Burnout backlog: Thousands of street lights await repair

If a street light’s burned out on your block, go ahead and report it, but don’t expect it to get fixed fast. We’ve just learned there’s a big backlog of burned-out lights: 3,500 of Seattle City Light‘s street lights are awaiting repair. We got the tip from a White Center resident (City Light’s territory stretches south of the city limits) who said he’d called to report a burned-out light in his area and was told it could be six weeks. City Light’s Mike Eagan confirms that’s true: “There are many more trouble streetlights reported this time of year and the current estimated turn-around time for repair is 32 working days.” He says SCL replaces 21,000 street lights every year (that’s a fourth of the city’s 84,000 lights). The long wait time is a big change from what Eagan reported at local meetings we covered last year (including this one in July), when he said it was down to a matter of days. But he also tells WSB that one particularly dark stretch of West Seattle street that had been the source of many complaints — Delridge near Trenton — now has the lights back on. To report a burned-out light, use this online form or call 206-684-7056.

29 Replies to "Burnout backlog: Thousands of street lights await repair"

  • rbj February 23, 2009 (12:04 pm)

    Wouldn’t it be better if we just let the lights stay dead? conserve energy and all of that…

  • CM February 23, 2009 (12:09 pm)

    “…current estimated turn-around time for repair is 32 working days.”

    Right. I reported the one across the street from me on 11/10. I recently asked about it again and was told “there is no power to that pole.” Interestingly enough, that pole not only has a transformer on it, but feeds my house and my neighbor’s.

    There’s been a couple car prowls on this block lately also, since it’s the only light. It really does make a difference.

  • shadowpilot February 23, 2009 (12:16 pm)

    I reported a light out last November. When I called the end of January because it was still out, they said an outside contractor was going to be replacing the lights in my area and they had no idea what their schedule looked like. Has anyone else been told this?

    I am all about saving energy. But living near a park it becomes a safety issue with illegal activities happening in the “dark areas”.

  • brandon February 23, 2009 (1:05 pm)

    Is a four year lifespan reasonable for these lights? You’d think they could get longer lasting, energy efficient bulbs and cut down on the maintenance.

  • Leiwo February 23, 2009 (1:17 pm)

    Nobody wants to pay taxes, here you go…

  • OP February 23, 2009 (1:25 pm)

    Is a four year lifespan reasonable for these lights? You’d think they could get longer lasting, energy efficient bulbs and cut down on the maintenance.

    We could use plutonium. Half-life is about 5,000 years. Weird green-ish glow, though. Hard to harness in such a small space. Pesky affect on humans, too.

  • brandon February 23, 2009 (1:58 pm)

    OK, maybe 18000 hours was pushing it (12hr x 365 x 4):)
    Sounds like the Golden Gate, paint from one end, start over when finished.

  • p February 23, 2009 (2:21 pm)

    for the white center person, if you get a sewer bill from SW Suburban Sewer District, call them to report the pole number. I live in their district and reported 5 on my block and a week later City Light was out and repaired the lights. They even told me to call them instead of City Light.

  • Save Our Streets Seattle February 23, 2009 (2:44 pm)

    Ahhh, another perfect example of Seattle City Government’s unbelievable inability to actually run a city efficiently. I live on a block with “high drug activity” and when one of our street lights goes out, the dealers come out. A dark block is a safe block for drug dealers, car prowlers, and burglars. Seattle is so myopic! Its not JUST about street light bulbs! It’s about the value of a lit street light versus a dark one. When street lights are out traffic collisions increase, crime increases, and the city just looks even more run down than it is. If Seattle were a house on the market, it wouldn’t sell. It’s a rundown, dirty fixer-upper that only a handful of non-profit groups are actually doing anything to IMPROVE. IMPROVE, Nickels, that should be your goal, not to just barely get by.

  • Save Our Streets Seattle February 23, 2009 (2:47 pm)

    P.S. – The online form seems to have gotten my block quicker results especially if you can send an email to your entire block watch and have them ALL submit an online request form. 4-5 requests on the same pole seems to get the trucks out quicker. Also, I don’t know if it helps, but we do identify our block as one with severe crime problems and indicate that lit lights are really our life ring.

