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The new pedestrian lights installed along Church Street downtown came under attack from some aldermen Tuesday night as the Evanston City Council debated whether to expand the lighting project to Davis Street.

“I think they add to street clutter, when we’re trying to remove that,” said Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward. “And as lights, they’re inadequate, not bright enough so that people can really see the sidewalk.”

“The light seems to be wasted within the structure of the fixture itself,” Wynne added.

Alderman Mark Tendam, 6th Ward, said he agreed with Wynne about the clutter issue.

But Tendam, a professional designer, said the look of the lights doesn’t fit the neighborhood.

“The design references are to an Art Deco period, Tendam said, “which is kind of inappropriate given the character of the streets.”

He added that some people interpret the lights as looking very modern — in a George Jetson sort of way.

“On Church Street where there’s more contemporary architecture,” Tendam suggested, the design doesn’t look too out of place, “but this style of street furniture on Davis, or in other neighborhoods where we have more traditional architecture, will look very foreign.”

Public Works Director Suzette Robinson, questionned by Wynne, said the 118 lights installed on Church Street cost about $2,100 each, including wiring and installation.

Wynne suggested that the roughly quarter-million-dollar cost could easily be dropped from the project on Davis.

But Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, defended the concept of added pedestrian lighting, if not the particular fixtures used.

“We’re trying to get people to feel safe to park in our garages and spend a little time walking around downtown in the evening and also trying to create a safe route to campus, to make NU students feel less isolated going back to campus from downtown,” Fiske said.

“Everyone from students to seniors really appreciates the added light,” Fiske said. “For the most part it does what was intendeed — to light the walkways and create a nicer ambiance.”

“I’ve had a lot of positive feedback about them,” Fiske said. “I agree with the street clutter argument. We were looking at getting rid of the parking meters, but my guess is we will end up with parking meters downtown. But I do think the street lighting is very helpful in helping people feel safer.”

The aldermen voted to hold off on approving the pedestrian lighting and other “street furniture” aspects of the Davis Street repaving project until city staff comes back with additional options for what fixtures to use.

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Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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11 Comments

  1. Council knew about the design before implementation

    It is weird to hear all of these critiques from council about the street lighting since they approved the exact same design elements over a year ago.

  2. Stop wasting our money

    One hundred eighteen lights at $2100 each?  Shame on you, Evanston City Council.  

  3. Lights in Evanston

    The lights look fine, but expensive. I agree putting higher wattage in the street lights would've been nice. I think the green bike path should've been questioned.

    1. Don’t increase the brightness of the Tallmadge Lights

      The Tallmadge street light fixtures are already way too bright for the fixture design.  The Tallmadge lights were designed at a time when light bulbs were dim and most likely incandescent.  They look ridiculous now that Evanston has bumped up the brightness and are totally inefficient with regard to where the light shines (out and not down). If we need more lighting on streets, the street lights need to be replaced with ones that face downward,  not outward.  It is a shame that we own so many of these Tallmadge lights which were once beautiful, but have now become inappropriate for the current technology.

      What is the point of these expensive pedestrian scaled fixtures where there is already plenty of light?  The lights are a nice design and I think would look very nice if used where some more light is necessary.  The amount of light in the downtown area is already more than enough.   Just look at the EvanstonNow photo that accompanies this article.  I agree with the post that said this is a shameful waste of money – but only because we just don't need lights where these have been installed.  I guess they are trying to compensate for the Tallmadge fixtures (designed probably in the 1920’s for incandescent bulbs) that don't shine the light on the sidewalks and streets where is it needed.  Yes, what a colossal waste of money!

      1. So those are lights?

        I had no idea that those were lights—I just thought they were another way the 'artsy' people thought of to spend taxpayer money.   Like most people I don't go downtown when it is dark so I never saw them cast light—the downtown area at night is mostly for people coming out of the theaters and ETHS/NU students out for fast food.

        As far as.generally lighting, Evanston is woefully underlit.  I'm surprised the city or 'artsy' supporters have not been sued for maintaining such poor dim lighting.  When substantial blocks [e.g. 7 by 7 blocks] have lost their night lighting even for several day [I report this and am told I'm the first to even hours after], I find if I mention it to people on the streets they did not know the lights were out—even pointing this out to policemen out in their cars, they did not notice.  The lighting is so poor people can't tell the difference between them being on or off.

        1. Downtown Evanston is brightly lit without these new lights

          Downtown Evanston is very brightly lit and these new pedestrian fixtures are not needed for additional light.  As the poster above admitted, they don't go downtown at night much. 

  4. More waste

    These lights are a waste of taxpayers money. In an era of budget deficits, high unemployement and staggering financial insecurity, spending $2100 each on these lights is unconscionable.

    If the city council really wants to encourage people to spend time downtown, it should ease up on the predatory parking practices.

    The reason I avoid going to that part of Evanston has nothing to do with lighting or bike lanes or how cluttered the sidewalk is and has everything to do with the fact that I feel gouged and hunted in that area.

    1. What are “predatory parking practices”?

      I am not sure what you mean by "predatory parking practices," but if you are talking about the risk of getting a ticket there is a simple solution: park in one of the many conveniently-located city-owned garages.  They are never close to capacity, allow you to park for free for an hour, and you will never be at risk for getting a ticket.

    2. Install more lights, please

      "These lights are a waste of taxpayers money. In an era of budget deficits, high unemployement and staggering financial insecurity, spending $2100 each on these lights is unconscionable."

      In an era of high unemployment, it is unconscionable for governments to cut back on spending.  Austerity doesn't work – as we see in Europe, it only makes the economic problem worse.

      I propose that we hire people to install more of these lights on every street in Evanston.   Then if people don't like them, we could hire people to remove each one of the lights.

      1. Sounds like FDR

        The comment about spending for the sake of spending sounds like FDR's plan to have people dig holes, pay them, then have them fill the hold and pay them for that.

        No wonder our governments go broke!

  5. Pay attention to what you approve

    The City Council should have seen what these looked like and the light they'd give off before they were approved.

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