Residents warming up to yellow-lit road

Arizona Daily Sun

Wednesday, September 16, 1987
reprinted by permission of the Arizona Daily Sun

Residents warming up to yellow-lit road

by Steve Ryan, Sun Staff Reporter

If a night driver suddenly feels like he’s somewhere over the rainbow after entering Flagstaff on Santa Fe Avenue, would most people say he is seeing the world through amber-colored glasses?

People who follow the yellow-lit road are being surveyed for their opinions on the experimental low-pressure sodium streetlights.

Thirty of the streetlights, with a distinct yellow glow, were planted along Santa Fe Aveune in February 1986.

The experimental program is designed to determine the feasibility of replacing standard high-pressure bulbs with their low-pressure, amber counterparts.

Low pressure lighting is more acceptable to astronomers because it is considered ideal for reducing night-time glare which washes out visibility of stars.

Flagstaff is among three sites in the state where the low-pressure sodium lights are being tested, said Jim Valenzuela, customer service supervisor for the Flagstaff office of Arizona Public Service Co.

Feasibility studies, expected to be completed in about three years, will include assessment of costs, durability of bulbs and fixtures and other factors, said Valenzuela.

A major determinant in the outcome of the experiment will be people’s opinion of the lighting, said Venezuela.

A survey of 450 Flagstaff residents familiar with the lighting, including owners of 50 businesses in the experimental area, was completed Friday, said Valenzuela.

Eye strain and quality of lighting for safety purposes are among issues being assessed through the poll, he said.

Results of the survey are expected to be tabulated and analyzed by Oct. 1, he said.

The lighting is welcomed by each of the three business owners or managers contacted Monday by the Daily Sun.

“On a snowy night, they give off a nice light; it has kind of an outerspace effect, like you’re in another world,” said Randy King, manager of the Kachina Downtown restaurant, 522 E. Santa Fe Ave.

King said the positive impact of the lighting on planetariums’ work is another viable reason for use of low-pressure sodium lighting.

Wanda Senior, owner of the Baskin Robbins ice-cream shop, 418 E. Santa Fe Ave., also is supportive of the lighting.

“I think they’re fine, especially when it is snowing,” said Senior. “The glare isn’t as bad, and I think they’re just a nicer light.”

Senior said she believes the streetlights are less distracting than other types of lighting radiating from commercial signs and other sources.

“This street is so well-illuminated anyway, it is like a small Las Vegas,” said Senior. “A mountain town to me doesn’t seem like it should have all of this neon stuff. I’ve been in small towns where it is more homey because it is not all lit up like a Christmas tree.”

Scott Roberts, owner of Solar Alternatives, 620 E. Santa Fe Ave., said he considers the lighting adequate and that the advantage it affords astronomers is valuable.

“Lowell Observatory has history; it is part of Flagstaff,” said Roberts. “I think the observatory was here before the streetlights, so it takes priority.”

The fact the many people’s reactions to the yellow lighting apparently are more than lukewarm comes as no suprise to Janet Schnorr, who teaches psychology courses at Northern Arizona University.

“Lighting can be crucial in terms of establishing moods,” Schnorr said. “You need to measure wavelengths to really predict the impact, but generally, pastels, like pink in mental hospitals, initially creates less agitation. But with longer exposure, it can increase agitation.”

Generally, studies indicate that people’s perceptions are affected more positively by warmer wavelengths, plotted toward the red end of the color spectrum,” said Schnorr.

Many people might be expected to react favorably to the yellow streetlights because they emit a warmer color than their white counterparts, she said. Studies suggest that the warmer colors help make people feel good by stimulating the retina of the eye, which triggers release of chemicals from the pituitary gland, she said.

Schnorr said that European countries are more advanced in the branch of psychology involving assessment of impact of colors on moods and behavior.

To celebrate, promote, and protect the glorious dark skies of Flagstaff and northern Arizona.