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Old 07-14-2010, 10:24 AM
Wheat Wheat is offline
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Street Sweeping: Why So Thorough? [incl link to Cecil's SD-Chi column]

So I'm relatively new to living in Chicago, and something that has struck me is that while all other city services seem to be lacking a bit, the street cleaning is still very thorough. Although it's only halfway through the summer, my local street has already been swept three times. This is much more street sweeping than other cities I've lived in.

So is there something about Chicago streets that requires that they be swept regularly? Or is regular street sweeping just an attempt to get more fines out of inattentive car owners? (I've noticed that the signs go up at most two days before the sweeping begins.)
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Old 07-14-2010, 10:32 AM
Telemark Telemark is offline
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This is much more street sweeping than other cities I've lived in.
Here in Boston we get street sweeping twice a month.
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Old 07-14-2010, 11:17 PM
Civil Guy Civil Guy is offline
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Can't really speak for Chicago, but everything that doesn't get swept of the streets can quite easily get carried by storm water into the storm sewer system, and thence into (in Chicago's case) the lake. Er, that's where Chicago gets its drinking water from, is it?
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Old 07-14-2010, 11:45 PM
Ed Zotti Ed Zotti is offline
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Can't really speak for Chicago, but everything that doesn't get swept of the streets can quite easily get carried by storm water into the storm sewer system, and thence into (in Chicago's case) the lake. Er, that's where Chicago gets its drinking water from, is it?
Chicago's sewers don't drain into the lake, except during times of unusually heavy rainfall. There's an elaborate system of tunnels and canals that eventually empties into a tributary of the Mississippi.
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Old 07-15-2010, 03:55 AM
Nametag Nametag is offline
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My street in San Francisco is swept twice a week, each side.
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Old 07-15-2010, 07:41 AM
Ed Zotti Ed Zotti is offline
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In Chicago the sanitation crews scatter rose petals on the sidewalks twice a day.
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Old 07-15-2010, 11:14 AM
Tim R. Mortiss Tim R. Mortiss is offline
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I don't have a problem with the sweeping frequency. But I'd prefer that it wasn't quite so random. When I used to park on the street, going out of town for a week meant taking your chances on getting a ticket, because you never knew when they were going to decide to sweep.
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Old 07-15-2010, 01:28 PM
Czarcasm Czarcasm is offline
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In Chicago the sanitation crews scatter rose petals on the sidewalks twice a day.
Then start over a half hour later to sweep them up.
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Old 07-15-2010, 03:03 PM
RayMan RayMan is offline
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Originally Posted by Tim R. Mortiss View Post
I don't have a problem with the sweeping frequency. But I'd prefer that it wasn't quite so random. When I used to park on the street, going out of town for a week meant taking your chances on getting a ticket, because you never knew when they were going to decide to sweep.
Street cleaning in Chicago is not at all random. Each ward has a schedule for street sweeping. You can find the schedule here.
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Old 07-15-2010, 08:40 PM
Tim R. Mortiss Tim R. Mortiss is offline
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That's a handy link, RayMan. Thanks.
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Old 07-15-2010, 09:33 PM
Wheat Wheat is offline
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Well, OK

