Philly expands street sweeping and will ticket parked cars

Philadelphia’s street sweeping pilot program will expand to 14 neighborhoods beginning next week, and some residents will be expected to move their cars to help officials clean trash off the roadways.

Since the early 2000s, Philadelphia has been the only major US city without a citywide street sweeping program. The Streets Department announced Phase II of its pilot program earlier this month, marking the first major expansion since Mayor Jim Kenney paused the fledgling program at the start of the pandemic.

The new street sweeping season will run from April 4 through the end of November, operating Monday through Thursday, except for on official city holidays. Parking in sweeping zones will be restricted between 9 am and 3 pm, but on a staggered schedule that alternates parking on either side of the street, as is done in other major cities.

» READ MORE: Philly is expanding street sweeping — but won’t fulfill a Kenney campaign promise.

Here’s what you need to know about the rollout.

There are 14 pilot areas, according to the Streets Department, which were decided based on a years-long city survey of neighborhoods with the highest litter concentration.

But only six locations will start to see ticketing begin in May. Fines of $31 will be levied by the Philadelphia Parking Authority in the six areas bolded below, officials said, but no vehicles will be towed for ignoring the rules.

» READ MORE: ‘If you don’t want to move your car, tough,’ Kenney says (from January 2020)

For the remaining eight divisions, streets officials said they will install signage and provide a 30-day grace period before beginning enforcement at a yet-unknown date.

  • North Central: Broad Street to 22nd Street from Glenwood Avenue to Diamond Street

  • Frankford: Bridge Street to Adams Avenue from Griscom Street to Torresdale Avenue

  • Germantown: Berkley Street to Chelten Avenue from Pulaski Avenue to Wakefield Street

  • Kensington: Second Street to Kensington Avenue from Tioga Street to Lehigh Avenue

  • Logan: Godfrey Street to Roosevelt Boulevard from Broad Street to Fifth Street

  • Nicetown: Broad Street to Clarissa Street from Hunting Park Avenue to Windrim Street

  • Paschall: 58th Street to 70th Street from Greenway Avenue to Dicks Street

  • Point Breeze: Christian Street to McKean Street from Broad Street to 24th Street

  • Port Richmond: Kensington Avenue to Aramingo Avenue from Tioga Street to Lehigh Avenue

  • South Philly: McKean Street to Oregon Avenue from Fourth Street to EighthStreet

  • Southwest: Woodland Avenue to Kingsessing Avenue from 49th Street to Cemetery Avenue

  • Strawberry Mansion: Diamond Street to Lehigh Avenue from Sedgley Street to 33rd Street

  • West Fairhill: Fifth Street to 13th Street from Glenwood Avenue to Susquehanna Avenue

  • West Philly: Parkside Avenue to Spring Garden Street from 52nd Street to 40th Street

Again, sweeping hours are 9 am to 3 pm On the sweeping day for any given block. However, officials are using a staggered schedule, allowing residents to park on one side of the block for a few hours and then move to the other side, alternating every two hours.

After pausing the program in 2020, the Kenney administration last year devoted $62 million from its five-year spending plan to street sweeping. Starting last April, the Streets Department began “intermittently” sweeping the six pilot zones where the program began in 2019, along with more than two dozen commercial corridors.

The program uses a mix of mechanical street sweeping vehicles, trash compactors, and city workers equipped with brooms and controversial backpack blowers to clean hard-to-reach debris. (“Backpack blowers will be used as part of the launch but not on all streets” going forward, spokesperson Keisha McCarty-Skelton said in a statement.)

» READ MORE: Surviving a trash tempest with South Philly’s new street sweepers

For the second phase launching next week, the biggest hurdle is education followed by enforcement.

While other major US cities have had citywide street sweeping programs for decades, Philadelphia has been uniquely resistant to the idea since it scuttled its last iteration of the program in the early 2000s, driven largely by residents’ gripes over parking.

Throughout the pilot program, enforcement has been limited to warnings.

Through October 2021, officials issued just over 1,200 warnings to motorists where parking restrictions had been posted in pilot areas. (More recent enforcement data was not immediately available.)

Ticket issuance beginning in May will mark a new frontier. Officials said this week said SWEEP Officers will patrol neighborhoods to educate residents on the program and continue issuing warnings to vehicles that flout the parking restrictions.

With towing off the table, motorists’ refusal to move their cars could stymie the rollout during the second phrase.

“Unfortunately, motorists’ non-compliance does hamper efforts to provide a thorough cleaning of the neighborhoods,” McCarty-Skelton told The Inquirer last fall.

The Streets Department said it plans to launch a web-based map called SweepPHL that will let residents track and monitor the path of the mechanical brooms through their neighborhoods, so they can plan to park around those times.

It will also take time to measure the impact of phase two.

Last fall, McCarty-Skelton said sanitation supervisors began assessing the street-sweeping areas in the days after street sweeping to measure the impact, and they appeared less than optimism.

In some areas, they reported a marked difference in cleanliness week over week, while other areas stayed just as dirty.

“During return visits the next day or later in the week,” McCarty-Skelton said, “some of the supervisors’ feedback is there does not appear to a significant difference after cleaning as more litter and debris has returned to the streets.”

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