Flagstaff Gas Stations Cutting Glare
Built before the lighting code was passed, this service station on Fort Valley Road in Flagstaff is extremely overlit with poorly shielded fixtures, causing glare and reduced visibility to motorists and intruding into the neighbors’ nights.
Across the country, lighting at service stations has escalated tremendously in recent years. New fixtures are brighter and have more blue-rich white light than ever. They tend to spread light everywhere, especially to the side, into motorist’s eyes, and up into the night sky.
Service station owners, responding to stiff competitive pressures, are seeking to convince potential customers that their stations are “safer” or “more attractive” than the one across the street. Industry representatives selling the newer fixtures often describe the effect they are after as “sparkle.”
The Flagstaff Dark Skies Coalition regularly receives complaints about service station glare. Glare interferes with the ability of motorists to safely see the nearby roadways, and may cause drivers to squint in attempts to detect pedestrians or hazards on the roadway. For older drivers this problem is especially severe.
Extreme lighting levels can hamper visibility to service station customers, too. This is particularly troublesome when leaving the brightly illuminated areas and re-entering the more moderately illuminated roadway with eyes that have become accustomed to the high lighting level.
A study by the Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute found that the percentage of drivers turning in to a service station and the mean number of gallons of gasoline sold daily increased immediately following the change of lighting from glaring drop-lens, non-cutoff fixtures to fully shielded lighting fixtures. The study suggests that better lighting actually encourages drivers to use responsibly lit service stations.
Despite strict lighting codes in the City of Flagstaff and Coconino County there are still many over-lit service stations, but both the City and the County have language in their codes to address this problem for new or renovated stations. These standards limit the amount of light under the canopy and require fully shielded light fixtures that do not shine light sideways. (See Section 10-50.70.060 ‘Special Uses‘ in the Flagstaff Lighting Code.)
New and re-built service stations following the Flagstaff lighting code demonstrate that reasonable light levels can be achieved while still providing good visibility and safety without causing glare to passersby.
Express Stop Gas Station across from Flagstaff Mall.
This station has a lighting level about of about eight footcandles, about one-tenth of the level of the typically overlit station. A footcandle is the lighting level you would see one foot away from a typical candle. Roadways and parking lots are typically illuminated to 1-2 footcandles.
Safeway Gas Station on North Highway 89, Flagstaff.
The Safeway service station is lit to about 10 footcandles. The lighting level under the canopy of the rebuilt Maverick station just north on U.S. 89 is about 9 footcandles.
Maverick Gas Station on North Highway 89 – Flagstaff
Night lighting, to be most effective, must be done with care and balance. To provide good visibility, lighting levels must be moderate, and compatible with lighting levels used, for example, on roadways or provided by headlights. The human eye can see well in both sunlight and moonlight, but not both at the same time.
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