But I guess my question is still: is street sweeping this frequently actually necessary, or is it just an attempt to raise revenue from drivers who don't pay attention? For that matter, does the city make a profit on sweeping at all?
  #12  
Old 07-15-2010, 10:05 PM
Mr Downtown Mr Downtown is offline
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It's more about employing a street-sweeper operator for each ward than the parking fines. The mayor's proposal earlier this summer to divide the city into 30 logical street-sweeping zones was met with a sneer by alderman, who want to keep the street-sweeping done by gerrymandered ward.
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Old 07-16-2010, 02:24 AM
Tim R. Mortiss Tim R. Mortiss is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wheat View Post
But I guess my question is still: is street sweeping this frequently actually necessary, or is it just an attempt to raise revenue from drivers who don't pay attention? For that matter, does the city make a profit on sweeping at all?
Hey, it's Chicago. Everything is about making illicit profits for the local pols. That's what makes the world (or at least the City) go round......TRM (who is not complaining; Chicago "works" in it's own weird and wonderful way)
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Old 07-16-2010, 08:30 AM
Ed Zotti Ed Zotti is offline
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Originally Posted by Mr Downtown View Post
It's more about employing a street-sweeper operator for each ward than the parking fines. The mayor's proposal earlier this summer to divide the city into 30 logical street-sweeping zones was met with a sneer by alderman, who want to keep the street-sweeping done by gerrymandered ward.
Cecil may want to write about this someday. A lot of city services - forestry, for example - are centrally dispatched. Even so, each aldermanic service office has access to the database and can check on the status of service requests - the aldermen field a lot of citizen complaints. It's interesting that they wanted to retain control of street sweeping - my guess is they want to be able to do extra sweeping for local business districts. We'll have to go over to the ward office and inquire.
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Old 07-19-2010, 01:38 AM
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In Chicago the sanitation crews scatter rose petals on the sidewalks twice a day.
Huh. Everybody in SF does that. Cleaning up the damn rose petals is why we have so much street sweeping.
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Old 07-19-2010, 01:13 PM
DivineComedienne DivineComedienne is offline
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Originally Posted by Wheat View Post
But I guess my question is still: is street sweeping this frequently actually necessary, or is it just an attempt to raise revenue from drivers who don't pay attention? For that matter, does the city make a profit on sweeping at all?
The point of street-sweeping is that you want to get all the dirt, debris, etc. off the street BEFORE it gets washed into the underground drainage system/pipes and clogs things up. It's a lot cheaper to clean the streets and remove the debris on the surface than it is to have to dig up the underground infrastructure or send "roto-rooters" down to try to fix the problem. It's "an ounce of prevention".
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Old 07-19-2010, 01:26 PM
GHO57 GHO57 is offline
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Good contract negotiations... I'm guessing the guy who made the deal for the city is now a "consultant" for the company that got the contract.
  #18  
Old 07-19-2010, 04:23 PM
SeaDragonTattoo SeaDragonTattoo is offline
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It also depends on the neighborhood. If you're in an area that brings more out-of-towners and tourists, it will be swept more often. Appearances and all. Wrigleyville even has its own specially painted Cubs sweepers, subsidized by the ball park. Wrigley spends a lot of money not to piss off the locals, because sports fans are pigs and it's bad enough to have suburban frat boys pissing in your bushes at 2am, having to put up with the trash they leave behind would not be tolerated in the neighborhood.

So tourist areas, downtown, sports parks and theater areas all get street sweeping and cleaning done more often. I was recently looking in a different neighborhood for an apartment and thought the mess in the streets, curbs, sidewalks was remarkable compared to Lakeview where I was moving from. I chose the Loyola area instead. Much cleaner.
  #19  
Old 07-28-2010, 12:53 PM
CJJ* CJJ* is offline
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I guess I always thought street sweeping in Chicago was a boondoggle to keep the snow-plow operators on payroll throughout the year, but I believe winter plows are centrally dispatched and not under aldermanic control--anyone know for sure?
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Old 07-28-2010, 08:01 PM
Ed Zotti Ed Zotti is offline
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You're thinking of the garbage trucks - these are equipped with plows during the winter months. Same drivers as far as I know, dispatched by Streets and San. The street sweeping machines have no alternative use that I'm aware of, and I don't know what if anything the drivers do during the winter. I should ask Marty, former street sweeper operator and (still) precinct captain, who's now the ward superintendent in the 47th Ward. Whatever he was doing in the off season, he must have done a pretty good job of it.

Last edited by Ed Zotti; 07-28-2010 at 08:02 PM.
  #21  
Old 09-23-2010, 10:14 AM
Ed Zotti Ed Zotti is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wheat View Post
So I'm relatively new to living in Chicago, and something that has struck me is that while all other city services seem to be lacking a bit, the street cleaning is still very thorough. Although it's only halfway through the summer, my local street has already been swept three times. This is much more street sweeping than other cities I've lived in.

So is there something about Chicago streets that requires that they be swept regularly? Or is regular street sweeping just an attempt to get more fines out of inattentive car owners? (I've noticed that the signs go up at most two days before the sweeping begins.)
The Master has addressed your question, Wheat.

Last edited by Ed Zotti; 09-23-2010 at 10:14 AM.
  #22  
Old 09-23-2010, 10:28 AM
Siam Sam Siam Sam is offline
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I have to take my hat off to Bangkok's street sweepers. They do an excellent job under trying circumstances. There are no vehicular sweepers. They're all older ladies who sweep with a broom and cover themselves from head to toe despite the hot climate. That's so they don't become darker than they already are, also a common practice among construction workers and farmers.

SA-LUTE!

(Sorry if this was irrelevant. The thread popped up under New Posts, and I see now it's Straight Dope Chicago.)