  • Hugh Coleman February 23, 2009 (3:18 pm)

    Electric street lights replaced their classy cousin the gaslights so power generators could drink coffee at night without a lot of concern about the load. It even got so far electrical engineers were touting the idea you cannot save electricity, well maybe not but energy is easy to save, all you have to do is lift something. Had FDR any idea of power basics we would not currently have many of our challenges.

  • AJP February 23, 2009 (3:43 pm)

    I’ve heard that complaints are always up in the winter, because it gets darker earlier and people notice it more. So more workload in the winter.

  • Another Michael February 23, 2009 (4:20 pm)

    In our part of Capitol Hill the streetlights are being replaced with newer blue lights. I suppose they are more energy efficient. Plus more dark-sky friendly. At least we can see a starry night better now.

  • Save Our Streets Seattle February 23, 2009 (4:34 pm)

    Hey! Another Michael, I saw some of those cool, fancy new street lights. They seem VERY bright but without being obnoxious. Does the “new” blue color throw you off at all? I wonder how we can get some of those brighter lights out here in da hood.

  • jw February 23, 2009 (5:44 pm)

    Kids shoot out the lights with bb guns that could get in the way of their crimes. If your lamp constantly needs replacement, this was the case when I was younger.

  • tito February 23, 2009 (7:28 pm)

    Last weekend I climbed up and changed one of the lights myself. Easy to do, the city should let the citizens take care of it.

  • GreenSpaces February 24, 2009 (7:26 am)

    One of my neighbors went around the entire neighborhood and made a list of probably over 20 lights not working and sent that in 0 in October. I think the HOA manager is also bird-dogging this. Still not fixed…

  • tito February 24, 2009 (7:40 am)

    If you get me the lights I will change them myself.

  • Mike Eagan February 24, 2009 (11:43 am)

    DO NOT ATTEMPT TO CHANGE A STREETLIGHT YOURSELF! To tito and anyone else considering it, it is very dangerous and a foolish thing to try. You are climbing up into an area with thousands of volts of electricity, more than enough to kill you. Having to wait for streetlights to be repaired can obviously be frustrating, but please don’t put yourself in such jeopardy and don’t let anyone else you care about do it either.

  • Light = Public Safety February 24, 2009 (12:14 pm)

    Mike Eagan –

    Why is it that every year it is the same outage and perennially lackadaisical replacement? It is the ONLY time during the year that city drivers and neighborhoods really NEED the light TO BE SAFE.

    City Light knows the demand for light increases during the winter. How, then, has your organization not anticipated and strategically planned for the revolving seasonal demand? You know, you might have reasons, but there is no excuse. If CL were a private business, they’d be belly up for such poor strategic planning and inefficient supervision.

    The mandate to you is to oversee public safety for neighborhoods and drivers.

    This is not a NEW problem to be trouble-shot every winter. It is the same problem.
    Over and over and over.
    Fail. Fail. Fail.

    Put on your big decider cap, pull out the whip, if you must, but get it done.

    Before MORE monkeys go climbing the poles, don’t you think?

  • Gregory February 24, 2009 (2:09 pm)

    I think we could do with fewer street lights in the city. I’ve been in Seattle more than 20 years, but before moving here, I’d never seen a city with more street lights per mile than Seattle. I mean come on, a street light on almost every pole? People on here are talking like we should light up the night sky as though its daylight! I think Seattle should reduce the number of street lights per mile, helping the back log and reducing wasteful energy comsumption. It’s NIGHT people….

  • Light = Public Safety February 24, 2009 (2:51 pm)

    You probably live in a different neighborhood of West Seattle than I do. Maybe they would, but I would guess few folks would seriously suggest keeping streets dark, if they lived or worked around areas like the ‘hoods I travel through and live in. An area where armed robberies, drive-by shootings, pedestrian assaults and muggings, car vandalism, tire thefts and prowls happen with some regularity. Perhaps I assume too much, that you don’t live in such an area?

