News and notes from Reston (tm).

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The Black Hole of NoVa: Reston's Lack of Lighting Can Be Seen From Space

There's been a lot of handwringing of late that the Metro has brought with it food trucks annoying creative class hipsters undesirables crime to our beloved earth-toned community, even though the facts have a clearly pro-mass transit bias. But now our county supervisor has, as they say in the movies, a plan:
Reston may soon be getting some more street lights, according to Fairfax County Supervisor Cathy Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill). 
On May 28, Hudgins addressed the issue during a meeting held at the Reston Community Center at Hunters Woods by Fairfax County Police who were addressing a recent rash of vehicle break-ins in Reston’s Hunters Woods neighborhood. 
At the meeting, among other measures, police addressed Reston’s lack of nighttime lighting as a potential issue for crime prevention. 
“Reston is very dark,” said assistant commander Lance Schaible of the Reston District police station. “Our helicopter pilot calls Reston ‘the big black hole in the northwest part of the county.’
An exaggeration? Our favorite correspondent, The Peasant From Less Sought After South Reston, looked to the skies for answers:
Anyhow, as I was intrigued by this comment, I used The Google to see if I could find a nighttime view from space of Reston to confirm this startling discovery, and, shazzam, lookee what I found! This view from the International Space Station of Northern Virginia taken on Inauguration day 2013 confirms we are indeed the black hole for the entire region:

Except for the comforting archipelago of midscale chain retail in the center of the circle, the Peasant is right--Reston is dark. Dark as... a golf-course hating insurance company's soul. Dark as... mauve in the moonlight. So is much of Fairfax County south of I-66, but there's no Metro there, so QED, no need to worry about crime. That's why folks in Centreville sleep with the doors and windows open and the keys in their ignitions.

Of course, Hunters Woods is not exactly a leisurely walk from the Metro station either. So maybe the fault lies not in the Silver Line, but in us, dear Brutus brutalists. Hunters Woods does have a disproportionate number of incidents -- the police say it's second only to the much more populated (and demonstrably gritty) Reston Town Center area in terms of crime in Reston.

Either way, we're stone cold getting more lighting. Maybe.

During the May 28 meeting in Reston, Hudgins said it was time to re-examine Reston’s lighting. 
“The Reston District police station is already strained, and the area is growing due to Metro,” she said. “With Metro here now, we have more people walking and riding bikes in Reston, and they want to do it at night. We need to figure out how to make it safer for them. It is a discussion we need to have. It is very dark here in Reston. I live one mile from the Metro station, and I don’t go out and walk at night myself.”
Why not just bathe all of Reston in high-wattage spotlights? Blame the hippies astronomers:
But there is a reason Reston traditionally has resisted additional outdoor lighting, and it partially has to do with an organization called the International Dark-Sky Association. They have been influencing outdoor lighting policy in Reston and Fairfax County for years. 
Founded in Tucson in 1988, the nonprofit association has about 5,000 members nationwide. Its mission is to protect night skies and natural starlight by educating individuals, private industry and government bodies about the effects of light pollution and “unfocused light emissions.” 
“We have some active people in this community that are part of Dark Sky,” Hudgins said. 
Jim Dougherty, president of the International Dark-Sky Association is based in Washington, D.C., and works on behalf of the organization. He says that there is a common misperception that more light at night deters crime. 
“There have been legitimate studies showing increased outdoor lighting actually increases crime,” he said. “Criminals need light to see.”
Sure they do, hippie. Everyone knows all you need to be a criminal is superhuman night vision and a Metro farecard!

Of course, there's nothing that reassures concerned residents quite like a police meeting that begins with actual police activity:
The meeting was attended by 60 or so residents. Just before it began, police said they recognized a “person of interest” in an ongoing criminal investigation in the lobby of the community center. A police officer excused himself from the panel to go question the person. “We are doing police work all the time,” joked Laura Redman, a crime prevention officer for the Reston District police station.
Did they ask if his SmartTrip balance was in the red?


  1. I'm with the Dark Sky people actually, there's ample evidence that excessive street lights are contributing to major health problems as they disrupt sleep. Brighter streetlights will just bring on more issues with our general health, and if they don't help with crime issues (which seems legit, I always thought that was a sketchy correlation anyway) then why would we go about putting in something that will hurt more than it helps? It'd just be a waste of money really.

  2. "You can't mug what you can't see!"
    Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha ha, ha ha, ha ha, ha!!!!

    Dream on Reston!!

  3. Seems to me it's an old issue, possibly dating to the '70's. I think during the 80's there seemed to be a surge of crime in the area west of Glade and Reston Ave (as it was) and neighborhood associations like Pinecrest argued for brighter lights than the late 60's designers had seen fit to install.

    1. Yep. Every decade or so, this seems to come up. But people either 1) realize they appreciate the lack of light pollution or 2) realize the astronomical expense of upgrading aging 1960s outdoor lighting.

  4. Lot's of crime in DC, and also lots of street lights - that proves it

  5. If Reston is truly a "black hole," why isn't it sucking in the light from all the communities around us? Wait, maybe it is a black hole and we don't know it--it's planning to suck in all the density that could be spread around us!

    1. Here's hoping Ashburn is first across the event horizon.

    2. ^^all of the awards^^

  6. Shadowood Condominiums and the Hunters Woods areas actually are pretty well lit. The answer to the problem is not more street lights in Reston. One answer is to have a greater Fairfax County Police presence beyond the usual rush-hour speed traps on Sunrise Valley and Soapstone. Foot and/or bicycle patrols? Police officers present in the community and getting to know the residents? Another suggestion is that Ms. Hudgins should concentrate on helping Reston's current residents rather than facilitating the "Tysons Cornerization" of the community by real estate developers.

  7. "Shadowood Condominiums and the Hunters Woods areas actually are pretty well lit."

    There isn't enough candlepower in the world...

  8. Dark Reston. I like that.

  9. The Prince of DarknessJune 11, 2015 at 12:30 PM

    Dark Sky...sounds very Dick Cheney-esque.

  10. More street lights! More street lights! More street lights! *holding pitchfork and bullhorn*

  11. Are the Dark Sky people in league with International Society of People Against Sidewalks on Both Sides of the Street? Seriously, why should we make it easier to see nighttime pedestrians forced to walk on the street because there are no sidewalks? If you're run over and killed, don't worry - they'll just let your family know you died for two very good causes.

  12. Isn't the lack of light when viewed from space at night a characteristic shared with North Korea?

    Another attribute that they might want to share is the North Korean entry requirement that you leave your cell phones at the border when you arrive and pick them up when you leave.

    And what by they way is that fortified and fenced off restricted area on the top end of Wiehle from which you never see any one leave? Just asking. it sure doesn't look wet enough to be a real water (boarding) authority site.


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