Last edited by Siam Sam; 09-23-2010 at 10:31 AM.
  #23  
Old 09-24-2010, 07:27 AM
C K Dexter Haven C K Dexter Haven is offline
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Congratulations, Wheat, this has now been picked up by Cecil: http://chicago.straightdope.com/sdc20100923.php
  #24  
Old 09-24-2010, 11:40 AM
Tim R. Mortiss Tim R. Mortiss is offline
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Nice informative article, but it doesn't really address the OP. It says nothing about how much revenue is generated from the fines, or about objective reasons for the apparently aggressive sweeping schedule.
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Old 09-24-2010, 11:48 AM
Procrustus Procrustus is offline
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This procedure has made me angry since I lived in Chicago for a year in the mid 1980s. Other cities post signs that say when the streets must be clear for cleaning crews. Posting a sign 24 or 48 hours in advance does nothing for the person who's on a two week vacation. They could at least put up a sign that says,"danger, legal parking may become illegal with 24 hours notice, check your vehicle daily."
  #26  
Old 09-24-2010, 12:11 PM
guizot guizot is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wheat View Post
But I guess my question is still: is street sweeping this frequently actually necessary, or is it just an attempt to raise revenue from drivers who don't pay attention? For that matter, does the city make a profit on sweeping at all?
I have paid close attention to street sweeping in Los Angeles. I have done before and after photographs, taken samples, etc. My research has concluded with one, very important point: Street sweeping does very little to actually clean the street. The truck comes by, with these big, spinning metal brushes, squirts some water, and essentially just leaves the impression that it has done something. Most garbage and dirt just gets pushed aside.

So to answer you question, Wheat: Either it raises more revenue, or assuages public concern about cleanliness, but--in L.A., at least--it's not really addressing any necessity.
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Old 09-24-2010, 06:48 PM
BorgHunter BorgHunter is offline
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Originally Posted by Procrustus View Post
This procedure has made me angry since I lived in Chicago for a year in the mid 1980s. Other cities post signs that say when the streets must be clear for cleaning crews. Posting a sign 24 or 48 hours in advance does nothing for the person who's on a two week vacation. They could at least put up a sign that says,"danger, legal parking may become illegal with 24 hours notice, check your vehicle daily."
It's not like it's some enormous secret. Cecil linked in his article to the street sweeping schedule, sorted by ward, which I always checked prior to leaving on vacations, back in the days before I sold the infernal contraption.
  #28  
Old 09-25-2010, 11:51 AM
Procrustus Procrustus is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Procrustus View Post
This procedure has made me angry since I lived in Chicago for a year in the mid 1980s. Other cities post signs that say when the streets must be clear for cleaning crews. Posting a sign 24 or 48 hours in advance does nothing for the person who's on a two week vacation. They could at least put up a sign that says,"danger, legal parking may become illegal with 24 hours notice, check your vehicle daily."
It's not like it's some enormous secret. Cecil linked in his article to the street sweeping schedule, sorted by ward, which I always checked prior to leaving on vacations, back in the days before I sold the infernal contraption.
Fair enough. I lived there before the internet. And, of course, visitors and newcomers might not have any awareness of the practice.
  #29  
Old 09-25-2010, 10:23 PM
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"Chicago, home of urban virtue"

Cecil, I don't really care about this particular question, but I couldn't let the word "civic virtue" and "Chicago" be used in the same sentence without commenting.
It's been almost exactly forty-one years since some of your crooked cops broke down the door of Covenant Methodist Church in Evanston, beat people up who had not broken any laws, and then perjured themselves to convict them.
You may have all sorts of great things in Chicago, but tell me, are the cops still as willing to lie as they were under the first Mayor Daly? Are the courts still as ready to believe them?
  #30  
Old 09-26-2010, 07:57 AM
C K Dexter Haven C K Dexter Haven is offline
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Cecil, I don't really care about this particular question, but I couldn't let the word "civic virtue" and "Chicago" be used in the same sentence without commenting.
I assume Cecil was being sarcastic.
  #31  
Old 09-26-2010, 01:32 PM
guizot guizot is offline
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It's not like it's some enormous secret. Cecil linked in his article to the street sweeping schedule, sorted by ward, which I always checked prior to leaving on vacations, back in the days before I sold the infernal contraption.
Secret or no, frequent or not, if the street sweep-sweeping is nothing but a token gesture, a machine that passes by, simply pushing refuse aside and squirting some water on the ground, what difference does it make? I haven't had the opportunity to examine the level of street sweeping in Chicago, but I doubt that in any place it ever really does that much to make the streets cleaner.
  #32  
Old 09-26-2010, 01:42 PM
Ed Zotti Ed Zotti is offline
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I assure you that Chicago street sweeping is of the highest quality, and trash and debris is actually removed.
  #33  
Old 09-26-2010, 01:51 PM
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The street sweepers in LA must suck. Or they're dealing with different debris than the Chicago ones. Chicago street cleaners actually clean pretty well, so much so that you can see the path where they have to swerve around the cars with the pretty parking tickets on them.