    Public safety can not, really, be justifiably compromised in places like that. Aside from the obligation to maintain safe streets, the city’s liability should be obvious, if harm were to come to a citizen in an unlit area.

    And, yes it is night and some folks are out there past sunset, believe it or not. People walk home late from bus stops to their homes, walk their dogs after dinner, ride the bike to the grocery store for milk. The elderly and others drive with impaired night vision and use city streets which the city is absolutely obligated to light.

    That’s all there is too it. Standards of how many lights are needed were established for good reason. Public safety will be at some odds with “energy conservation” just because of the sheer number of bulbs and replacements necessary, but conservation can not be MORE important than the city’s duty to avoid liability and maintain safe streets for those who must use them at night.

  • Seattlefire February 24, 2009 (3:58 pm)

    Gregory, I think that title for most streetlights per mile goes to Chicago. Go to Google Streetview and you will see a ton more per mile than Seattle.

  • tito February 24, 2009 (4:00 pm)

    Thank you for your concern, I was able to get one more changed this morning. I think it would be good to have an active citizens group to tackle these issues around our different neigborhoods.

  • JumboJim February 24, 2009 (5:27 pm)

    Seattle may have more streelights than most cities but that’s because of an American Medical Association mandate that we get a little Vitamin D in winter. Can’t count on the dang sun. If it wasn’t for our nuclear winter (and the last nuclear summer) we wouldn’t need so many lights…

  • Grow up and stop whining February 24, 2009 (8:06 pm)

    “If CL were a private business, they’d be belly up for such poor strategic planning and inefficient supervision.”

    No, if CL were a private business, they’d be belly up because of the artificially low rates they charge due to political influence and public ownership, and you’d be paying about 13 cents a KW hour (or more)

    You want a real electric bill, or a couple of burned out streetlights? It’s your call. I sure don’t see anyone clamoring to pay more.

  • Light = Public Safety February 24, 2009 (9:17 pm)

    Not quite a “couple of lights” people are referring to..1/4 of ALL the cities lights need to be replaced every year(above).

    I drove down Holden a few weeks ago. In a six block area, six lights were out. I stopped counting because I did not have the time to write down all of them.

    The darn bulbs still need to be replaced. Public safety is being compromised. That’s a problem during the winter. They know it. They still can figure it out.

    Too many people around SW Seattle have very eroded, very low expectations for government. I’m not one of them. Where is the accountability? Where is the pride? Where is the sense of duty?

    City Light isn’t doing it’s job very well when I drive and walk on dark roads.

    The problem is not people “whining”. The problem is people giving up on what SHOULD be and what is POSSIBLE.

  • Wrong February 24, 2009 (10:31 pm)

    What part of cheap rates do you not understand?

    You get what you pay for. We have the lowest electrical rates in the nation. That’s not just because we own some dams, it’s because they keep it ARTIFICIALLY LOW to keep getting mayors and council people elected. Anybody remember what happened to “rate hike Heidi”?

    City Light is operated on a shoestring. They have 1960’s infrastructure, and 1970’s technology. Enron knocked them on their ass, and they are just now starting to get back up.

    So again, you can pontificate about “good government” and “expectations”, but the only expectation most CL customers care about is that they will open their bill and see that they don’t have to pay much.

    And if anyone thinks PSE is any better, try living across the lake: Even worse service for twice as much money. The only ones that get it halfway right are the folks at the Snohomish Public Utilities District, and that’s mostly because they don’t have to directly answer to any politicians.

    You want better service? Why don’t you run for City Council on the platform of raising electrical rates?

  • alki_2008 February 25, 2009 (12:54 am)

    After reading some of these comments, then I guess it’s not my imagination that my electric bills are much lower than I had expected. I lived on the Eastside and out-of-state for many years, and my electric bills were a lot higher.
    I wonder if the distribution/spacing of streetlights accounts for an expected percentage of burnt out bulbs? There definitely seem to be some areas where there are more lightpoles than necessary, and other areas where more lightpoles would seem beneficial.

Sorry, comment time is over.