Around this time last year, the Indy's Pam Zubeck looked into the positive environmental impact of the city's decision to turn off roughly a third of its 24,512 streetlights.
It equated to a savings of some $1.245 million last year and a reduction of around 8,000 megawatt hours, or about 47 train cars of coal.
There was a brief period in which citizens could petition to keep their neighborhood lights off, which I did by the Feb. 15 deadline. The city sent me an aerial map of my neighborhood, showing which neighbors I had to obtain signatures from. A minimum of two-thirds had to vote yes, to keep the light off, in order for it to remain off.
After finally knocking on everyone's doors at the right hours to catch them at home, I achieved a full 100-percent vote to keep the light off. But that process left me curious about how many other people would be willing to do the same thing.
So I sent some questions to the city traffic engineer, and after a period waiting for a response, I was finally contacted with some data and answers by city PR guy John Leavitt.
Here's what I found out:
I was one of only 13 people thus far to successfully petition to keep a light off.
Four petitions failed, and 22 were not returned by deadline. Of those 22, the city has been able to determine thus far that eight "indicated that they were not going to pursue keeping the light off any further." That said, at best, 14 more lights could remain off.
That leaves some 4,850 lights that are being turned back on — more than half of those initially turned off.
I got the feeling, while trying to catch my neighbors at home over the period of a couple weeks (one gentleman works graveyard shifts and sleeps during the day, for example), that a whole lot more lights would have remained off if people had been asked to petition to turn them on, versus keep them off.
I asked why the process wasn't structured this way, and was told that the streetlight program can't speak for City Council, who assembled the "opt-off" program in this form.
In the end, I find it somewhat sad — no, really sad, actually — that only 13 extra lights (maybe a few more) will remain off in addition to the arterial lights.
At times, I feel like we live in a pretty green city with eco-minded folks, but at other times, such as this, I feel like a lot of our population remains apathetic. Really, this is a pretty easy way to save both energy and money.
My thinking, of course, doesn't account for some people that wanted the lights back on for other reasons, such as the perception that it would increase their safety. But my guess is that folks either didn't know about the "opt-off" program (I did blog information here in early December) or didn't care much.
Anyone out there got an opinion on this? Am I off base (or in the dark in more ways than one)?