COS Pilot Program: Darkened Streets and Useless Data

During last week’s City Council Work Session, Joshua Pace from the City of Colorado Springs Office of Innovation presented information to City Council members about the Smart Street Lights Pilot Program.

The pilot included both street light dimmers and weather sensors.

Had you ever heard of the Smart Street Lights Pilot Program? Neither had we. Mr. Pace’s presentation to council was informative. One important item that was left out: how much were the two pilot programs going to cost taxpayers? We asked the City of Colorado Springs for more details and they quickly sent us this information about the project.

The pilot programs used street light controllers and weather sensors attached to city light poles. Additional Smart Street pilot program expenses are still to come. It’s always easier to spend other people’s money, isn’t it?

Local governments seem to be so awash in our cash, that they sit around dreaming up ideas about how to waste the money.

So, what were these pilot programs about?

Street Light Controller Pilot

There are approximately 27,000 street lights across the City of Colorado Springs. So far, about 18% of the lights have been converted to LED lights in order to save energy. The city’s Office of Innovation aimed to take energy savings a step further, and the pilot was set up with 2 companies— Verizon and Landis+Gyr— to set up 90 of those streetlights on a dimming schedule. You paid those 2 companies a total of $23,803 for the 1-year pilot program just for the lights. The dimming schedules are below.

While we’re in favor of energy savings, there has to be a cost/benefit analysis. The Office of Innovation had not yet done a cost-of-service study to determine direct cost savings, and did not have that information available for the City Council members at last week’s work session. For the pilot, they had 2 dimming schedules set up. The Schedule 1 pilot resulted in a 1% energy savings vs Schedule 2 pilot which resulted in a 3% energy savings. Dimming schedules are supposed can save up to 50% in energy costs, but no dimming schedule examples were given for that scenario. We envision a lot of very dark streets to result in a 50% energy savings.

Our concern is for safety. Why dim street lights in a city that is currently dealing with an increase in crime? Is anyone else seeing all of the car break-ins and theft reports on Nextdoor? The city reports they are dealing with a shortage of police officers, too. Does it sound logical to dim street lights when we’re facing increasing crime?

Weather Sensor Pilot Program

Campbell Scientific provided the technology for the Weather Sensor Pilot Program. Each of the 6 council districts had 1 sensor installed. The cost was $74,365. All six of the weather stations included snow depth sensors, road temperature sensors, data loggers, battery backup, a weather enclosure, and mounting hardware. One of the weather stations included a solar panel and battery backup so that it could operate completely off-grid. It also included a wind gauge, and air temperature and relative humidity sensors. The weather sensors were touted as being useful at monitoring snow depth to make plowing more efficient during snowstorms, but some of the sensors did not accurately record snow depths. When a car would drive by several of the sensors, the sensors would give an inaccurate reading of 10 feet of snow as opposed to the actual snow depth.

The City of Colorado Springs doesn’t plow all roads following snowstorms. They have a system in place for plowing primary and secondary routes. Due to the infrequency of snow storms, the city only has a total of 59 plows. So, why do they need data about how much snow is in any given area? The primary and secondary routes still need to be plowed. The city clears residential roads when 6 or more inches of snow has fallen. If you’ve lived in Colorado Springs for a while, you know the sun takes care of most of the snow over several days. Yes, snow is inconvenient when it falls, but it melts quickly.

If citizens are the ones footing the bill for new technology, that technology should provide considerable benefit to our lives. And, we are always footing the bill. This pilot seems like data just for the sake of data.

We also question the need for temperature and humidity sensors on city light poles. Local news weather centers clearly have access to weather monitoring, and we presume that Colorado Springs Airport has very sophisticated weather monitoring. So, why spend all this money to duplicate those efforts?

More Upcoming Pilot Programs  

Sadly, these pilot programs aren’t stopping with the 2 we’ve mentioned above. There are more ahead. During Mr. Pace’s presentation he reported that “stakeholders” are asking for a multi-modal counter to count cars, bikes, and pedestrians. Will bicycle enthusiasts —the presumed stakeholders— know where those counters are installed and make a point of pedaling past the counters to inflate their tiny numbers? Also, Mr. Pace shared that air quality monitors and public wi-fi will be piloted, too. No mention was made of the cost of these pilot programs.

Contact your City Council Members and ask why there were no questions about the cost of these pilot programs during the Council work session presentation. The spending spree with our money needs to cease. Data just for the sake of data is a waste of money, and they need to be held accountable for the irresponsible spending.

4 thoughts on “COS Pilot Program: Darkened Streets and Useless Data

  1. Why spend all this money on light poles ? People just knock them down for the sport of it along with the fences in neighborhood at least .And yes it’s a lot darker . And very least they could at least sweep the streets more often , all those broken glass bottles .

  2. I thought the city had a program where they collected all the weather data from people who have weather stations of their own. This is free data, all over the city, on many different streets, various elevations, in the trees or open. Why would we need more bought with our tax dollars? 18% of our lights have LED bulbs. The city should be ashamed, get the lights working, put in LED bulbs, leave all the lights on to help curb crime. For a while every utility bill said we all should install LED lights, but the city is “do what I say, not what I do.” Are they not embarrassed by how stupid their ideas are?
    Also, how many lights don’t work? I would venture at least 35-40% in our neighborhood. So what kind of data can they get when they don’t know what percentage of lights work. Perhaps Mr. Pace could ride his bicycle in the dark, by himself, and could count working and not working lights. We need that information before some baloney on how much you can save by dimming them. Oooh, you can save 1 to 3%. Don’t they know not to buy from door to door salesmen?

    Interesting Verizon is one of the contractors. Anyone find it a bit strange that Verizon is wanting to putting 5G all over town. Gee, what a deal if they could get the city employees to pay them to put up weather sensors that also have the 5G built in on city light poles. How would the average citizen know? I think Mr. Pace is working double time to figure out why we need him and his department and is claiming every ridiculous idea is a good idea. He can go count working lights, fix those not working, then maybe we can be done with him. We don’t get enough snow to worry about when the streets are plowed. Stay home a day, the snow will be gone tomorrow.

  3. I am glad I have vacated Colorado Springs after 60 years of residency! La~La Land assimilation continues unabated /;o( silly 🙃

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