Being of curious mind, I decided to make a visit to the Bureau of Street Lighting Museum in downtown Los Angeles, along with some like-minded girlfriends. To enter the secretly secluded museum, one must show proof of official government identification, acquire a name badge, wait for an escort, proceed up an escalator, walk through office cubicles of people who work for the bureau, and then be led to the locked museum doorway in a long interior office corridor. Once inside, the escort turns on the street lighting displays and the world of nostalgia bursts to life.
The museum is arranged in chronological order with the lighting samples from the beginning of the 1900’s displayed first. My initial thought was how LARGE the lamps appear when you are standing right next to them, versus viewing them from the street or in your vehicle. Secondly, I noticed that I had never really paid much attention to the ornamentation surrounding the lights, such as the lamp poles, finials, and arms.
Los Angeles operates the nation’s second-largest street lighting system: 220,000 street lights, which includes 70,000 decorative street lamps anchored along 4,500 miles of illuminated streets. The museum has only been open 18 months.
I learned that the Bureau of Street Lighting is part of the Community Services division. Therefore, if a light is knocked down by a vehicle, field operations fixes it. Property taxes cover the cost. A wooden or steel pole with a light on it is not under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Street Lighting, but is, in fact, part of the Department of Water and Power lighting division. These poles are temporary and used only during construction.
In 2009, Mayor Villaraigosa, backed by the Clinton Climate Initiative, decided to switch Los Angeles to LED (light-emitting diode) street lighting. To convert a street light to LED, a high voltage series circuit needs to be converted to a low voltage multiple circuit . Approximately 5000 lights can be converted every year. The city uses retrofit kits to keep the older style lamps aesthetically beautiful on the outside but using LED on the inside. So far, 170,000 lights ( of the 220,000 total ) have been converted. Ten million dollars have been saved in electricity costs since 2009. Not only do LED lights last longer and require less maintenance, but they provide better lighting and have lessened crime in our city! From 2009 to 2011, citywide crime statistics show a decline in incidents between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. (vehicle theft: -13.6%; burglary/robbery/theft: -7.82%; and vandalism: -10.9%).
I was glad to see our city leading the way in innovation while still preserving the beauty of the past.
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