Ever since moving to Evanston 20 years ago, I have wondered why the residential streets are so dark.
It became apparent that the Tallmadge light poles and fixtures are woefully inadequate and their light output is minimal. These beloved fixtures were installed in the early 1900s and have become a legend in the mind of many Evanstonians, even though their ability to light our streets has been reduced by the growth of our trees and the inherent lack of light output based on the light sources available years ago.
Because the light fixtures are generally located on the parkways, as are the trees, as the years go by and the trees continue to grow many of the fixtures can be seen, especially in the spring and summer when the trees leaf out, to be completely enveloped by the tree canopy. The fixtures are rendered useless for lighting the surrounding streets and sidewalks, which they are supposed to do, but are doing a great job of lighting the tree canopy instead.
There have been attempts in recent years to increase the light output by installing higher output light sources, but the constraints of the old fixtures don’t seem to allow for improvement of the situation. That the fixtures are ineffective is obvious to anyone who drives down our streets. Our sidewalks are completely dark or minimally lit, and with fixtures almost a half block apart on each side of the street, the situation is totally irresponsible and potentially dangerous.
As crime reportedly increases throughout the city, and with increasing thefts of catalytic converters on darkened streets, it’s time the city started thinking that the current fixtures are no longer useful and to start a program of replacement with good-looking fixtures which use the high-efficiency light sources which are available today.
We see these fixtures on other streets in parts of Evanston, such as the main streets, and in other communities around Evanston. Knowing that such a replacement program is expensive, are there not state and federal grants that could help in the planning process for such a program?
Crime and/or safety will not wait for Evanston to act, or for the summer leaves to fall. At the very least, it is time to start discussing this problem and attempting to correct it.
Increased lighting equalling improved safety is a fallacy. Rather, Evanston would benefit from more police presence, increased speed enforcement and improved pedestrian crossings.
Evanston’s lights are for pedestrians on the sidewalks. The streets are lit by the much-too-bright headlights of new cars. No streetlight can compete!
Brighter street lights are only a placebo of perceived safety and provide no real benefit.
As a driver, I have been frustrated for years over how inadequate the Evanston street lights are. The light they produce does not adequately reach the sidewalks- they mainly illuminate the trees. They don’t need to be brighter, the light mainly needs to be directed downwards to where we actually need it. I need to see pedestrians at night, not leaves!
I love the look of the old ones. The one close to my house is plenty bright as it shines in my window all night. Maybe more patrolling is a better solution.
My neighbor had a street light installed in our ally. One of the yellow mercury vapor lamps .. very industrial.
I used to be able to see stars from my back yard. Now we just block the windows and avoid using the yard at night.
Thieves and vandals have made use of that light to tag my neighbor’s garage and to also burglarize it.
I personally like the street lights described in this article. They are charming. We turn on a light if we think we need more.
Safety is not enhanced by additional light, especially if that light creates glare or contrasting areas of darkness. The Tallmadge fixtures actually do suffer from this problem since they send light outward and upward. Where down lights have been installed, like in several parks and the lakefront, visibility is enhanced and wildlife and the night sky somewhat protected from too much light at night. We don’t need more light, but we could use better control as to where the light goes. Brighter lights are not welcome and not a solution.
Evanston’s charm is enhanced by those lights. They are historic. Nobody wants bright lights glaring into their bedroom windows at night.
The Tallmadge lights were replaced with new lights that are identical to the old ones. They were replaced in the 1970’s or 1980’s.
These fixtures were replaced with updated designs years ago. I think they are wonderful. Nighttime is natural and should be respected. The lights are there so you can see the sidewalk, not to fight crime, and not to replace the sun. People move to Evanston because of how it feels. There are plenty of places to live where sodium vapor replaces the night sky. Evanston is a place to still see stars. Doors and windows have locks. Cars have alarms. We should not obliterate the night sky as another victim of crime.
Completely disagree. Several years back the city changed out lights within our neighborhood using LED bulbs retrofitted for our Talmidge lampposts. Today our quiet street is lit up like a stadium and the light pouring through our windows is overbearing. We should get back to lower lighting and less of it so the charm of living here can be sustained. What you propose is going to make us look like Skokie, which takes aesthetics as an afterthought. Bad for animals and humans alike. We live here for the character and charm that our history provides. The value of our properties relies on it.
As to Mr Goldberg’s idea: let’s look south to the city of Chicago: very bright streetlights throughout the city; and the crime rate?
This problem is solvable if the street trees are limbed up to greater than 12′. We have a recent fondness for allowing trees to branch just above head height. Street trees are blocking the Talmadge fixtures…the problem isn’t the Talmadge fixtures themselves.
It’s interesting to me that blocks occupied by expensive homes seem to have much better street lighting than blocks on which smaller , multi- family homes stand. Evanston’s “wokeness” needs a wake-up call. The street I live on is pitch black at night, not to mention the city’s negligence in tending to our old and lovely trees , two of which have to be removed . Had the city taken the time to prune them , this wouldn’t have to happen. I hate to say this but there seems to a clear demarcation between what parts of Evanston get tended to and what parts don’t.
Be careful what you wish for. We could end up with those horrific orange low-pressure sodium vapor lights, or excessively bright LED lights, making Evanston look more like Chicago than a North Shore suburb. I hope nobody wants that.
