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.)

Here in Boston we get street sweeping twice a month.

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.

My street in San Francisco is swept twice a week, each side.

In Chicago the sanitation crews scatter rose petals on the sidewalks twice a day.

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.

Then start over a half hour later to sweep them up.

Street cleaning in Chicago is not at all random. Each ward has a schedule for street sweeping. You can find the schedule here.

That’s a handy link, RayMan. Thanks.

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?

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.

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)

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.

Huh. Everybody in SF does that. Cleaning up the damn rose petals is why we have so much street sweeping.

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”.

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.

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.

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?

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.