Small tree branches, leaves, paper trash, cigarette butts and assorted bits and pieces of Happy Meal toys seem to be the largest piles of detritus by volume. The street cleaner can effectively remove all of them.

Last edited by WhyNot; 09-26-2010 at 01:51 PM.
  #34  
Old 09-26-2010, 05:30 PM
guizot guizot is offline
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Small tree branches, leaves, paper trash, cigarette butts and assorted bits and pieces of Happy Meal toys seem to be the largest piles of detritus by volume. The street cleaner can effectively remove all of them.
Really? How could one truck hold all of that? They're not really all that big. It would be full after ten blocks--even without the palm tree things that are always falling.
  #35  
Old 09-26-2010, 05:59 PM
WhyNot WhyNot is offline
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Really? How could one truck hold all of that? They're not really all that big. It would be full after ten blocks--even without the palm tree things that are always falling.
Y'know, I have no idea where the stuff goes. You're right, the street sweepers aren't all that big, once you account for a truck sized engine that must be in there. Mulchers, maybe? Or maybe they have to offload fairly frequently. I don't know. And sadly, HowStuffWorks fails me in their article on street sweepers.

Oh....CECIL! Got another one for ya!
  #36  
Old 09-27-2010, 04:33 AM
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Congratulations, Wheat, this has now been picked up by Cecil: http://chicago.straightdope.com/sdc20100923.php
Nevermind, user error.

Last edited by BigT; 09-27-2010 at 04:36 AM.
  #37  
Old 09-27-2010, 09:50 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WhyNot View Post
Small tree branches, leaves, paper trash, cigarette butts and assorted bits and pieces of Happy Meal toys seem to be the largest piles of detritus by volume. The street cleaner can effectively remove all of them.
Really? How could one truck hold all of that? They're not really all that big. It would be full after ten blocks--even without the palm tree things that are always falling.
http://www.chesapeake.va.us/services...sweeping.shtml
Click on the "Behind the Scenes" video to the right. At about 1:20 --
Quote:
When the sweepers get full...we bring a dump truck to them, and we dump them at that point. The sweepers operate so slowly, we just wouldn't get anything done if we had to drive to the dump site.
  #38  
Old 09-27-2010, 10:11 AM
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Too late to edit, but to add to my previous post: obviously that link wasn't for Chicago, but I'd bet the tactic is fairly common. Either that or there are large-ish dumpsters distributed around the sweeper routes for them to empty into. I also found a picture of how the common smallish three-wheel front-bin urban sweepers dump: flickr link. You can see, especially on the one in the back, that they can raise those things fairly high -- maybe still not high enough to go over the side of a standard dump truck like the (different-style) sweeper in the video. But they could probably empty into the back with the gate down or removed -- I see some city dump trucks around with no back gate, never knew why (EDIT: actually now that I think about it, these are trucks that workers usually walk around near and throw branches and other large debris into, but I bet they could use them to empty sweepers as well, though I've never seen it. I'm always at work during the sweeper schedules).

Last edited by troub; 09-27-2010 at 10:14 AM.
  #39  
Old 09-27-2010, 10:16 AM
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And here we go. Found it! A picture of a Chicago sweeper emptying into a dumpster no doubt stashed in an alley on its route:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/jawspeak/357615798/
  #40  
Old 11-21-2010, 07:55 PM
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I assume Cecil was being sarcastic.
CECIL???!!!???
"sarcastic"???
I am shocked . . . SHOCKED!
  #41  
Old 11-22-2010, 06:54 PM
Chairman Pow Chairman Pow is offline
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I've seen a street sweeper emptying its contents directly into the sewer. He was a fire hydrant, using the hose to clean out the big trough at the front.

Apropos of nothing, I've also seen a street sweeper recently try to open and close the big trough in front, have it get jammed and then need to call in _another_ sweeper to finish the route.

Last edited by Chairman Pow; 11-22-2010 at 06:55 PM.
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