue much more than the full-cutoff issue,
I am happy to report that full-cutoff fixtures will be the standard, regardless
of the lamp-type.  Also, upon request, I was asked some months ago to produce
a draft of an outdoor-lighting ordinance for possible adoption at the Town
Meeting in Lexington next spring, and in September I produced such a 5-page
draft for the Planning Board and the Town Public Works Manager, modelled after
the ordinances in place in Tucson (AZ) and Kennebunkport (ME).  This draft is
available at the NELPAG Website, for potential use by other cities and towns
in the USA, and a copy was given to a Planning Board member for the Town of
Concord (MA), who may seek to introduce a similar ordinance in that town just
west of Lexington.
     Lexington is like many other cities and towns across America, in which
town laws and by-laws contain brief, often-ambiguous and sometimes-unenforceable
controls on outdoor lighting.  For example, "excessive" levels "of illumination,
glare" need special permits (section 3.3.2.e.1; prohibited in commercial or
residential areas are anything that would create "danger of . . . glare,
excessively bright or flashing lights" (4.18.2); swimming pools and tennis
courts with nighttime illumination "shall be installed in such a way so as not
to shine directly into nearby housing" (5.7.1); to "separate" adjacent properties
"in order to partially or completely reduce potential nuisances such as . . .
the intrusion from artificial light include the ambient glow therefrom"
(10.1.1.b); off-street parking shall have "all artificial lighting . . . so
arranged that all direct rays from such lighting fall entirely within the
parking or loading area and shall be shielded so as not to shine upon abutting
properties or streets" and "the level of illumination of lighting for parking
and loading areas shall be low so as to reduce the glow of ambient lighting
perceptible at nearby properties or streets" (11.6.6.d.); and "no sign shall
be illuminated between the hours of 12:00 midnight and 6:00 a.m. . . . Exterior
illumination of signs shall be shielded, directed solely at the sign, and be
steady and stationary. . . . The illumination of any sign shall not exceed
150 foot lamberts" (13.2.5).  These are all spread in various parts of the
laws of Lexington, and the intention is to place this and much more, in more
precise wording, in a single ordinance.  Lexington's prior controls were perhaps
better than that in most towns and cities.
     Completely separate from these developments was what happened a year and
a half ago at Lexington's Town Meeting, when it was announced that the town
budget had a $180,000 budget deficit for the year.  After heated discussion
as to whether schools or the fire department would have their budgets cut, the
Public Works Manager, George Woodbury, suggested to the Town Meeting members
that turning off every other streetlight in Lexington would save as much as
a quarter of a million dollars per year.  At this point, I was called in to
speak to the Town Meeting on various issues, including safety and crime, and
I told them that numerous other towns in Massachusetts have turned off their
lights with no increase in crime or traffic accidents.  After this, the Town
Meeting voted to accept Woodbury's proposal, and in the fall of 1996, nearly
half of the lights were turned off.  Due to numerous complaints by a small
minority of town residents, Woodbury ended up with a net turn-off of 1300
streetlights.  Due to turn-off charges by Boston Edison (and contested by the
Town), the first year had only $92,000 in savings.  But this second year of
the turn-off is netting around $200,000 in savings to the Town of Lexington.
After an initial period of several months of heavy complaining by a minority
of residents, the complaints have dropped to a very minimal level.  This is
in line with the findings of other locales that have either turned off lights
or converted from dropdish to full-cutoff lighting:  a drop in the actual
amount of glare is perceived as bad, but people eventually become "familiar"
and even happy with lower lighting levels.  The problem is that society has
allowed both the urban and rural environments worldwide to become so overlit
in the past few decades (a veritable "cash cow" for power-utility companies!)
that people expect more lighting than they used to expect.  When lower, less
glary levels of lighting are produced, people adapt and actually prefer the
improved outdoor lighting.  We all win.
     But for a few months, the weekly Lexington Minuteman newspaper carried
several letters in each issue, mostly complaining about the light turnoff.  The
letters were mostly over-emotional, with little credible facts to back up their
anger and frustration, but such people certainly need to be addressed by a
group such as ours that is concerned with the overlit world.  Even the little
old lady who wrote to say that she could no longer see her driveway at night
when she drove home because the streetlight in front of her house had been
turned off --- despite the fact that it could be questioned if she should be
driving if her car headlights don't illuminate her driveway! --- must be
carefully addressed.  It's harder to address the couple that wrote to say that
they moved to Lexington largely because of the streetlights!  Public Works
Manager wrote an Op-Ed article in the Lexington Minuteman, in response to the
numerous complaints, that the Town is not legally responsible for a single
streetlight (a fact!), and that if somebody wants a light in front of their
house that badly, they should pay for its annual electrical and maintainance
charges themselves!  To his credit, he gave in on some of the more obnoxious
complainers and turned back on their streetlights, so that the complaining
about the turn-off virtually died with a full 1300 streetlights (out of 3600)
still off.
     Boston Edison has been over-charging Lexington for streetlights, to the
tune of some $400,000 per year.  Woodbury is working to get all of the Town's
streetlights converted from Boston Edison ownership to Town ownership, and he
figures that he could operate all 3600 Town streetlights with full-cutoff lamps
for $400,000 less per year than Boston Edison was charging ($85,000 in annual
electricity costs and $35,000-$40,000 in maintainance costs).
     I will keep the world informed of Lexington developments through these
Circulars.  Its experiences are certainly of concern and great interest to
communities throughout this country and even the world.  -- D.W.E.G.

Enclosures (with printed copy only):  three pages from the Lexington public
survey on the test outdoor lights; and three pages listing the individual test
lamps on the project by location, type of luminaire, and lamp type.

The NELPAG supports the International Dark-Sky Association and recommends
that all individuals/groups who are interested in the problems of light
pollution and obtrusive lighting should subscribe to the IDA Newsletter
(IDA membership costs $20.00 per year; send check to
International Dark-Sky Association, 3545 N. Stewart, Tucson, AZ  85716).