A month ago, I wrote about Seattle City Light's new program to systematically replace the bulbs of its 80,000-plus streetlamps--rather than simply waiting for citizens to report the burnt-out lamps. (Crews don't go out and look.) But during the roll-out of the four-year private contract, the city told me, we taxpayers could still avail ourselves of the municipal Web site to report inoperable bulbs, which city crews are then supposed to fix within nine business days.
Okay, I decided, let's put the citizen reporting system to the test. On Nov. 7, I submitted an online batch of dark streetlight reports, based on my bike ride home to Lower Queen Anne and a quick walk around the neighborhood. I tried to map each location's coordinates, as the Web requests. Though at night, it's hard to follow the directive that, "the light pole number is needed," being dark and all.
More than nine business days have since passed. During the interim, I received eight City Light confirmation emails, two asking for pole numbers, the rest offering confirmation numbers for the "trouble tickets." And this disclaimer: "Our crews are usually able to complete routine repairs within 7 to 10 days. However during the high-volume months of October through February, routine repairs may take longer - up to 8 weeks."
Eight weeks? When the streets are darkest and most in need of illumination? That wasn't what the city told me before. I retraced my route last night, and it appears that maybe three of roughly 15 bad lamps are now working. But some flicker on and off. How can we citizen spotters know if the work has been performed or not?
According to City Light spokesman Mike Eagan, "There is no confirmation-type email sent once the streetlight has been fixed." Crews do their work during the daytime, he adds, so the only ones likely to notice (or not) are us utility ratepayers and trippers over broken sidewalk slabs at night. (If you can't see those pole numbers, chances are that you also can't see what's beneath your feet.)
But whether repairs take place (or not) within nine days or eight weeks, take heart that spring is only four months away. By which time it should be light enough that we don't notice the problem.