I agree that Evanston’s current Tallmadge light fixtures aren’t optimal. However, I’d exercise caution before concluding that brighter lighting will solve all our problems.
Studies have shown, at best, mixed findings on whether brighter lighting actually reduces crime. See for example this study on increased alley lighting in Chicago: https://www.darksky.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Chicago-Alley-Lighting-Project.pdf.
Evanston’s current light fixtures are historic and give Evanston streets a classy look. However, the author and commenters are right that they are too tall to be effective. They cast a white light that is cold and artificial, causes glare, worsens light pollution so that we can no longer see the stars, and yet they simultaneously aren’t effective in terms of safety because the post is too tall and the light gets caught in the tree canopy instead of lighting the sidewalk.
However, it’d be a huge miss to replace our fixtures with Chicago style urban streetlights that cast our streets in a blinding orange glare or artificial white light. There is a beauty to Evanston streets and the existing Tallmadge lamps that would be lost if we just optimize only for maximum lighting. While Wilmette’s street lamps aren’t perfect either, the light they give is warmer and inviting instead of cold and sterile like Evanston, and Wilmette lamps are much closer to the ground.
I’d also suggest that, if crime such as catalytic converter theft is indeed a concern, that we focus on solutions that more directly impact crime.
I’d also suggest anyone interested in the night sky (and balancing safety with enjoyment of the evening skies) to read Paul Bogard’s book, The End of Night: Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light.
Some things come full-circle in a generation or so. New ways to light the streets were in the news soon after I first arrived in 1969. City Hall wisely rejected the horrid yellow sodium lamps then invading the region, and a sorta-white that made red objects look black. The Tallmadges got a new lease but still put rather little light where it is needed. The expensive topic has resurfaced again since I returned in 2002. Next…?
I love the old Talmadge lights, but they are certainly inadequate. Every time the City of Evanston has tried to upgrade them, preservationists have objected, so please don’t blame city staff for this longtime struggle. Also, in the interest of our natural world, too much lighting is terrible for bird and insect populations and I hope we’ll eventually be able to balance those competing interests from both environmental and human safety perspectives. I agree with other posters here that more lighting does not necessarily prevent crime. And I don’t think it’s all that terrible that sometimes one might need to use a flashlight when out walking in the dark. I grew up here and have great affection for Evanston’s quirkiness. I wish more people could appreciate what we do have, which is a beautiful old city and an engaged residential population that cares deeply about its challenges and prospects.
Why not have a sensor that would go on when someone comes into the pass of a light? This way Would be more environmental and also there are smart lights The last a lot longer like 30 years
NOW THIS IS A GREAT IDEA!! We have motion lights on our garage and they are very handy. They give us light when we need it but safe energy and reduce light pollution when we don’t. The city should implement this with lights that actually light up the ground so people can see where they are going. They could even just add the to the lights in place which provide a pleasant glow in the evenings but definitely are not sufficient for safe walking.
One vote here against brighter street lights on my street. I’d prefer less.
And as others have said, there’s not much evidence street lights make anyone safer.
Best idea yet. We operate over100 large warehouses across the US and motion detection lighting in our facilities have saved us substantial sums over a very short period of time.
Wilmette has the same lights with no problems. The lights aren’t making anything unsafe.
I don’t know much about lighting as some posting here claim to, but I have to agree the street lamps that dot Evanston’s residential streets are almost useless as light sources. I see them as having decorative value only. If I have to walk after dark, I take a flashlight or use the light on my phone so that I can see what’s on the ground in front of me. A trip on an uneven sidewalk slab or an unexpected step is not something us over-60 folks need.
Barry is spot on.
Perhaps the city council can start managing the city and improving its failing infrastructure instead of building homeless shelters, paying universal basic income, and passing regulations that drive businesses to Wilmette and Skokie.
What the city council is doing to Evanston is borderline municipal malpractice.
Luke Stowe is a capable city manager but he is obfuscating his civil duties – just check the city code – by allowing the mayor, and his handpicked alder-people, to use Evanston as a petri dish to grow bacterial social programs while ignoring the basics of running a city.
It is way past time to get back to basics. It’s time to save Evanston!
Is crime higher here than, say, Oak Park? More stolen converters? At the very least any increased lighting should have motion sensors. The wrong spectrum LED lighting and too much light pollution has impact on people, insects etc. Before lighting is changed it needs to be done carefully on an as really needed basis. https://physicsworld.com/a/led-streetlights-are-increasing-blue-light-pollution-in-europe/
Let’s put it this way – when I have to use a flashlight to navigate many city streets at night, there is an *absolute* need for better/brighter lighting. I’m a senior, and navigating these streets at night is a fraught and hazardous experience… it’s like we are living in 1880, before electric streetlights were introduced.
Gregory Morrow – Evanston 4th Ward resident
U need to get the facts. The lamps were upgraded some time in the 70s. If light, big bright lamps were a solution to crime, that would mean the city of Chicago would be one of the safest.
It’s not so much the output, but the way the light ‘falls’. Doesn’t matter how bright you make them, if the light doesn’t increase visibility at night, it’s just light pollution. The design of the old lights do nothing but create hotspots in your vision, reducing the night vision you need to see into shadows caused by the angle of these lamp posts.