Newburyport–Turning Off Street Lights

Yesterday I did some research on turning off street lights. What I found is that towns and cities all over America and in Europe are turning off street lights to save money. Sometimes environmental issues are sited, as in Newburyport’s proposal, often it seems citizens are given a choice between turning off street lights and higher taxes.

I had a long and constructive correspondence and conversation with one of Newburyport’s Energy Advisory Committee (EAC). They graciously emailed me a copy of the lights that are proposed to be shut off in Newburyport, MA (it is public record).

The complete Excel data sheet can be downloaded here.

A shorter version (shortened by me) of the Excel data sheet, that is easier to read and has basic information, can be downloaded here.

Seeing the list, which is extensive, my reaction was one of shock. Basically Newburyport’s neighborhoods would be dark.

When I called the member of the EAC, my concern to them was that when people understood the extent of the proposal, the reaction could be so strong and visceral, an instinct to protect family and property, that a constructive dialogue might not be possible. That the whole process could turn into a destructive experience, not unlike many in Newburyport that I have seen. They understood and agreed, and for that I give them a great deal of credit.

The criteria for keeping street lights on are 1) marked crosswalks (not places where streets intersect and people cross the street), actual painted lines, 2) Busy areas, 3) Speed limit over 30 mph, 4) Dangerous conditions (how this criteria was defined, I forgot to ask, from my experience, unfortunately, a great deal of Newburyport’s sidewalks are hazards). At the end of the data sheet you will see those 4 criteria and then a “Y” (yes, shut off) or a “N” (not shut off). The list of streets and some addresses are at the beginning of the data sheet.

As I understand it, the EAC has been working on this proposal to turn off Newburyport’s street lights for a year, working with volunteers, including Newburyport High School’s Environmental Club. My understanding is that this list is still a work in progress.