Boston trials LED street lights on the Common

Nov. 26, 2009
A test installation of acorn-style LED streetlights will enable the evaluation of energy usage and aesthetic impacts.
The use of LED lighting for public spaces, sidewalks and roadways is being explored in Boston, Massachusetts, through the installation of a demonstration project on Boston Common, with others proposed across the City. This is part of Mayor Thomas Menino's efforts to "green" Boston.

By trying out LED lighting in these demonstration projects and soliciting comments (which can be submitted via, the City will be better able to evaluate the technology as well as its aesthetic impacts.

The City recently installed LED lights along the “Mayor’s Walk” as part of an effort to showcase the technology and solicit community input. The temporary installation features “acorn” style streetlamps, three each from six different manufacturers.

Mayor Menino also announced that the City has joined the national LED City program, an international initiative to deploy and promote energy-efficient LED lighting.

“This is another great example of our boundless creativity in using new, innovative and cutting-edge technology to stretch the dollar of Boston’s residents while helping to preserve our beautiful environment,” said Mayor Menino. “Programs like this one continue to make Boston one of the country’s leaders in the use of green technology.”

The six different styles of “acorn” fixtures were provided by Lumec Lighting, Hadco Lighting, Sternberg Lighting, Osram Sylvania, King Luminaire and Spring City Electrical and will be in place through the end of the year. The City is in the process of identifying sites for temporary installation of “cobra head” style streetlights.

Boston operates and maintains more than 67,000 streetlights throughout the City. Much of that light is reflected upward and not directed toward the ground. LED lighting can be “aimed” so as to reduce spillover onto buildings and light pollution into the night sky. Light pollution shines into homes, makes enjoying the stars, planets and astronomical events more difficult and has been shown to disorient migrating birds and waterfowl.

“We’re really pleased that LED technology has been coming down in price and going up in terms of quality and the range of applications,” said Bryan Glascock, Commissioner of the Boston Environment Department. “In the coming months we’ll be working with the City’s Street Lighting Division to find more opportunities to try out LED technology in our neighborhoods.”

Boston’s streetlights generate 24,000 tons of carbon (eCO2) emissions annually, which accounts for about 8% of all municipal emissions. Conversion to LED technology would reduce that by about half. In a program begun nearly ten years ago by the Boston Transportation Department, more than 11,000 traffic signals and 1,800 pedestrian crossing lights were gradually replaced with LEDs. As a result, the City saved nearly $400,000 annually in energy costs. LED traffic signals have also been shown to be more effective as the multiple elements won’t burn out all at once and the light is brighter and more intense, getting the driver’s attention more quickly.

“Once again, Boston is demonstrating how advanced technology can improve service quality, reduce operating costs, and protect our environment,” said Jim Hunt, Chief of Environment and Energy for the City of Boston. “Deploying this type of innovative technology further enhances Boston’s reputation as one of the greenest cities in America.”